Back when Barack Obama was still
just a U.S. senator running for president, he told a group of donors in a New
Jersey suburb, “Make me do it.”
He was borrowing from President
Franklin D. Roosevelt, who used the same phrase (according to Harry Belafonte,
who heard the story directly from Eleanor Roosevelt) when responding to
legendary union organizer A. Philip Randolph’s demand for civil rights for
While President Obama has made
concession after concession to both the corporate-funded tea party and his Wall
Street donors, now that he is again in campaign mode, his progressive critics
are being warned not to attack him, as that might aid and abet the Republican
bid for the White House.
Enter the 99 percenters. The
Occupy Wall Street ranks continue to grow, inspiring more than 1,000 solidarity
protests around the country and the globe.
After weeks, and one of the
largest mass arrests in U.S. history, Obama finally commented: “I think people
are frustrated, and the protesters are giving voice to a more broad-based
frustration about how our financial system works.” But neither he nor his
advisers---or the Republicans---know what to do with this burgeoning mass
Following the controversial
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by the U.S. Supreme
Court, which allows unlimited corporate donations to support election
advertising, the hunger for campaign cash is insatiable. The Obama re-election
campaign aims to raise $1 billion.
According to the Center for
Responsive Politics, the financial industry was Obama’s second-largest source
of 2008 campaign contributions, surpassed only by the lawyers/lobbyists
The suggestion that a loss for
Obama would signal a return to the Bush era has some merit: The Associated
Press reported recently that “almost all of [Mitt] Romney’s 22 special advisers
held senior Bush administration positions in diplomacy, defense or
Two former Republican senators
are included as well as Bush-era CIA chief Michael Hayden and former Homeland
Security Secretary Michael Chertoff.” But so is the Obama presidency an
expansion of the Bush era, unless there is a new “Push era.”
The organic strength of Occupy
Wall Street defies the standard dismissals from the corporate media’s
predictably stale stable of pundits. For them, it is all about the divide
between the Republicans and the Democrats, a divide the protesters have a hard time
seeing. They see both parties captured by Wall Street.
Richard Haass, head of the
establishment Council on Foreign Relations, said of the protesters, “They’re
not serious.” He asked why they are not talking about entitlements.
Perhaps it is because, to the 99
percent, Social Security and Medicare are not the problem, but rather growing
inequality, with the 400 richest Americans having more wealth than half of all
Americans combined. And then there is the overwhelming cost and toll of war,
first and foremost the lives lost, but also the lives destroyed, on all sides.
That’s why, for example, Jose
Vasquez, executive director of Iraq Veterans Against the War, was down at
Occupy Wall Street on Monday night. He told me: “It’s no secret that a lot of
veterans are facing unemployment, homelessness and a lot of other issues that
are dealing with the economy. A lot of people get deployed multiple times and
are still struggling. … I’ve met a lot of veterans who have come here. I just
met a guy who is active duty, took leave just to come to Occupy Wall Street.”
The historic election of Barack
Obama was achieved by millions of people across the political spectrum. For
years during the Bush administration, people felt they were hitting their heads
against a brick wall. With the election, the wall had become a door, but it was
only open a crack. The question was, would it be kicked open or slammed shut?
It is not up to one person.
Obama had moved from community
organizer in chief to commander in chief. When forces used to having the ear of
the most powerful person on earth whisper their demands in the Oval Office, the
president must see a force more powerful outside his window, whether he likes
it or not, and say, “If I do that, they will storm the Bastille.”
If there’s no one out there, we
are all in big trouble. (X)
Amy Goodman is
the host of "Democracy Now!", a daily international TV/radio news
hour airing on more than 900 stations in North America.