The Massachusetts Lesson: Go Populist Now

Election results rarely have a single explanation.

Yet it's pretty clear that Scott Brown's special election win in a
state that last sent a Republican to the Senate in 1978 is an indicator
of the turbulent national political mood a year after Obama took

There is a generalized anti-establishment anger at loose in this
country, reinforced by a White House team that has delivered for Wall
Street but not enough for hurting communities. It is an anger also
fueled by often savage right-wing anti-government attacks.

This special election is a wake up call and should lead to a
course correction. The Democratic party can no longer run as a
managerial and technocratic party. Going populist is now smart politics
and good policy.

The Obama White House needs to show, quickly and forcefully, with
concrete, bold and visible action, that it stands with the working
people of America. Here's a symbolic but smart start: jettison those on
the White House economic team whose slow, timid response to the crisis
of unemployment and to Wall Street's obscene excesses helped create the
conditions for the Tea Party's inchoate right-wing populism.

Leadership on pro-democracy reforms are also desperately needed
to end the corruption of our politics and to stanch the corporate money
flooding and deforming our democracy. Connect the dots for people:
explain how needed reforms are gutted when both parties succumb to the
pervasive corruption of our money politics. If the GOP's obstructionism
has a silver lining, it is in exposing how an anti-democratic,
super-majority filibuster has essentially made our system
dysfunctional. There is fertile ground on which to rally people in a
transpartisan political reform movement.

Massachusetts offers another lesson: Obama's decision to demobilize his
base in 2009 in favor of an insider approach to governing was a big
mistake. I'm not a political strategist, but I don't know how you win
elections by failing to rouse people who've worked hardest at the
grassroots to get you elected? It is time to re-mobilize the base.

And here's a no-brainer: Isn't it time to give up on that faith
in genteel post-partisanship when the GOP knifes you at every turn?
Nice isn't going create more jobs or get health care reform.

Before pivoting to a laser-like focus on jobs and the economy,
passing the strongest possible healthcare bill as quickly as is
feasible is a top priority.There are various procedural options being
considered. (Passing the Senate bill followed by changes via budget
reconciliation may be a smart and even realistic idea.) Passing a bill
won't be the Democrats' political salvation--but if Obama and his party
fail it would be the most catastrophic legislative failure since 1994
and possibly snuff out any chance for reform in other arenas moving

President Obama warned us that change wouldn't come easy. Many
believe he hasn't held up his end in fighting hard enough for key
progressive priorities.

What comes next will test the President's willingness to learn the
lessons of this last year. Get tough, get bold, kiss
"post-partisanship" goodbye and fight hard for jobs and a just economy
of shared prosperity. And put yourself squarely back on the side of
working people.

President Obama: Don't pay attention to those who counsel going slow. The only thing you have to fear is caution itself.

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