The president who spoke to Congress last week is the Barack Obama many have been waiting to hear from for the past two years. He was strong, decisive and laid down the gauntlet to Congress telling them to pass his jobs bill NOW! He said he will send them his American Jobs Act and boldly told them he will take it to the people and ask them to demand that their elected representatives “pass it today!”
He went further and said that within two weeks he will tell Congress and the nation his plan for bringing down the debt and will send that to the Hill and the super committee as a recommendation for their final report. It was refreshing to hear him say the words “my bill.” This is what many Americans have been wanting him to say for a long time. After all, he is the president, he should have his plan to grow our economy and balance our budget and not be sitting back waiting for the current do-nothing Congress to come up with one on their own. Thus far they have shown they are incapable of doing so.
A few weeks ago I published a piece in the Huffington Post, “Give ‘em hell Barack!” and, like many others, suggested the president take a page from the 1948 Harry Truman election and travel the country speaking to the American people about his vision for the future and his immediate plans to lift the economy and create jobs. Let’s hope this is the beginning of his doing that.
The introduction of his jobs bill hit all the right notes. I personally would have liked to hear that Congress should pass ENDA in the context of no American should be prevented from getting a job due to discrimination. But this was a big picture speech and his not mentioning it didn’t take away from the pleasure of hearing him speak with a passion that we haven’t heard from him since he ran in 2008.
The 2012 elections will be a turning point for the nation and the American people will be choosing the direction they want our country to go. The choices include whether we will return to some form of isolationism; how we will wind down the wars we are embroiled in; how we treat our most disadvantaged citizens; and whether or not we are ready to pursue a reality of full civil and human rights for every citizen including African Americans, the people of the District of Columbia, women, those in the LGBT community, and with the Dream Act the children of illegal immigrants who are here in the United States not by their own choice but because their parents brought them here. These are just some of the issues the next president and Congress will be deciding.
The results of the election will tell us whether we can move beyond the bitter divide that is represented today by a dysfunctional Congress and the vitriol that has entered our public discourse. We will be deciding if we are one nation with differing views that can be brought together through compromise and intelligent discussion, or if we have moved so far to the right and left that we can no longer talk to or communicate with each other.
I am an optimist and believe we can come together. The alternative is too scary. Tea Party leaders compare themselves to the patriots who fought to build our country and make it free, when in actuality they espouse policies to tear our country down like having us default on our national debt and break the promise of a safety net to our citizens most in need.
We need to move forward and history shows us the way to do that is working together. Having a strong president to lead has always been important and President Obama can still show us he is that president. It won’t be done without a struggle, and it may not always be pretty, but move forward we must.
This year there will be many legislative battles on the local and state level and each of us needs to get involved where we live. But the most important elections will be the ones on the national level. They will set the tone for years to come. The question is can we elect people from both parties who will be willing to compromise and share a vision of a strong united America?