10 Big Goals for Obama's First 1,460 Days
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Based on his 2008 campaign and 2009 exigencies, President Obama's mandate includes two huge and imminent priorities -- an unprecedented "stimulus" to revive the economy and a plan that gets us out of Iraq.
Eighteen months ago, John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress Action Fund, and I agreed to collaborate on a volume that gathered together the best progressive scholars, advocates, and experts to specifically describe agency-by-agency what a progressive 44th president could do on Day One, Year One, Term One. Then, of course, John had to recuse himself in August after he was tapped to run Obama's official transition -- and this month CAPAF and my New Democracy published the results -- progressive leaders pooling their best ideas and practices into a program we call:
As Obama prepares to take his oath, expectations are sky-high. Rightly so. The planets appear to be in alignment for a possible political realignment: Obama won by triple Bush's last margin; conservative stock is at Lehman Bros. levels, after a preventive war of choice, a deregulated economic meltdown and the conservative compassion of Katrina; Democrats now enjoy a 10 percentage point edge in voter registration, which is likely to grow given minority, youth and suburban professional trends; Democrats appear more united than anytime in recent memory, with no obvious DLC-Moveon fights over wars or deficits; and there's an authentic crisis that trumps pious platitudes about the free market and "family values."
Now, rather than stale left-right debates, there's a new mainstream for more progressive values, as surely represented by the shift of 13 U.S. Senate seats and 54 House seats over two congressional elections. This may not be 1932 but it's a bigger attitudinal shift than the one in 1980 to Reagan and "Reagan Democrats," when National Review publisher Bill Rusher prematurely gloated that "liberalism is dead."
Anticipating this shift, our Citizens Transition Project developed scores of workable solutions built on four cornerstones: more democracy, diplomacy, economic opportunity and green collar jobs. Since ad hoc policy-making can peter out unless the public sees changes being thematically interconnected -- like the "New Deal" -- we linked proposals to these core values of Progressive Patriotism. Especially after what Jared Bernstein called the failure of Yo-Yo Conservatism ("You're on Your Own"), what could be more pro-American than the idea of progress?
Hence these 10 Big Goals by 2012 or 2016. For if you don't know where you're headed, you'll never get there.
Some stipulations: given space constraints, ideas are merely asserted -- for more development, one can go to the chapters by the authors themselves in Change for America. If proposals sound familiar, it's perhaps because a) they've been rising for years and become a consensus agenda, and b) so many of the authors have been recruited into the Transition and/or new Administration (Podesta, Carol Browner, Greg Craig, Elena Kagan, Dawn Johnsen, Josh Steiner, Van Jones, Jack Lew, Jeanne Lambrew, Christopher Edley, Jr....).
Nor do we think it useful for Democrats to fret whether it would be better for the new President to be more incremental than bold. One reply is -- the only thing we have to fear is fear itself. Frankly, where's the political will or majority now to stop an Obama initiative? And where is it written this moment will last? The only two other progressive windows of opportunity this past century --1933 and 1965 -- ended, respectively, with the continuing Depression and WWII, and Watts and the Vietnam War. Going slow risks some unanticipated event that'll snuff out the current rational exhuberance. Combining Obama's 65% popularity, congressional majorities, a supportive public, a winning program -- as well as crisis demanding that Washington rise to the occasion -- why not throw long? Again and again?