Josh Akman, Columnist
Ideology: Democrat | Writing from: Washington, DC
I miss a lot about the Bill Clinton presidency. Call me nostalgic, but I miss the multibillion-dollar surplus. I miss not being at war. I miss the job market. I miss Al Gore, I miss Janet Reno, hell, I miss Monica. Most of all, though, I miss having a president who was a fighter.
See, say what you want about President Obama, but he’s not a fighter. He’s articulate, he’s brilliant, he’s transcendent, but he’s not angry. It’s all about how he was elected—his campaign was a well-oiled machine. He was presented as “above the fray,” and he always seemed to rise high above the controversy.
Clinton, though, was right in the mix. He fought every accusation tooth-and-nail, and when he didn’t like something, everyone knew it. He’s the Comeback Kid. When he was down, he’d fight himself right back up. I miss that. Judging by his current 51% approval rating (higher than Obama’s), I’m not the only one.
But my hope is not lost. Mercifully, Democratic candidates in Congress are beginning to fight. As their majorities in Congress are disappearing faster than the ozone layer, Democrats are getting up and getting pissed. Now, as Democrats see a bleak gleam at the end of the tunnel (meaning their losses in November might just be disastrous, not catastrophic), the message to the president could not be more clear: FIGHT.
FIGHT for the environment, and more specifically, against those who stand in the way of any positive climate change legislation. Many stories have two sides, many issues are nuanced. But this one is clear. Republican candidates wax poetic about the threat the national debt presents to our children, woefully ignorant of the threat of climate change. I know I’d rather my kid fight oppressive interest rates than oppressive heat waves.
FIGHT for entitlements. “Entitlements.” See, it doesn’t have to be a bad word. They’re thusly named for a reason; people in our country are entitled to certain things: equal protection under the law, social security for our senior citizens, welfare for the most needy. These shouldn’t be political four-letter words. If you can’t run on protecting social security, you shouldn’t be running. Senate candidate Joe Miller (R-Sarah Palin Alaska) told Politico that the federal government has no right to set a minimum wage. President Clinton would be tripping over himself as he ran to the press briefing room to fight this. President Obama, we’re waiting.
Sure, we can’t expect the president to get involved in every election sound bite. But, as podiums go, his is unparalleled. He’s the party’s standard-bearer. President Obama should use this opportunity to reaffirm some of the Democratic Party’s most fundamental principles. Yeah, maybe Scott McAdams won’t win the election (although Alaska has shown some precedent for completely unprepared small-town mayors being anointed to political prominence), but President Obama can still rally the troops. As poll after poll shows an enthusiasm gap wide enough for Scott Brown to drive his truck through, President Obama can use this opportunity to FIGHT. Democrats believe that the federal government has the responsibility of guaranteeing our right to earn a decent wage. The head of the party should be shouting this from the rooftops. President Obama, we’re waiting.
Not content with just denying certain benefits of citizenship, Senate Republicans have recently talked about denying the whole thing, as they have begun discussing whether children of illegal immigrants that were born in this country deserve citizenship. Born in THIS country. Democrats might disagree on healthcare, spending and even social issues, but can’t we all agree on the 14th Amendment? Led by the president, Democrats need to fight back. As the radical right fights to lock our borders and throw away the key, Democrats need to fight for equal protection. And President Obama should be at the forefront of the battle.
In this battle for equal protection, one of the most critical battlefields is “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Somehow, in 2010, we are still legislating bigotry. Legislating antidiscrimination. Legislating homophobia. President Obama is one of the most socially liberal commanders in chief we’re likely to see for a while. Mr. President, it’s time to fight.
President Clinton, too, had to contend with a disastrous mid-term election. It only pissed him off more. President Obama, we’re waiting.