The Election Is Over – Let’s Get To Work

by George Kennedy on November 10, 2012

The President was subtly reminding us that in politics, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”

(Photo by John Gurzinski/Getty Images)

 

President Obama was re-elected to a second term and no one should be mistaken about the coalition of interests that gave the President the edge over his Republican rival, Governor Mitt Romney:  majorities of Asians, African-Americans, Latinos, and majorities of progressive-leaning women.  That was then – this is now.  Let’s focus on the future.  Two, perhaps three, of these groups become politically endangered going forward if the Roberts’ Supreme Court emasculates key provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act during a review this session.

Michael Shear, in a NYT piece (Demographic Shift Brings New Worry for Republicans, 11/7/12) reminds us “nothing in politics is permanent…”  The outcome of this election offers a temporary certainty regarding who we will have to deal with for the next four years…and nothing more!  The only permanent thing in any relationship between the President and those that secured his margin of victory is their interests i.e., economic, social, political.

President Obama has acknowledged publicly that he knows the condition of African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, the middle class, and women in this country.  He knows what needs to be done and, he said, “now make me do it.”  He has thrown down the gauntlet.  Let’s pick it up and run with it.  Let’s get to work!

The President was subtly reminding us that in politics, “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  Like any occupant of the White House, he responds to pressure, those willing to get in the trenches to advance their agenda.  Too often, we vote and retreat to wait for the results.  Moreover, we become disappointed and frustrated when we discover our interests were set aside to respond to those who bray the loudest.

To sustain the momentum generated by the GOP’s efforts to diminish the political clout of the fastest growing segments of American society, the emphasis among progressive voters must now be on building and sustaining movements of like-minded citizens.

The unifying thread within each movement could be educational reforms, economic security for the middle class, preserving laws that guarantee women continuing control over their healthcare and reproductive rights.  Other movements could focus on tax reform, maintaining the integrity of the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, comprehensive immigration reform, or strengthening environmental protections.  To these lists, I would add universal registration to ensure broader youth participation in our political process.

Amy Goodman’s blog piece (Now The Work of Movements Begins) is a timely reminder that the causes that speak to the fragility of middle class existence endure beyond November 6 into the post-election, accountability phase of our political process.  If progressive voters want lasting political and social change, we need to generate myriad equivalents of a 21st century civil rights movement.  Our window of opportunity opened only temporarily on November 6.  The forces most fearful of change are prepared for protracted struggle unless we can bear witness to reforms designed to modernize the Republican Party and, to a lesser extent, the Democratic Party.  There is no substitute for eternal vigilance.

Coalitions of interests changed the direction of American politics last Tuesday.  Those interests now have an ongoing responsibility to hold the President and other elected officials accountable.  In the President’s own words, we have to make him do what he acknowledges is the right thing to do.

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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