If you are a progressive, you might say that in recent months (perhaps recent years), President Obama has been in a slump. The magic that was part of his elections no longer shines so brightly, and the legislative victories–such as passage of the Affordable Care Act in 2010–are truly a distant memory. The president has been floundering of late, and seemingly he is not getting that “little bit of help from his friends” that a man living on an island needs.
What will not be a surprise is that many of his problems emanate from two sources: (a) the sea of indebtedness that he created by successfully raising so much money for his own campaigns and (b) the apparent choke-hold that the military and intelligence agencies have on him as our troop withdrawal from the Middle East has now become one step forward and two back.
If you like President Obama, you have to ask yourself the question, “Could he have been elected without his successful efforts to raise more money than any other candidate in history?” Regrettably, the likely answer is no. It would have been wonderful to have “Barack Obama – unplugged” as president. But that wasn’t to be, and because of the system, we could only have a seriously compromised Obama. It’s difficult, but we need to frequently remind ourselves of this.
Every time that I get frustrated with how the military appears to be controlling the president like a puppet, I have to remember that since Dwight Eisenhower in the 1950s, it’s virtually impossible to find a president who isn’t scared shitless of the military.
President Obama, who never served in the military, must have been defensive at the least when he first sat down with military and intelligence officials to assess the world. I can hear their top officials saying, “Young man, now that you’re president you have to live in the real world. There are people out there who want to nuke us; others that want to sabotage our nation; others that want to invade our shores; others who want to entirely get rid of Pax Americana. You have to say, ‘Not on my watch.’ ”
When the president goes to mix it up, he needs to make sure that he is selecting issues that are both clear and within the capability of the American people to understand. Immigration has always been a difficult issue because there are so many variables and contingencies. Let me take a paragraph from the President’s November 20, 2014 address to the nation on immigration. The president said:
Had the House of Representatives allowed that kind of bill a simple yes or no vote, it would have passed with support from both parties. And today it would be the law. But for a year and a half now Republican leaders in the House have refused to allow that simple vote. Now I continue to believe that the best way to solve this problem is by working together to pass that kind of common sense law. But until that happens, there are actions I have the legal authority to take as president, the same kinds of actions taken by Democratic and Republican presidents before me, that will help make our immigration system more fair and more just.
The president moved from stating that he wanted an up or down vote on his immigration bill by the House to justifying why he took unilateral action. What he did not do was to pound home the fact that the Republican leaders of the House of Representatives were failing to allow a vote on a measure that the majority of the members wanted.
The issue of immigration is complex. The issue of majority rule is simple. It is a fundamental tenet of our democracy. Whoever has more votes wins. Anyone who interferes with the will of the majority is undermining democracy. That is exactly what John Boehner and Eric Cantor have done for the past four years.
Perhaps the president and some Democrats accept it because the rules in both the House and the Senate are often designed to thwart the will of the majority. They become immune to it.
It is always to the advantage of the citizenry for good government to work. More often than not, good government is also simple to understand. A need exists. and we as a country need to address it. What President Obama has been facing with immigration legislation is the House of Representatives simply not functioning as a democratic institution. That is enough to launch a call to action by the American people.
The Republican strategy often involves delay and subterfuge. The president and other Democrats need to challenge that at every opportunity. Democrats may find that fighting simple procedural battles will be simple enough for the American people to understand and will help them build back their public support. That’s where the President can receive a little help from his friends.