Monday ReadsPosted: January 21, 2013
John Nichols–writing at The Nation–believes that “This President Can—and Must—Claim a Mandate to Govern“.
With his second inauguration, Barack Obama will become the first president since Dwight Eisenhower to renew his tenure after having won more than 51 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections.
More importantly, in a political sense, he will be the first Democrat since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to have won mandates from the majority of the American people in two consecutive elections.
This is the perspective that Americans should bring to the inaugural festivities. We should expect a great deal from Barack Obama. Despite four years of battering by Fox and Limbaugh and the Tea Party and Mitch McConnell, he has been re-elected with a higher percentage of the popular vote than John Kennedy in 1960, Richard Nixon in 1968, Jimmy Carter in 1976, Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992 or 1996 or George Bush in 2000 or 2004.
Obama’s mandate extends beyond himself. His party has increased its Senate majority and Democrats earned 1.4 million more votes in House races than Republicans. Gerrymandering and money kept Republican control of the House, but that opposition party is in such disarray that the president really does have an opening to make something of his mandate.
Obama must seize that opportunity as an essential part of making the case for bold executive orders and a bold legislative agenda that will bring not just the hope but the change he promised in what now seems like a very distant 2008 campaign. The president has in the transition period since the 2012 election displayed a willingness to push harder, to go bigger, and it has yielded significant progress not just on gun-safety issues but in the long struggle against the Republican austerity agenda that makes a diety of deregulating away consumer and environmental protections, tearing the social safety net and cutting taxes for wealthy campaign donors.
To consolidate that progress, and to assure that his second term will be as visionary and activist as his 2012 campaign promised, Obama must, like FDR, use every opportunity to give voice to the agenda- not just in his inaugural address but in his February 12 (Lincoln’s Birthday) State of the Union address.
Many things have become political footballs these days. The bodies, abuse, and rape of women. The idea that taxpayer money should be used to support religious indoctrination or profiting from educating our children. Even Science, so much at the center of a lot things we were proud of in the 20th century,has become political. Are there any dangers in this? Dr. Puneet Opal presents his case at The Atlantic.
Over the past few years, and particularly in the past few months, there seems to be a growing gulf between U.S Republicans and science. Indeed, by some polls only 6 percent of scientists are Republican, and in the recent U.S. Presidential election, 68 science Nobel Prize winners endorsed the Democratic nominee Barack Obama over the Republican candidate Mitt Romney.
As a scientist myself, this provokes the question: What are the reasons for this apparent tilt?
Some of this unease might be because of the feeling that the Republicans might cut federal science spending. The notion is certainly not helped by news-making rhetoric of some Republicans against evolution in favor of creationism; unsubstantiated claims that immunization aimed at preventing future cervical cancer cause mental retardation in young girls; and unscientific views of how the female body can prevent pregnancies under conditions of rape.
These comments might represent heartfelt beliefs of the leaders in question; however, some might simply be statements designed to placate the anti-science sections of their base, as part of the political calculus.
A recent opinion in the leading science journal Nature, written by Daniel Sarewitz, a co-director of the Consortium for Science Policy and Outcomes at Arizona State University, suggests that this polarization of scientists away from the Republicans is bad news. Surprisingly — as he tells it — most of the bad news is the potential impact on scientists. Why? Because scientists, he believes — once perceived by Republicans to be a Democratic interest group — will lose bipartisan support for federal science funding. In other words, they will be threatened with funding cuts. Moreover, when they attempt to give their expert knowledge for policy decisions, conservatives will choose to ignore the evidence, claiming a liberal bias.
The comments of Sarewitz might be considered paranoid thinking on the part of a policy wonk, but he backs up his statement by suggesting a precedent: the social sciences, he feels, have already received this treatment at the hands of conservatives in government by making pointed fingers at their funding. Therefore he says that a sufficient number of scientists must be seen to also support Republicans for the sake of being bipartisan. To be fair to Republicans, no politician has actually targeted science funding in this vindictive manner. But this assessment only goes to show how science is quickly becoming a political football.
I would argue that this sort of thinking might well be bad for scientists, but is simply dangerous for the country. As professionals, scientists should not be put into a subservient place by politicians and ideologues. They should never be felt that their advice might well be attached to carrots or sticks.
Democratic Economists outnumber Republicans by 2.5 to 1. No wonder many Republicans home school their children and use specious textbooks.
With only his family beside him, Barack Hussein Obama was sworn into office for a second term on Sunday in advance of Monday’s public pomp, facing a bitterly divided government at home and persistent threats abroad that inhibit his effort to redefine America’s use of power.
It was a brief and intimate moment in the White House, held because of a quirk of the calendar that placed the constitutionally mandated start of the new term on a Sunday.
But the low-key event seemed to capture tempered expectations after four years of economic troubles and near-constant partisan confrontation. And it presaged a formal inauguration on Monday that will be less of a spectacle than the first one, when the nation’s first black president embodied hope and change for many Americans at a time of financial struggle and war.
For Monday’s festivities, with the traditional parade, balls and not least the re-enacted swearing-in outside the Capitol, there will be fewer parties and fewer people swarming the National Mall; organizers expect less than half the 1.8 million people who flocked to the city last time.
The economy, while recovering steadily, remains fragile. The unemployment rate is as high as it was in January 2009, though it is down from the 10 percent peak reached late that year, and there is no consensus with Republicans about additional stimulus measures — or virtually anything else.
And as the terrorist attack in Algeria last week illustrated, Mr. Obama continues to confront threats around the globe, both from state actors like Iran and North Korea and from Qaeda-inspired extremists seeking to exploit power vacuums in the Mideast and across Africa and Asia.
The speech he delivered the next day — Aug. 28, 1963 — rocked the nation, as King challenged America to live up to the ideas of justice and equality it professed to cherish.
Fifty years later, the “I Have A Dream” speech is still widely regarded as the most powerful and significant speech of the 20th Century.
As the nation celebrates King’s birthday today, the speech itself is being remembered and celebrated in Detroit — which got the first glimpse of the speech — and across the nation.
King speechwriter Clarence B. Jones, who was one of those advisers on the speech, will be the featured speaker at a program today in Ann Arbor and two programs open to the public in Detroit on Tuesday.
Jones, scholar in residence at the Martin Luther King Jr. Research & Education Institute at Stanford University, helped draft parts of the speech and was on stage with King when he delivered it in Washington.
Jones believes the riveting crescendo of the speech was God-given.
He said he remembers gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, also on stage, telling King, “Tell them about the dream, Martin. Tell them about the dream,” said Jones during a recent telephone conversation. “He pushed the written text aside and started speaking from the heart. It was like he had become possessed, like someone had taken over his body. It was electrifying.”
It wasn’t just what he was saying, but the powerful delivery that stirred the nation’s moral conscience, Jones said.
“The speech tapped into the very core values of who we were supposed to be as a country,” Jones said. “He was speaking prophetically about what America could be if it lived out the principles of the Declaration of Independence. Everybody who heard it, black or white, segregationists or integrationists, everybody knew he was speaking the truth.”
It’s hard to think about what life was like for those black Americans living in the Jim Crow South before the work of people like Dr. King and Miss Rosa Parks. Here’s Dr King Speaking about the Bus Boycott in Selma in 1955. You can find a collection of historical videos on the struggle for racial equality here.
It’s good that we have a day to reflect on all of those things–both good and bad–that make up American History. Have a wonderful holiday!