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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 2/26/13

To Beat Austerity, Obama Must Campaign for Democracy

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Then, late last week, the White House replied with an encouraging announcement that: "You're right."

The formal reply read:

"In this year's State of the Union address, [the] President chose to prioritize an economic agenda to create jobs and invest in infrastructure, clean energy, and education. He also called for a National Commission to address the long lines and other chronic problems at the polls every election.

"But that doesn't mean fighting the influence of money in politics isn't important. In fact, President Obama agrees with you.

"That's a point he made clear last fall, saying: 'Over the longer term, I think we need to seriously consider mobilizing a constitutional amendment process to overturn Citizens United (assuming the Supreme Court doesn't revisit it). Even if the amendment process falls short, it can shine a spotlight of the super-PAC phenomenon and help apply pressure for change.'

"Now, it's going to take more than a response to this petition or a paragraph in a future State of the Union to get this done. Our founders quite consciously made amending the U.S. Constitution a difficult piece of business.

"That's where you come in. If this is a fight that motivates you, you need to work for it. Keep making your voice heard and encourage others to take a stand against limitless corporate spending in our elections. And speak out in favor of changes that will reduce the influence of special interests.

"There's a reason that this President has worked to make his administration the most open and accountable in history. He's trying to lead by example, and change Washington from the ground up.

"That's why he banned lobbyists or lobbying organizations from giving gifts to appointees in the executive branch. That's why he directed agencies to stop appointing lobbyists to federal boards and commissions. That's why lobbyists aren't allowed to work in the Administration on matters or agencies they had lobbied in the preceding two years. And that's why appointees aren't allowed to lobby the Administration once they leave.

"It's why our visitor logs, daily public schedules, staff salaries, and ethics waivers are all posted on the White House website. And it's why we've created a program like We the People -- to allow citizens like you to write to us directly and build support to compel our response.

"If we want to get this done, we all have plenty of work to do in the months and years ahead. So let's keep at it."

That's not a bad response, except, of course, that it did not come in the State of the Union address.

In some senses, the White House statement recalls President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's response to New Deal-era progressives who wanted him to step up the fight for economic and social democracy: "Go out and make me do it."

But only in some senses.

FDR did encourage activists to press their agendas agressively so that he could better bargain with conservatives in his own party and on the Republican side of the aisle. But he gave those activists more than vague encouragement, especially at points when the battle lines were being drawn on fiscal and economic issues.

Roosevelt used his first Inaugural Address to call out the "rulers of the exchange of mankind's goods" and to declare that the "practices of the unscrupulous money changers stand indicted in the court of public opinion, rejected by the hearts and minds of men."

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John Nichols, a pioneering political blogger, has written the Online Beat since 1999. His posts have been circulated internationally, quoted in numerous books and mentioned in debates on the floor of Congress.

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