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President Barack Obama’s re-election is a huge relief—we dodged the Romney/Ryan bullet.

However, that’s not the same as winning a better future. If Obama’s first term is a prologue to the second, we should not expect to see much progress in strengthening the rights or bargaining ability of workers. Therefore, in Obama’s second term, we need to be:

• Smarter about the policies we advocate.

• Selective about the candidates we endorse.

• More disciplined about building a strong social movement.

Progressives need to recognize where the real fight is happening. Congress is still firmly under Republican control—or, at least, under threat of a Republican veto that can stop any worthwhile federal legislation. Since progress won’t happen in Washington, we must work for it at the state and local level. We are already seeing some of the most exciting innovations take shape in cities and metropolitan regions. Urban labor-community coalitions are making respect for collective bargaining a precondition for businesses to receive public support. They are also approaching politics in a new way. In exchange for supporting candidates, these coalitions are ensuring that politicians use the bully pulpit to defend workers and denounce union-busting. In San Jose, Calif., student, labor and faith groups demanded that local politicians back an across-the-board minimum wage increase that passed on Election Day. And in Long Beach, Calif., a coalition of LGBT activists, labor and faith groups got city council members to endorse a ballot measure for hotel housekeepers to get a raise, which passed.

Such coalitions must evaluate elected officials on whether or not they understand that their success in pushing legislation forward is directly linked to the strength of social movements. As Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) told me earlier this year in an interview for The American Prospect, “Sympathetic members of Congress have the power to draft, introduce and vote on legislation. But leaders in the progressive community … have the ability to mobilize, educate and organize all across America. We need each other to be successful.” We can no longer afford to invest in politicians who do not understand this.

Most candidates favored by Democratic Party powerbrokers are unable to grasp this concept. The few who do have social-movement roots, such as Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.). Consequently, a long-term electoral strategy must involve cultivating candidates directly from the ranks of social movements and then fighting for them in the primaries.

As Obama begins his second term, Republican obstructionism cannot be an excuse for inaction—particularly when it comes to the president’s use of his bully pulpit.

During the recent attacks on collective bargaining rights in Wisconsin and Ohio, and during the teachers’ strike in Chicago, White House leadership was nowhere to be found. Obama once promised, “If American workers are being denied their right to organize and collectively bargain when I’m in the White House, I’ll put on a comfortable pair of shoes myself. I’ll walk on that picket line with you as President of the United States of America.”

The President seems to have misplaced his walking shoes. We should send him a new pair—and make sure that no future candidates we endorse have any excuse for losing theirs.

Originally Published on In These Times.

Originally posted to amybdean on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 04:54 PM PST.

Also republished by In Support of Labor and Unions.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Gerrymandered! (4+ / 0-)

    In almost every case where there was a fair fight between a Dem and a GOPer, the Dem won. But there were so many incredibly gerrymandered districts that there was only a slim increase in the House. Why didn't Pelosi and co. make it clearer to the base that the '10 elections were absolutely crucial because of the census?

    •  I was with until your last sentence; about that (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wildthumb, oldpotsmuggler

      all I can say is

      lol star trek picard_rikerWTF

      Because ya see I remember 2010 as being several long months of being part of the "& co" who was virtually everyone to GOTV like our lives depended on it. While the cool lefty pundits were pontificating about how it would be so freeking cool if we all just stayed home to "teach" "Obama" a "lesson."

      Lord I hope we don't make that same mistake in 2014.

      Handmade holiday gifts from Jan4insight on Zibbet. Get 10%off everytime with coupon code KOSSACK.

      by jan4insight on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 06:40:03 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Late response (0+ / 0-)

        In Northern Michigan there was an analysis of how many retired union folks didn't bother to vote at all. This year the unions made calls to all those folks, and the difference was dramatic. You may have worked your &* off, and I congratulate you, but I can assure you that wasn't true nationwide.

        I also totally agree with you about "punditry." If I hear "Obama had a majority" one more time!  He had 60 votes that included Liebermann for 42 days out of the 4 years. You can ride Don Quixote's horse or get something done, and he opted for the latter.

  •  Here are my shoes, with Union Label (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I would be happy to buy the same for my President, Barry O.

    President Obama, let me know what size. Mine are 13. Made with pride in the US by my wonderful sisters and brothers of the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW)


    A close up of the label, with the "union bug:"


    Just your average every day Autistic hillbilly/biker/activist/union steward with an engineering degree.

    by Mentatmark on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 07:24:11 PM PST

  •  I notice the condescending tone of many of these (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    diaries that seem to lecture at Obama from on high.

    Why should I or he pay attention to arrogance?

    Perhaps you could consider him an ally and not an obstacle, and frankly, not a fucking object instead of a person. You might get a little more cooperation from him thereby.

    Although he's much too nice to answer back in kind. I however have no such resistance to paying back arrogance with nastiness.  

    "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

    by Wildthumb on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 08:36:22 PM PST

    •  Oh, and by the way, I'm not EITHER/OR. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      I want union power and clout AND power and clout for the president. I don't start with them as mutually exclusive from the get-go.

      "There's a lot to be said for making people laugh. Did you know that that's all some people have? It isn't much, but it's better than nothing in this cockeyed caravan." --Joel McCrea as "Sully," in "Sullivan's Travels."

      by Wildthumb on Tue Nov 20, 2012 at 08:38:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

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