One of the first ironies I have noticed about Barack Obama’s victory is the inability of many liberals to follow his lead on positioning his coming progressive changes. I have yet to hear the words “democratic dominance” out Barack’s mouth. All of his initial moves seem to signal a shift away from the left-right pendulum swing of the last 40 years. He speaks to national unity at a time when many democrats shout for heads to roll.
“It’s our time now!”
As a rallying cry it certainly has the truth of electoral returns to back it up, but is that really the lesson we want to take away from the election? Are we simply looking for different players in the lead roles shouting the same tired lines from the left side of the stage instead of the right? Isn’t this a perfect time to change the script as well as the cast and take center stage? I think Barack believes that to be the case and he even provided a rough draft of what it might look like in The Audacity of Hope.
I’ll pick on “big labor” for now as they seem to be the special interest group most clearly poised to aggressively pursue their agenda employing predictable rhetoric aimed at solving the problem from a singular viewpoint. It goes something like this: “Unions have been invaluable to the plight of the workers. More union membership is good. Less union membership is bad.”
Is more union membership, which has never topped 35% of the workforce, the only answer to the problems they were created to solve? Is that even the best use of their dwindling resources? Unions are so close to achieving the actual solutions they have sought for so long, but almost automatically fall back into a siege mentality when approaching the issues. If the vast majority of the country has no history with the unions, is making a sales pitch for new members the best way to achieve their very worthy goals of modernizing our labor laws for a more sustainable and equitable future for all workers, union and non-union alike?
Why not learn from our successes as well as our failures for a change.
How did we get from children in American factories to children in Chinese factories and the attendant ills that accompanied the transition? What industries didn’t we lose? How are those investments going? What part did both big business and big labor play in the drama we now find ourselves in? What can be learned from many industries that have no unions yet still enjoy great benefits and generous salaries? Why weren’t those professionals exploited without unions?
Granted, seventy-hour weeks could be considered exploitation though most are willing to do the work if it means a six-figure income; however, many white-collar professionals earn a solid wage on the assumption of a 40-hour work week, some on even a 37-hour week.
America is very close to achieving everything the labor movement has struggled to achieve since the Philadelphia Mechanics’ Union of Trade Associations formed in 1827, but it will take careful positioning to get a chunk of the 46% who still voted for McCain to get behind the solutions. Even more difficult if the only framing used to convince them is one they already rejected.
The opportunity is there to change minds and win hearts if the progressive narrative can change to encompass both Roosevelt presidents in its historical roots.
Progressive solutions to our many problems can redefine how government is viewed by conservatives and liberals alike if presented in the right fashion. America is stubborn, though. Conservatives even more so. We need a different approach than what is required on the left-side of the dial. If the traditional left-leaning narrative drowns out Barack’s very pragmatic and centrist argument, getting legislation through the new Congress will not be easy. Barack needs conservatives and liberals pushing their representatives to support the administration’s solutions.
Barack isn’t offering watered-down proposals in order to convince conservatives, either. We need to nip that particular talking point. He uses logic and common sense. He will do the same as he seeks to implement his campaign platform, much of which is not classically liberal but still very progressive. I know that can feel like a Slushy brain-freeze for some on the left. A conservative progressive. No wonder everyone is having a hard time defining the man.
Barack can speak of these changes in a way that gets everyone on board, left and right, with the bold new direction we heading and excited about crafting innovative solutions to accomplish those national goals. He can listen to all voices and guide the country into a different place than it exists right now. He can inspire a political party in disarray to look to its roots for direction and purpose. He can lead another party as it crafts solutions for all Americans regardless of political affiliation.
Barack can change the very nature of the discussion if his democratic supporters take his cue and try to do the same.