Yes We Can


In his farewell address, President Obama returned to the basic theme that propelled him to national attention and to the White House – We the People have the power and the duty to make the United States a more perfect union. The audacious challenge comes at a moment when we face a transition of power to a presidency that no doubt will be, charitably put, one of the most unconventional in history.
I say: Now is the time for us to take up this challenge and organize to resist a Congress and a president who will take us backward on any number of issues.
President Obama reminded us that the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness “while self-evident, have never been self-executing.” The work of citizens is to use our freedom to work toward both our own dreams and toward the common good. He spoke of his achievements, and he said they were also our achievements:
“reverse a great recession, reboot our auto industry, . . . unleash the longest stretch of job creation in our history. . . open up a new chapter with the Cuban people, shut down Iran’s nuclear weapons program without firing a shot, take out the mastermind of 9-ll . . . win marriage equality and secure the right to health insurance for another 20 million of our fellow citizens. . . ”
These achievement are a testament to democracy, but President Obama warned of three major threats to our democracy – income inequality, racism, and societal fragmentation along with self-selected facts. He called upon us to stay engaged with the global struggle “to expand democracy and human rights and women’s rights and LGBT rights.”
He warmed us about complacency. He said: “our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted.” He spoke of the importance of voting rights, of the “corrosive influence of money in our politics” and the problem with gerrymandered congressional districts. He warned against seeing our political opposition as malevolent rather than misguided.
President Obama asked for us to have faith in our ability to create positive change because we did that during his presidency, and yes we can going forward. He spoke with hope and with a generosity toward his political opponents that I do not think expresses the true character of our politics. When we consider the 2009 inauguration night conspiracy where congressional leaders of the GOP conspired not to work with President Obama on ANYTHING even though the country was facing a near collapse of our financial system and two wars, when we further consider the theft of a Supreme Court nomination in violation of the United States Constitution while GOP leaders in the Senate speak about fidelity to the Constitution, it is difficult to see these actions as simply misguided. No, these actions were malevolent. They were done to cause harm to President Obama and thereby to the country.
And the Grand Obstructionist Party paid no political price. They won the Electoral College and maintained control of both chambers of Congress. They have won governorships and statehouses across the nation. Given these facts, we progressives have our work ahead of us. It will take a determined resistance to stop the Republican Congress from taking health care away from millions, roll back voting rights and stall efforts to combat climate change.
Donald Trump has yet to articulate a coherent foreign policy. His nominee for Secretary of State – Rex Tillerson – seems unable to call Russian military tactics against civilians in Syria war crimes. Republicans still criticize President Obama for not perpetrating an act of war on a sovereign nation who had done no harm to the United States because Bashar al-Assad crossed a rhetorical red line. They continue to fail to give President Obama credit for working with Russia to destroy most of Syria’s chemical weapons. They want to outsource US Middle East policy to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
We have no idea what will happen to a woman’s right to choose her own health care and to LGBT rights when Trump makes his appointments to the many vacancies in the federal judiciary, including the Supreme Court.
What we do know is that progressives will have to unite because disunity cost Hillary Clinton Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania. Add together the votes of Hillary Clinton and Jill Stein and Donald Trump would have lost those states. We hear much about the Democrat’s failure to speak to people worried about jobs in the rust belt, but the progressive message reached enough people in at least three states to have won them had progressives been united.
Even so, progressives will have to make the progressive case to people in red-states, in small towns and rural areas. We will have to explain to workers in the fossil fuel industry that the jobs of the future will be found in renewable energy. We will have to show how right to work laws are really only right to work without union protections. We will have to explain how Medicare for all is the best way to deliver universal health care. We will have to organize meetings where conservative people can meet transgendered people and learn that they are not a threat to children in bathrooms. We will have to come out of our comfort zones to make a stronger case that progressive policies are better for the sustenance and joy of individuals, families, communities, the nation, and the world.
Can we meet this challenge?
Yes we can.
Valerie Elverton Dixon is founder of and author of “Just Peace Theory Book One: Spiritual Morality, Radical Love, and the Public Conversation.”

4 thoughts on “Yes We Can

  1. This president has been an expert orator, an intellectually and personally charming scholar an entertainer, and at the time of his election he had a major part of the American public enthusiastically ready to follow his lead toward true economic reform and justice for all.
    Instead, he abandoned us ‘in the field’ to struggle without his leadership, to keep his promises……….
    He enacted, even encouraged, police militarization against his own/our own people, enabling more criminal, police brutality than has been seen since the sixties’ struggles for human rights.
    He actively and willingly sold out to Wall St. and shut down the great spiritually inspired ‘Occupy’ movement. ……..watching coolly as the police ruthlessly and violently broke the back and the hope of a whole multi-generation.
    He usurped powers for himself that were never taken before by a president in defiance of human and citizen’s rights as well as the Constition, and now has handed all that dangerous, out-of-control power to those who now follow into his office to grab it all and do whatever suits them with.
    So, to me his words are empty, despite what he boasts are his accomplishments.
    Instead of the ‘politically correct and pleasing’ speech, had he acted to pardon and free Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden, plus many more courageous, heroic whistle-blowers, in a final act of self-correction and true concern for the American people and the nation’s soul, I would be able to see his value as a worthwhile president.
    Yes, he had to weather endless racist persecution within the government and many citizen groups……but we all knew that would be likely, and we, the people would have stood up for his dignity against the insane political and public attacks he withstood……….had he stood up for us as he had promised.
    But he found his own way of dealing, came out personally ‘safe’ from it, but never rose above any of it to actually lead the nation that was waiting for his word and his support to stand up for ALL discrimination of ALL minorities and inner city sufferers.
    I stopped listening to his ‘finely tailored’ speeches long ago because of all the above.
    We have been left totally ‘on our own’ now to face the mess he left – (yes, much of it ‘inherited’, but that he increased manyfold) -in the office, the country, Europe, Russian relations, and the MIddle East……….
    No, thanks, President Obama.

  2. I think this is enormously revealing when you couple it with the comment from sk. I have no quarrel with either of them, and I’m left feeling “ain’t nothin’ simple”, for sure. It’s getting so hard to sort out the truth from not just the welter of fake news, etc. but from differing reasonable opinions such as those presented in this article and in the comment. When I contemplate the effort that it takes now to sort through all this in search of a reasonably realistic assessment I despair; how is the average person going to find not just the energy but the time to check the sources for the sources for the sources of all the opinions that are presented as fact? I think that the answer will turn out to be that we must 1) put top priority on truth, and 2) seek it out primarily through our hearts, not our minds. Of course we shouldn’t abandon our minds but we should be aware of how easily they are misled when we fail to listen to our hearts.

  3. Friends,
    The list of grievances against President Obama notwithstanding, the point is what we progressives are going to do now.
    As far as I know, the Occupy movement never had a political strategy. Did it do voter registration and education? Did it carry an election? This is the fundamental difference between Occupy and the Tea Party.
    We have got to find ways to make the progressive case at the grassroots in every state in the United States.

  4. Occupy was a morally responsible, spontaneous people’s movement to demand that the standing government do its job and stop selling us and our resources out to big money.
    It was not born out of political agendas or plans to replace the government.
    Its multifaceted demands reflected the true will of masses of responsible citizens to see to it that the government fulfill its declared and historic responsibility for the people’s well being.
    As Mr. Childs clearly expresses, the need is first to ensure citizens’ access to honest, reliable information sources to help guide us all to true and workable solutions. That’s vital to moving forward for progressive values. Without analyzing the recent past’s tragic blunders and facing their harsh truths, how can we go forward into a new agenda, political and/or public and social?
    Most of us are deeply concerned about the present reality-based fear and doubts that any and every violence will be unleashed against peaceful protesters, such as we presently see at Standing Rock.
    Unfortunately we are facing a war between the deceitful, disrespectful, militarily-ready government, and the police-harassed, deceived, legally-and-monetarily-deprived public (the ‘former’ middle classes), that nevertheless are still mostly based in Non-violent, law-abiding protest.
    How would you deal with that reality while trying to organize alternative but morally ethical political movements? Hopefully that can and should be undertaken, and all possibilities considered, including the dangers we face every step of the way…….dangers of losing to political corruption and to greed and power-mongering.
    All positive input is definitely needed and vital to moving forward………but all critical caution, as well…….there doesn’t seem to be any other way, and the way is extremely and unusually challenging, while also populated with a breed of citizens now who are simultaneously despairing and stubbornly hopeful, as we see here in our own ldialogue..

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