This president has a historic mandate. Just as Abraham Lincoln had to lead the nation from slavery and Franklin Roosevelt from the Depression, this president must lead the nation from the calamitous failures of three decades of conservative dominance. This requires beginning to reverse the perverse tax policies that have contributed to gilded-age inequality and starved the government of resources needed for vital investments. This demands correcting destabilizing global imbalances, laying a new foundation for reviving American manufacturing and shackling financial speculation. It means ensuring the United States leads rather than lags in the green industrial revolution. And it requires unwinding the self-destructive military adventures abroad. The president must strengthen America's basic social contract in a global economy, not weaken it.
This daunting project is not a matter of ambition or appetite - or even unconscious Kenyan socialism. It is the necessary function of a progressive president elected in the wake of calamitous conservative misrule. Every entrenched corporate and financial interest stands in the way; it is easier to take a less confrontational path. President Bill Clinton, for example, found it convenient to join in the conservative project of corporately defined trade, financial deregulation and social welfare constriction. From NAFTA to the repeal of welfare and the failure of labor law reform, to deregulating derivatives and repealing Glass-Steagall, he got his agenda wrong. He was seduced far more by Wall Street's Robert Rubin than by Monica Lewinsky.
Now Obama faces the same challenge. This isn't about conventional politics. This is simply about the fate and future of our country. This president has a clear and imperative historic mandate. If he shirks it, he risks more than failing to get reelected. He risks a failed presidency.
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
Reversing Three Decades of Conservative Dominance
Katrina vanden Heuvel, editor of The Nation magazine, writes about Obama's mandate and the need for strong leadership to accomplish it: