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I had a very conservative Civics teacher in high school, to say the least, and my hand ached from writing notes at the end of her classes.  But she did me one favor for this liberal here: she opened my eyes to just how complex our government is, how it's really structured.

Make no mistake, Obama's election was an important step, a good step to recovering from the Bush years.  But it was never enough, and it won't be enough in the coming years.

The American system of government is multitiered, multi-branched, and although the Presidency is certainly a bright, shining, attractive target, it can't be the only target we aim for in our political efforts.   We have to elect more Democrats in all kinds of places, promote our politics on all kinds of levels, if we want the balance of power to change in real terms.

Regardless of what fantasies we may have, the President's job is not to write law, nor to interpret it.  He can prevent the bills he doesn't like from becoming law, and has in fact threatened such vetoes recently, but he can't pass laws like Congress can.

The budget, and all the laws he is constitutionally tasked with enforcing and carrying out are the products of Congress.  The Republicans have done their best to stall legislative change, but have done so under America's radar, avoiding blame for it.

And all these scandals?  A part of the problem is that he's been prevented from appointing the people he wants to the posts that are his to appoint to.

More importantly, we have to realize that those scandals are in part a result of Republicans abusing their oversight power.

But that's not the end of it, because while the Federal government makes the policy that affects the entire nation, we have to deal with policies on the state and local levels, too, and that is where much of the Republican Party's victories have empowered them, and disempowered us.

Simply focusing on the President, and hoping he can save us all, is just the servile sort of attitude that the Republicans make fun of when they ridicule us as followers of a political messiah.  Fact is, when we talk about all the change we want, all the shifts in policy we want, much of the mechanism of that change rests at the State and Congressional level.

So, long story short, it comes down to this:  Change will be harder than simply switching out one guy at the tope, and we cannot ask this man to be, as one guy so aptly put it, "The Asshole Whisperer", forcing all those mean old Republicans to get out of the way, and surrender in the face of our righteous coolness or whatever.

We have to be pragmatic, brutally efficient political warriors here.  We have to lay aside some part of our ideals, and ask the question, how do we get a Republican out of this office.  And then, once we have a Democrat there, we have to ask ourselves, how do we put this Democrat's back against the wall so that as a matter of practical politics, he's unlikely to do something we don't want?

We have to go at this like chess, not merely hoping that what we do makes our opponents or the people we're trying to hold accountable on our side do what we want, but leaving our targets with little other rational choice.  We have to learn how to box our political opponents in as a party, not merely expect Obama to pull some masterful, Emperor Palpatine Style Sith magic on them.

We might reference LBJ or FDR, but those were people who engaged in their power plays at a time when the New Deal was either in there with big popular support, or when the New Deal had been the law of the land, the paradigm, for decades.  We're dealing now with a time in which many of the old liberal priorities have been rolled back or destroyed completely,  where Republican and conservative power and influence is certainly on the decline, but not yet defeated, and where the power of corporations to influence our policy is stronger than it's been since the thirties.

Obama is having to fight things that LBJ and FDR weren't having to fight, with a public divided on Conservatism, not yet as ardently against it.

It's time to look at the big picture and recognize that if we want to shift power back our way, and get what we want done, We'll be fighting that battle on multiple levels, in State and local governments, in the US Congress, and we'll be doing it against a GOP with institutional advantages, and against a corporate right-wing power base that is overwhelming in its strength.

It may be easier or simpler just to bash Obama, and criticize him for not fixing things, but as Wanda Sykes so eloquently put it, the man went to Harvard, not Hogwarts.  He cannot magically undo three or four decade of GOP advance, nor fight to change our government alone. Most importantly, we should recognize that this is too complex and huge a problem to take on all in one election, or all in one fight.

It's time to focus on the practical aspects of re-seizing control of power back from the Republicans, and stop leaving some of the most important parts of furthering our agenda to chance and luck.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip: Obama was only a start. (14+ / 0-)

    We need to recognize that while his election was a turning point in American history, we are fighting the uphill battle for regaining power that was deliberately taken from us by Republican strategy all along the last few decades.  There many pieces we will have to gather to solve this puzzle, and we don't have the time to wait for the perfect, magical President to come along to change everything for the better.

  •  Thanks for this (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Yasuragi, lcrp, Catte Nappe, FiredUpInCA

    It can't be said enough:

    It's time to look at the big picture and recognize that if we want to shift power back our way, and get what we want done, We'll be fighting that battle on multiple levels, in State and local governments.

    We just had an election in my suburban Chicago township and although it went for Obama in 2008/2012 and is roughly 50-50, we lost all local races - no, we were trounced by a 2-1 margin.  We also had one key race with 2 Repubs and one Dem and the Dem still lost.

    I really have no hope for 2014 mid-terms.  We can't do turnout the way we should for anything other than Prez elections.

    You may like this old quote from Ezra Klein years ago (check the date and context) discussing why we focus too much on the Presidential office.  Ultimately it's a form of intellectual laziness, IMHO (my bold):

    Forget the president. Not totally, of course. The president matters. But not as much as you think. Not as much as you've been led to believe. The centrality of the executive is something of a convenient fiction in American politics. Convenient for the media, which can tell the story of national affairs by following a single character. Convenient for the party that holds the White House, which can outsource the messy work of constructing an agenda to one actor. Convenient for the party that does not hold the White House, which can create an agenda out of simple opposition. And convenient for voters, who can understand politics through the actions of a discrete player and offload their dissatisfaction onto the failures of a hapless individual.

    But the "great man" theory of the presidency is not convenient when it comes to actually creating change. Again and again, presidents disappoint. They fail to pass health-care reform or Social Security privatization. They don't ease partisanship or break through gridlock. They prove impotent in the face of immediate crises and leave long-term challenges to fester. And so we tire of them, resolving to replace them with more presidents. Better presidents. Presidents of the other party, or of the same party, or of no party at all. Businessmen like Mike Bloomberg, insurgents like Ralph Nader, charismatic leaders like Barack Obama, self-professed mavericks like John McCain.

    Executive leadership is important, of course, but the continual failure of our presidents should be lesson enough that it is not sufficient. The executive is but one actor in a sprawling drama. Consider this: Comprehensive health reform has been attempted or considered by Franklin D. Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, and Bill Clinton. It cannot be that they were all dunces, or weaklings, or incapable legislative tacticians.

    I'm not liberal. I'm actually just anti-evil, OK? - Elon James White

    by Satya1 on Thu May 16, 2013 at 09:57:00 AM PDT

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