The Democratic Party is deeply divided. The Clinton Establishment faction believes that Senator Sanders needs to endorse Secretary Clinton and bring his followers into the party fold. The Sanders “political revolution” movement argues that the Clinton campaign must support a strong, progressive platform in order to assure the senator and his supporters that the Party is serious about significantly altering the power structure that prevents progress on climate change, income inequality, Wall Street regulation and campaign finance reform, among other pressing issues. The two groups appear to be stalemated.
There is one person, however, who could resolve this knotty problem and unite the Party. That man is President Obama. With little more than six months to go in his presidency, Obama is beholden to no one, not Wall Street, the oil industry, Big PHaRMA, nor any other special interest. He is free to say or do as he pleases within the law.
Back in 2008, then candidate Obama promised the American people “change we can believe in.” Unfortunately, a great many Americans feel that his presidential performance has not matched his campaign rhetoric. Of course, Obama can blame the unyielding Republican opposition, as well as the power of Big Money and corporate America, for some of his failed policy initiatives. But, the fact remains that Obama did not put up much of a fight, if any, for many of the programs that would have truly demonstrated his commitment to “change we can believe in.”
For instance, in the battle over the Affordable Care Act, Obama did not push for the ‘public option’ to keep down healthcare costs. (See http://www.huffingtonpost.com/miles-mogulescu/obama-the-public-option-t_b_772514.html.) During the Great Recession, he made sure the big banks, whose reckless behavior was a prime cause of the financial collapse, were bailed out, while doing little to prevent millions of Americans from losing their homes. And now, Obama is vigorously advocating for the passage of the TPP, the Trans-Pacific Partnership that would empower corporate polluters to challenge environmental laws across the globe and send thousands of American jobs overseas. (See http://www.citizen.org/documents/tpp-wages-jobs.pdf.)
At this point in his presidency, however, Obama has the opportunity to not only redeem himself, but also unite his party for the November election and help at last deliver the “change we can believe in” that he promised us. First, he could bring the Democrats together by renouncing the TTP, which both Clinton and Sanders have publicly opposed. Apparently, the platform committee split 7 to 6 against including opposition to the TPP because some members did not want to “embarrass” the president. By rejecting the TPP, the President would be freeing those on the committee who supported the TPP in deference to him to reverse their vote. In addition, he would be making a clear statement that the Democratic Party is on the side of American workers, rather than Big Money and corporate America.
Second, Obama could come out in favor of both a carbon tax and a national moratorium on fracking, both of which were rejected by a divided platform committee. Obama has long advocated for combatting the causes of global warming, but has not taken the bold steps required to succeed in this effort. Approximately two-thirds of all Americans support such measures, including an even larger number of Democrats. An Obama initiative in this critical arena would be supporting the American people and opposing special interests. Moreover, it would again help bring the Democratic Party together.
And third, the President could state he favors Medicare-for-all or some similar healthcare plan. Obama could promote his endorsement of universal healthcare as the next logical step after the success of his Affordable Healthcare Act. While Clinton recently stated her opposition to such a plan, she has supported it most of her career. Obama’s backing of universal healthcare would give Clinton the cover she needs to reverse her stance. At the same time, it would also help unite the Party.
These are just three ways Obama could enhance his legacy, smooth the way for unifying the Democratic Party, and help ensure a Democratic victory in November. Of course, there are others. But, the question is: Mr. President, will you finally take a strong stand for “change we can believe in”?
A retired, public sector attorney, Berlin is the author of the recently published book, Breaking Big Money’s Grip on America: Working Together To Revive Our Democracy.
See www.breakingbigmoneysgrip.com for more info.