In the Washington Post this week, Eugene Robinson wrote an article imploring the President to make a bold statement with his new jobs plan. His theory is that Obama, who is currently suffering from plummeting approval ratings, can win back public opinion by making a show of strength. And, I must say, I agree completely.
One of the President’s greatest virtues is that he’s a reasonable man, willing to compromise, believing that getting something is better than getting nothing, even if what he gets falls far short of his original goal. These are qualities to be respected in a person. But, Obama is not just a person, he is the President. He is the elected leader of the people of this country, and they expect him to fight for them. Concessions look like weakness, and weakness frightens voters. And, with the current state of the economy, and continued high unemployment, people are already frightened enough. Compromise is a sign of maturity, but fighting shows strength, and that is what the people need to see. Robinson puts it well when he says, “We know Obama can be rational, realistic, and eminently reasonable. Right now, he needs to be anything but.”
The GOP does not compromise. They make ridiculous statements, and they are likely driving this country off a cliff, but they look strong doing it. They have steadfastly refused to give any ground in any negotiations, no matter what it is that’s at stake. They fought over the debt ceiling, and Obama caved. They fought over the Bush tax cuts, and Obama caved. They fought over health care, and Obama caved (though at least in that case he did manage to get a few of the things he was asking for, though he conceded far more than he should have). Even today, over something as small as the date that he would address Congress with his plan, Obama caved. He announced that he would address a joint session on Wednesday, claiming that he had cleared the date with Speaker John Boehner. But, when Boehner changed his mind, not wanting this address to interfere with the scheduled debate between the potential Republican Presidential nominees, Obama agreed to reschedule. This may seem like a small concession, but it reflects a greater pattern. Obama wants to avoid conflict, and the Republicans exploit this again and again to get what they want. In the case of the debates, even Boehner has admitted that he didn’t watch the first one, showing how little actual importance they hold. But, he still was able to pull the President’s puppet strings and get him to dance. But, Obama needs to realize that the people don’t want a dancer, they want a fighter. And, we would rather see him fight and lose than not fight at all.
So, Robinson says that Obama should ask for more than he thinks he can get. He “needs to demand what’s right, not what the other side is willing to give.” He should be “unrealistic and unreasonable.” He thinks that if Obama stakes a bold position, and then fights for that position, people will respond with their support. A bold plan will likely be killed immediately by the Republican leadership in the House, but it will also provide a base for Obama to campaign from. He can be the President with an optimistic plan for the future, and label the GOP as pessimists who spew negativity.
The people of this country are struggling. They are fighting for survival. And, they want a leader who is going to fight, too. He may not win, but at least he will have tried. He will not have caved again. He will have stood up for the people of this country in their time of need, and he may even be able to help them get back on their feet. As Robinson says, “Boldness from the President may or may not get the nation’s mojo working again. Timidity surely won’t.”