In college we had a football cheer when our UCLA team was scoring big: “HIT ‘EM AGAIN…HARDER! HARDER!” Exactly right. For the second time in your presidential career, Barack Obama. you have a chance – the popular vote (61 to 58 million) is too close to call it an actual mandate – to do the right thing. This means, sir, no compromise, no conciliation, no “hands across the aisle” and no more blather about “nonpartisan” and “we’re all Americans now”.
For the moment you have the Republican crazies on the run. Go for the jugular, please, Mr President. Do not fall, as you hint you may, for a “Grand Bargain” that will raise the age at which citizens earn Social Security. And don’t you dare take a single step back from sustaining, and improving on our current Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Our welfare net – bluntly, what keeps many of us alive – is the chief target of the dominant Tea Party wing of the GOP – and, more importantly, its Wall Street paymasters whose life’s ambition is to drain the public treasury by channeling our payroll tax-cash into their private pockets.
Do not use us as bargaining chips to prove that you are “everybody’s president”. You are not. Right now you are OUR president. You belong to the temporary voters’ coalition of America’s blacks and Latinos and gays and women and union members many of whom worked their tails off to keep you in the White House. Who do you think won you Ohio and Michigan – and thus the presidency? You owe us.
The ballyhooed “fiscal cliff” and “deficit crisis” are smokescreens behind which temporarily shellshocked rightwing strategists like Karl Rove and Paul Ryan and their super-rich bankers (the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson etc) will, I promise, revive and maneuver to take advantage of your notorious weakness for conciliation (i.e. surrender).
Their slogan is “Fix The Debt”; meaning, fix us good and proper. Already, as the Financial Times reports, under various rubrics, such as the Simpson-Bowles Commission, The Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, Third Way, Concord Coalition etc., the same corporations that poured hate-money into Romney now are amassing a new $30 million war chest to re-attack our benefits as a “threat to the nation”. To them we’re fiscal terrorists just by accepting what we paid for.
For the moment, sir, we Obama voters have kept the barbarians from the gate. (Incidentally, I don’t include all Tea Partiers in this category. Some libertarian Tea Party members helped win liberal pro-marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington states. Is it merely a wish-dream that, on specific issues and a smarter approach they, too, can be won over to the side of the angels?)
But true vampires never die. They’ll be back literally with a vengeance. Like Jack Nicholson smashing at his wife’s door with his axe in “The Shining”, they’re stoppable (see recent election results) but relentless. They never give up, it’s in their history and nature, almost in their genes, to sabotage America’s skeletal safety net. Traditionally they hate welfare-and-health programs because they fear and hate the people (us) who are the beneficiaries of these “entitlements” we pay for in our taxes. With his 47% gaffe Romney spoke from the beating heart of capitalist America: they truly believe we are moochers picking their overstuffed pockets. (And let’s hear it for the anonymous kitchen helper who hid the video recorder at the Florida fundraiser where Mitt dug his grave, courtesy of Mother Jones magazine.)
Paul Ryan & Co. and the hardest-line Tea Party poujadists, and their corporate backers, change form but hardly ever change. In one shape or another they’ve been with us since at least the 1930’s when Franklin D.Roosevelt cursed the ultra-rich Liberty League as “economic royalists” and joyfully welcomed their hate. John Kennedy had his Birchers. The ever-compromising Bill Clinton had his Vince Foster-suicide conspiracy nuts. At this month’s election we all saw how the wealthy knuckledraggers went hysterically ape, with their Obama-the-Muslim-socialist-Godless-traitor-illegitimate-Kenyan venom, all synonyms for attacking us – the unrich, luckless, poor, workingclass and under-water middle class Yahoo racism failed … just.
It’s a truism that the Republicans lost because they were in denial about a demographically changing America. But I wonder if we’re not in denial too – denying just how strong we are – strong enough to firmly, and with fire, reject deals with people who mean us harm..
The signs are not good, sir. Harry Reid, the leader of your Senate Democrats, immediately signaled his willingness to surrender, “It’s better to dance (with the other side) than fight.” Who says? Arch-reactionary John Boehner, the weakened House Republican leader and a sworn enemy of everything we want Obama to stand for, preaches, “Mr. President, this is your moment…We’re ready to lead, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.” Kumbaya.
All too predictably, from Monday’s New York Times, “(This week), Mr. Obama will meet with corporate executives at the White House as he uses the nation’s fiscal problems to start rebuilding relations with business leaders. Though many of them backed Mitt Romney, scores have formed a coalition to push for a budget compromise similar to the one the president seeks. He hopes to enlist them to persuade Republicans in Congress to accept higher taxes on the assurance that he can deliver Democrats’ votes for future reductions in fast-growing entitlement programs like Medicare and Medicaid.” Here we go again, with those damn “entitlements.”
There’s always talk on the left of “building a grass roots movement” to apply pressure on you the President. We’ll wait till the cows come home. The only such movement comes together – and it’s magnificent – only once every four years at election time when and if people feel their personal lives at risk. Until such a Jerusalem is built in this green and pleasant land, let’s at least summon the George Orwell in all of us to decode language designed to hurt us.
The most dangerous word in the American dictionary? Bi-partisan.
Hit em again, harder, harder.
CLANCY SIGAL is a novelist and screenwriter in Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org