Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Tough Sell for War and Austerity Candidates

Why Obama's Re-election Will

Depend On the Youth Vote

By Ruy Teixeira
Progressive America Rising via The New Republic

Dec. 26, 2011 - Americans are polarized like never before as we head into the 2012 presidential campaign, and the greatest dividing line of all seems to be age. Indeed, President Obama has astoundingly consistent support from Americans less than 30 years old, the so-called Millennial generation. In a recent Pew survey, this cohort favored Obama over Romney by 24 points, 61-37. The generation least likely to support Obama, on the other hand, is the "Silent generation"—the generational group slighter older than Baby Boomers, and the group now dominant among the ranks of seniors. He trails Mitt Romney in this generation by 13 points, 41-54. This is the same generation that moved so sharply against Democrats in the 2010 election, contributing heavily to the GOP wave that swept the country.

Those polling numbers clearly dictate an electoral strategy: What Obama needs to do is perform a kind of generational pincer movement on the GOP, driving up support and turnout among the Millennial generation while breaking into GOP support among the Silent generation. There’s also a straightforward way for him to accomplish both goals.

Fortunately, the White House already seems to be thinking along these lines. On the Millennial side, Obama’s recent Osawatomie speech may be read as an opening bid to establish a campaign narrative with special appeal to this generation. Millennials are exceptionally sympathetic to the Occupy Wall Street movement and its goals. Obama’s attack on inequality and the way that an unfair economy thwarts economic mobility strikes a very responsive chord among these voters.

In addition, Obama’s argument that government must play a strong role in reestablishing healthy economic growth also plays well among this group. In the same Pew poll, Millennials are most likely to select jobs as their top election issue. And, in distinction to older generations, they still believe government spending helps the economy recover—indeed, they believe spending should be a higher priority for the federal government than deficit reduction. Also in distinction to older generations, Millennials say they prefer a bigger government with more services to a smaller government with less services. Finally, a whopping two-thirds of this generation believes the Affordable Care Act should either be expanded or left as is, rather than repealed.

The Silent generation, of course, is a different story: While Millennials are predisposed to support activist government, the Silents are not. But they do feel strongly about certain aspects of activist government like Social Security and Medicare. That should be the other side of Obama’s pincer movement. He needs to draw a very strong contrast between his approach and that of the GOP, which proposes to replace the current Medicare system with underfunded vouchers. Silents, more than any other generation, believe it is more important to keep Social Security and Medicare benefits as they are (64 percent) than reduce the budget deficit (27 percent).

This pincer movement will be key to Obama’s chances, both nationally and in a wide variety of target states. Nationally, he could break-even or a bit worse among middling age groups (30-64) but still win if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors, as he did in 2008, since the two groups tend to be of roughly similar size in presidential elections. But if he carries 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly less than he loses seniors, as congressional Democrats did in 2010, he will lose. Hence the need for both parts of the pincer movement.

On the state level, in contrast to 2008 where the youth vote put Obama over the top in only two states, North Carolina and Indiana, there could be many instances where the youth vote makes the difference in 2012. Consider Ohio. Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds with 61 percent against John McCain’s 26 percent in 2008, while losing seniors 44-55. Both groups were 17 percent of Ohio voters. Thus, if Obama splits 30 to 64-year-old voters roughly evenly in 2012—significantly worse than he did in 2008—he will likely still win the state if youth voters continue to be more pro-Obama than seniors are anti-Obama.

Virginia and Nevada follow the same pattern. Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds by 60-39 while losing seniors 46-53 in Virginia. Keep that relative relationship, fight the GOP candidate to a draw among middling age groups, and the state is his. Likewise, in Nevada, Obama carried 18 to 29-year-olds by a lop-sided 67-31 while losing seniors 42-55. In this state, fading to the break-even point among 30-64 year olds would represent a big loss relative to 2008, but Obama could survive it provided, again, he wins 18 to 29-year-olds by significantly more than he loses seniors.

All over the country, in other words, from the Midwest to the New South to the new swing states of the Southwest, Obama’s generational pincer movement could be key to his electoral prospects. Motivate and inspire youth while giving seniors second and third thoughts about the GOP. It’s a good game plan and Obama’s already made an excellent start at implementing it.

Ruy Teixeira is a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.

Source URL: http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/98937/why-obamas-re-election-campaign-will-depend-the-youth-vote


Thursday, December 22, 2011

Five Ways OWS Can Stay Powerful


Revolutions Don't Happen in a Day:

5 Ways OWS Can Stay Powerful

and Truly Build a Movement

By Yotam Marom

Progressive America Rising via Alternet.org

Dec. 21, 2011 - On September 17, we took Liberty Square, used it to begin to create the social norms and institutions of a society to come, and became the Occupy movement. We hit the streets fiercely, abandoning the metal barricades they once contained us in, rejecting the marching permits they offered us, refusing their sidewalks. We were dragged -- handcuffed -- into the front pages of people’s minds, and brought with us a story many were trying to silence; a story about the massive profits made by the tiny few through the exploitation of the many, a story about deep and systemic economic, political and social injustice. We danced in the streets and parks we reclaimed, and then in the jail cells they took us to when they realized we weren’t going home. We were confident, invincible; it’s hard to be afraid when the sun is out.

But the season has changed. Autumn has ended and winter is upon us. We’ve lost Liberty Square, and each day brings news from across the country that another occupation has been evicted. Winter is here, and with it the cold; but it’s more than that. Winter brings the sober understanding that we won’t be in the headlines every day, that we need to be more than a string of events or actions or press releases, more than an endless meeting. Winter is the nagging truth that the next decade of organizing must be more sustainable than the first months we spent in the sun; that this is a struggle for the long-haul, that burn-out and martyrdom are no good for anyone and no good for the cause. Winter tells us to see our families and take a day off when we are sick, because the movement has to be healthy if it’s going to last. Winter is here to remind us that revolution is not an event but a process, and that social transformation means not only harnessing a moment, but building a movement.

Winter is here. But winter is not sad, and it’s not tragic; it’s just real. We do not fear the cold, and we will not hibernate. We will use the winter to become the movement we know is necessary.

A To-Do List for the Winter

1. Grow. We will continue to build relationships with communities that have been fighting and building for decades already, from tenants organizing eviction defense in Bed-Stuy, New York to AIDS activists on Staten Island. We will grow by joining struggles that protect people from the daily assaults they experience, from austerity to police brutality, and by waging struggles to meet peoples’ needs, like reclaiming foreclosed homes. We will transcend the open calls to action and the expectation that they are enough to build a movement; we will organize the hard way, because the hard way is the only way. We will have the million one-on-one conversations it takes to build a movement, door-to-door if we have to, and we will do it out in the open, because we have nothing to fear.

2. Deepen. We will take the time to learn how to do what we are doing better, from those who have been doing this for so long – from the land liberation movements in Brazil to the women on welfare building community power in Yonkers. We will also teach, because we are reinventing the struggle as we go, and we have learned a lot already. We will ask each other difficult questions: How do we organize in a way that is inclusive and liberating? How do we build a movement led by those most marginalized and oppressed? How do we use decentralization to actually empower people and address the imbalances we face in society? We will think radically about what systems and historical processes led us to where we are now, dream deeply about the world we want and the institutions we will need in order to live it out, and plan thoroughly for the building and the fighting it will take us to get there.

3. Build. We will continue to build systems for decentralized coordination and decision-making, because liberation means participation, and participation demands structures for communication, transparency and accountability. We will take our cue from the neighborhood assemblies in Sunset Park, and the university assemblies at CUNY, which are pioneering a shift from general assemblies to constituent assemblies – assemblies in neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. We will build there, because that’s where people actually live and work, where we have direct, concrete and permanent relationships with a space, the institutions in it and the people around us. We will create stable platforms for organizing and growth, and the foundations necessary for a concerted long-term struggle – from complex things like participatory decision-making forums and systems for internal education, to simple things like office space and phone trees. We will create mechanisms to meet people’s needs using the skills we honed at Liberty Square to provide things like food, legal aid, shelter, education, and more. We will do it all in a way that is in line with the values of the world we are fighting for.

4. Liberate. We will take new space, indoors and outdoors. We will do it because the movement needs bases in which it can create the values of a free society, begin to build the institutions to carry them out, meet peoples’ needs, and serve as a staging ground for the struggle against the status quo. We will take space for the movement to have a home and a workplace, but we will also take space back for the communities from whom it has been stolen, and for the families who need it in order to survive. We mean not only to take space for its own sake, but to liberate it; we will transform foreclosed houses into homes, empty lots into gardens, abandoned buildings into hospitals, schools and community centers. We will use the space we win for dreaming up the world to come.

5. Fight. We will continue to use direct action to intervene in the economic, political and social processes that govern peoples’ lives. We will use our voices and our slogans, our banners and our bodies, to shine a spotlight on the classes and institutions that oppress and exploit. We will make it so that the tyrants who are ruining this planet cannot hold conferences or public events without our presence being felt. We will fight in a way that is not only symbolic, but also truly disruptive of the systems of oppression we face. We will block their doorways and their ports, interrupt their forums, and obstruct the systems of production and consumption they depend on. We will do it until they will have no choice but to disappear.

Spring Will Come

The conditions that brought us here – the brutal and systemic oppressions we face – aren’t going to disappear on their own. The window we have opened to the world being born can’t be closed. Now winter is here, but we are not afraid. We will face the cold with intention and wisdom, using it as an opportunity to grow our movement, deepen it, and build structures that can carry it forward. We will continue to build the world we want while fighting to topple the institutions that stand in its way.

It will take some time for the seeds we have planted to grow into the beautiful flowers they are meant to be. Patience. Spring will come.

Yotam Marom is an organizer, educator, musician, and writer. He is a member of the Organization for a Free Society, and can be reached at Yotam.marom@gmail.com. © 2011 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved. View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/153529/


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Occupy! Finds a Toehold in Congress

OWS Activists Meet With Progressive Caucus

By Jessica Brady
Progressive America Rising via Roll Call Staff

Dec. 12, 2011 - An Occupy Wall Street group will take to the House later this week, only this time the meeting is a planned occasion with the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

Ten organizers from New York’s OWS group will speak to the caucus about their legislative priorities, according to an email sent to Members and obtained by Roll Call.

“This is the very first meeting of national occupy organizers and members to discuss specific legislation in the country,” the email to Members states.

An aide with knowledge of the meeting said the protesters “are uniquely concerned with getting money out of politics and with a jobs agenda.” The aide also said OWS representatives “may be reaching out to other caucuses both Republican and Democrat in the future.”

Although OWS supporters quickly note they are not affiliated with a political party, Democrats have sought to embrace the movement just as Republicans successfully channeled the energy behind the tea party movement for electoral success.

The Progressive Caucus held a meeting featuring three D.C. protesters in October, and in recent weeks Democratic leaders have talked up issues of interest to the OWS.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), for example, has renewed her own push for campaign finance reform legislation in recent weeks. Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), co-chairmen of the CPC, issued a release last week praising the movement for protesting Congress and reminding “lawmakers that people are facing very serious problems.”

Borrowing from the Occupy group’s rhetoric, members of the CPC will also unveil Tuesday a jobs bill dubbed Restore the American Dream for the 99% Act. JessicaBrady@rollcall.com | @jessicalbrady


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Occupy! Impact on Obama's 2012 Campaign

By Ezra Klein
Progressive America Rising via Washington Post

Dec 7, 2011 - In 2004, Obama gave a keynote speech at the Democratic Convention. The speech didn't just launch his career as a national politician -- it foretold the message that would carry him through the 2008 election.

The theme was political division. "Even as we speak," Obama said, "there are those who are preparing to divide us." And then came Obama's famous formulation, the one that launched a thousand pastel-colored posters: "There is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there’s the United States of America." He even talked of the "audacity of hope."

Yesterday, in Kansas, Obama gave a speech foretelling his 2012 campaign. The theme this time is economic division -- perhaps better known as inequality.

"For most Americans, the basic bargain that made this country great has eroded," Obama said. "Long before the recession hit, hard work stopped paying off for too many people. Fewer and fewer of the folks who contributed to the success of our economy actually benefited from that success. Those at the very top grew wealthier from their incomes and their investments -- wealthier than ever before. But everybody else struggled with costs that were growing and paychecks that weren’t -- and too many families found themselves racking up more and more debt just to keep up."

"There are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis, the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for way too many years. And their philosophy is simple: We are better off when everybody is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. I am here to say they are wrong."

And then he updated the formulation that won him the presidency in the first place: "These aren’t Democratic values or Republican values. These aren’t 1 percent values or 99 percent values. They’re American values." Actually, he updated it twice. "This isn’t about class warfare. This is about the nation’s welfare."

There's much to say about this speech. It is, for instance, Obama's clearest attempt to weave an economic narrative that can carry him through the campaign. But perhaps the most obvious thing to say about it is that this isn't Obama's narrative. It's Occupy Wall Street's narrative. The speech is substantially about inequality. Consider the facts and figures Obama chose to include:

- "The average income of the top 1 percent has gone up by more than 250 percent to $1.2 million per year...For the top one hundredth of 1 percent, the average income is now $27 million per year. The typical CEO who used to earn about 30 times more than his or her worker now earns 110 times more. And yet, over the last decade the incomes of most Americans have actually fallen by about 6 percent."

- "A few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class -- 33 percent."

- "Today, the wealthiest Americans are paying the lowest taxes in over half a century. This isn’t like in the early ‘50s, when the top tax rate was over 90 percent. This isn’t even like the early ‘80s, when the top tax rate was about 70 percent. Under President Clinton, the top rate was only about 39 percent. Today, thanks to loopholes and shelters, a quarter of all millionaires now pay lower tax rates than millions of you, millions of middle-class families. Some billionaires have a tax rate as low as 1 percent. One percent."

Inequality has not been a major theme in Obama's economic addresses over the last year. But it looks like it will be the major theme in his reelection campaign. And it's hard to believe that's not in response to Occupy Wall Street's success in turning the national conversation towards inequality.

Which sets us up for an unusually populist election -- on both sides. Republicans have taken their message from the Tea Party. Democrats are borrowing their theme from Occupy Wall Street. In both cases, citizen-driven grassroots groups are setting the agenda. So all together now: Mic check!

Top stories

1) Obama delivered a speech on economic inequality, reports David Nakamura: "President Obama came to this tiny middle American town Tuesday to invoke the spirit of a long-ago Republican president...Obama called for a return to modest, middle-class values and said the recent rise in populist anger -- from the tea party movement to the Occupy Wall Street protests -- was evidence of the need to remedy the growing economic inequality in American life...Theodore Roosevelt...used the same location to call for a strong central government that would protect ordinary Americans from what he called the greed and recklessness of big business and special interests...Obama, in a 55-minute address, moved beyond the specifics of his recent jobs proposals to issue a searing indictment of Republican economic theory, framing the debate as one of right and wrong, fairness and unfairness."

Read the speech: http://1.usa.gov/ta6tX3


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