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President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously told A. Philip Randolph, president of the Sleeping Car Porters union, that he agreed with Randolph on many thoughts he had about what steps the president should take, but he told him, “You have to make me do it.”
President Barack Obama is in the same office and if there is something the people want done, we’ll have to make him do it. I’d love to keep the faith in this presidency, because losing it is so painful, given the image of the president and his family and the history and hopes that put him there. But with the President’s ongoing attacks on the African nation of Libya and the attempts to assassinate that nation’s leader, Muammar Qaddafi, and now his apparent inability to protect the poorest, the oldest, the youngest, and the middle class here at home while agreeing to ensure that the wealthiest 2% pay not one cent more, he appears to be a politician whose words can diverge from his actions and must be prodded in the right direction.
I think that’s why so many are railing at the White House, they thought with this election they could get out of the political arena and go home, but the Tea Partiers were just climbing in with brass knuckles and hard heads. Donna Edwards (D- Maryland), a member of the Black and the Progressive Caucus, said “these folks don’t understand negotiation. They don’t understand compromise.” Congresswoman Edwards has no faith in the proposed joint committee to decide the future cuts and revenue, of six Republicans already pledged not to raise taxes, and six conservative Democrats. “We need to rev it up even more,” said the Congresswoman, noting she told the President, “We need to play some hardball with these folks.”
It’s being done elsewhere, with mass protests from Egypt and Tunisia to Israel and Syria, and there are American examples to follow such as the Abolitionist and Populist farmer’s movements that were able to push ideas and policies without the advantages of Facebook and Twitter.
One idea would be to come together around the Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget, a document that balances the national budget mainly by cutting defense and having the wealthy pay their fair share. If the citizenry could become passionate about the provisions in this budget, contribute only to its supporters and aggressively campaign against those who don’t support , they would be climbing into the arena with “brass knuckles” of their own.
There was a time when sit-ins and civil disobedience were in the toolkits of Civil Rights organizations. Today, the fight for economic rights may have available the modern tools of social networking but it still requires the same passion and commitment of the Civil Rights movement.
Thankfully, it does not call for the courage of the Freedom Riders or of SCLC’s Hosea Williams, SNCC’s John Lewis and others who were attacked by state troopers on the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama, March 7, 1965. It hasn’t come to that again. Not yet.