Monday, November 12, 2012

Step up and lead

Joe Alicata

On Tuesday November 6th the United States re-elected President Barack Obama to a second term in what turned out to be an election close in the popular vote but disparate in the Electoral College. As an independent, I was not as happy to see the president win as I was ecstatic that Mitt Romney lost.

I have a few bones to pick with the president, namely the NDAA which allows for the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of “involvement with terrorism” and the health care reform that wasn’t actually real reform.

Without going off on a tangent about how horrific of a president Romney would have been, it is time to turn to the president and kindly ask him to do one thing during his second term, just one thing the entire four years: step up and lead.

Mr. Obama, you are no longer facing re-election. You do not have to put forth a new election platform in four years. You do not have to worry about who the Republicans will run against you in 2016, because you won’t be able to run.

So with that in mind, as a college student, as an independent, and as an American; I ask you to step up and lead this country forward.

Not much has changed with respect to Congress. Yes the democrats picked up two seats, but that is the equivalent of throwing deck chairs off the Queen Mary to keep it from sinking. It means nothing. What we as a nation need is a president who does more than pay lip service to bipartisanship, who makes a concerted effort to reach across the aisle, and if that effort is rebuked, a president that figures out a workaround that keeps lockstep republican opposition from preventing the progress you have promised us. And if that workaround involves making John Boehner cry, all the better.

It is no secret that the Republicans have done everything they can to deny the president’s policy agenda. This has effectively, as Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein note in their book, turned our representative democracy into something more closely resembling a system comprised of parliamentary parties, with asymmetric polarization making political hostage taking the new norm. 

Just ask Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who said after Obama’s election in 2008 that the goal of his party for the next four years should be to deny the president a second term. One wonders if Mr. McConnell is now planning to get to work on denying the president a third term…

Someone has to be the bigger person here. Someone has to step up over the fray. Step past the increasing polarization within the Republican Party that marginalizes moderates and thrives on distorting reality to fit corporately constructed narratives. We need someone who steps past the increasingly stale, bankrupt and lazy liberal ideology that for all of its words puts little action behind it and ultimately falls to the same corporate interests that drive their colleagues across the aisle.

President Obama, you have the chance to do this. You have the chance to save this country and unite our people.

Mr. President, use your second term to work to overturn Citizens United. Use your second term to protect college students and our access to loans – because in the ever expanding global economy we cannot afford to fall further behind. Use your second term to reform your own health care “reform” and take health care out of the hands of private insurers except for those who choose private insurance. Do this through the introduction of a viable, competitive public option to compete in the marketplace and drive down costs while providing a minimum standard of care.

Use your second term to reduce American imperialism abroad and strengthen our position in the world by reducing our arrogant, unnecessary occupation of foreign nations who pose no real actionable threat to the United States. This only stokes resentment and feeds a culture of anti-western violence abroad and a culture of xenophobia at home.

And finally, use your second term to break the partisan gridlock which has come to dominate Washington and develop policies to fix our fiscal house. If our deficit is allowed to continue to grow unabated we the American middle class will undoubtedly suffer the consequences.

The American people deserve better, and instead of telling us we deserve better, do better. There will be no public “referendum” on your policies in the next election. The republicans and the Tea Party can scream and carry on all they want but they cannot remove you short of impeachment. Take a stand. Buck the corporate interests, work for the people and work to get our economy in order. Be the president we need you to be. Because if you don’t, the fiscal cliff will be the least of our problems. 

Joe Alicata is a senior at the University at Albany where he is studying public policy, philosophy and political science. Currently he is the Editor in Chief of the Albany Student Press. Additionally, Joe is the director of news for WCDB 90.9 FM, and host of “The Lowdown”. His interests include politics, philosophy, cooking, cars, weight lifting, and the occasional sunlit walk on the beach.    

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