Mitt Romney is not, whatever the press might have people believe, a Massachusetts moderate. He is honestly proposing that we sustain massive tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans and slash basic services and programs for working families. He is honestly proposing that the financial institutions that arrogantly sank our global economy and destroyed people’s lives be left free of any and all regulation. In short, he is honestly proposing that we turn this car around and drive off the same cliff again. (At least Romney is being honest about something. He spends most of his time telling unabashed lies about the president and his policies.)
Congressional Republicans, who seem to think that our national crisis is that millionaires don’t get enough tax breaks, have obstructed almost all of Obama’s efforts to create more jobs, invest in the future and reduce the deficit. They are holding our nation’s economic recovery hostage on the premise that if the president fails, and the economy fails, then Romney will win. Working families are just collateral damage.
In spite of the GOP’s cynical grand strategy, Obama still managed to make progress in restoring our economy. He made investments in education, put more money into the pockets of working Americans, ended two wars, extended human and civil rights to gay Americans, provide undocumented young people with relief from legal limbo, moved, admittedly diluted, health care and banking reform forward, presided over the largest expansion of anti-poverty programs and promoted a new energy economy.
And yet, there are limits — clearly — to what the president has been and will be able to achieve in the most ideologically polarized climate in recent history. In the face of the existential threat to our democracy posed by a rabid, corporate-sponsored right wing, progressive activists are told to swallow their disappointment and just get out the vote. In return, some throw up their hands at electoral politics, arguing that both establishment parties are so compromised that only independent movements can effect real change.
As professor and activist Frances Fox Piven has argued, this is a false dichotomy. “Electoral politics creates the environment in which movements arise,” while movements can force politicians to do the hard work they were elected to do. Electoral politics and movement politics operate on parallel, often converging tracks. It was the energy of the Occupy movement that compelled Obama to make the alarming growth in income inequality a central issue. And activists fighting for fairer immigration laws undoubtedly helped generate the conditions that led to last week’s executive order.