Those of us who supported these actions got a lot of pushback from people who consider themselves the president's supporters. This kind of comment from Democratic Underground was typical. "Don't buy the Hype. Obama will not announce cuts to Social Security or Medicare. Once again this phantom has been blown up into a major sh*tstorm by those who oppose Obama on the Right and the Left. Once again it will fail to materialize. When the dust settles, Obama will have only reiterated what he has said before... (there will be) no big scary cuts after all. Just another false alarm."
That's exactly the kind of friend the White House doesn't need. As the Wall Street Journal later reported, the administration "considered offering specific benefit cuts and tax increases to shore up Social Security's finances, but ultimately decided to back off." The Journal added: "The decision to hold off was made as the White House came under pressure from Democrats and liberal interest groups who oppose any cuts to Social Security benefits."
That pressure didn't just save American seniors from needless hardship. It also prevented the White House from committing political suicide.
Later, additional grassroots activity forced the White House to hold the line on Medicare cuts. That allowed Democrats to draw a clear distinction between themselves and the GOP -- exactly what they can't do right now on jobs, thanks to the White House -- and the resulting backlash against Republicans led to an upset Democratic victory in New York's special Congressional election last month.
Now the administration needs to be rescued by its friends again -- this time on jobs. Citizen action is needed that will force the administration to draw a clear distinction between its policies and those of the Republicans. The public needs to hear an honest and open debate about what the economy needs. It's not small-"d" democratic of the White House to deny them that debate. And it's not big "D" Democratic to allow the president's party to be labeled the party of joblessness.
We had eight years of the Republican approach to jobs, tax cuts, and deregulation. The result is a broken and devastated economy. For reasons we can't know, the administration has embraced deficits over putting America back to work. It will continue down this path until its friends and its critics come together and demand that it stop. There will be more opportunities to call the White House, sign petitions, and send a message in other ways. These tactics work.The White House's staunchest supporters and its fiercest progressive critics share a common goal. They both need to persuade the president and his advisors to make the case for creating jobs. Whether the administration wants it or not, right now it needs a little help from its friends.