It Is Up To Us Now

by George Kennedy on September 9, 2011


It Is Up To Us Now

President Obama has offered us a plan to jump start the economy through targeted tax cuts, new spending, and incentives to business to rehire.  Let’s leave it to the economists, the pundits and the politician looking for a sound bite, to analyze the president’s plan.  We have a more urgent task.

It is now incumbent upon us, Americans everywhere, to do two things:  first, encourage the president to follow through on his pledge to visit every corner of the country and to talk about the impact of his plan on your communities; to talk to you about the number of roads that can be repaired, the bridges you fear may collapse, and the schools whose deteriorating condition pose physical or health threats to your children.

Remind the White House that the president should come prepared to listen and make notes.  The truth about the success of his plan lies in his willingness to follow up with you.

The president’s time over the next 14 months is better spent meeting with Americans in their troubled communities.  Let the Republicans complain that he is not in the White House, that he is campaigning, not on the job.  His response should be “give me a reason to come back.”  “Did you pass my Jobs Bill”?

Look, the stock market has already factored in a negative response from the Republicans so why does he need to sit in the White House awaiting the predictable response from the Republicans whose principal investment is in anything they think will make him the one-term president they want?  In other words, Mr. President, set the terms for your relationship with the Republicans from this day forward.  Take charge!  You have everything to gain and you also have everything to lose if you fail to do it.

Second, the American people should demand that their elected member of Congress attend town hall meetings to listen, to learn what you expect from them going forward – especially with regard to future legislation.  The education process and the information flow should be from the bottom up – from you to them.  You brief them.  Tell them to become more attuned to the needs of their constituents.  That if they fail to do so, their replacement in 2012 just might be sitting in the audience.

Also, they need to understand the future is not about the power of the lobbyists to extract a commitment from them to support specific legislation in exchange for campaign contributions.  The future has to be about you the voters, your interests, the needs of your community.  If you do not put them on notice, they will not notice you!  In the end, you lose.  They will continue to tell you that you have a problem and if you re-elect them, they will fix it.

President Obama, for the first time, I think, feels the pain you endure daily.  We will never know if the speech he gave was the one he preferred to give, but it was the one he had to give.  Our desperation is palpable and he projected the image of the attending physician with the stethoscope prepared to act.  The president gave me less than I wanted but more than I expected.  It is now up to us.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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