Jan 242010
Authors: Kevin Hollinshead

When I saw the results of last week’s special election in Massachusetts to fill the vacant Senate seat left by the late Ted Kennedy, the sick irony of the whole thing started setting in. Aided by a shockingly lazy campaign by Democrat Martha Coakley, Republican Scott Brown will now do his best to kill health care reform, the issue closest to his predecessor’s heart.

If an anti-reform Republican was able to win the seat of universal health care’s greatest champion, what do this November and November of 2012 hold for Democrats? Unless the Obama administration shakes things up, they’re on thin ice.

However, those reveling in Brown’s victory forget that this November and November 2012 are an eternity away in politics. Obama thus has time to repair his image.

Though one could easily expand this list, here are six things that he and his administration must do to survive beyond 2012:

*More clearly define ‘change’ *

Both Obama’s lack of explanation as to why he allowed Republicans to gut his health care bill without making any concessions of their own, and his struggle explaining his economic policy in a way the average American can understand have been frustrating.

The President and his team have thus far fallen short of their goal of becoming the most transparent administration in this nation’s history.
Inspirational messages of hope and change only get you so far beyond the campaign trail. It’s now Obama’s job to better articulate the specific tenets of his presidency.

It’s the economy, stupid

While Obama must take steps to keep health care reform from dying in the Senate, he needs to shift his primary focus to reversing this country’s skyrocketing unemployment and foreclosure rates.

The long-term benefits of health care reform don’t resonate quite as loudly with people when they lose their job or their house.
If a health care bill is not on Obama’s desk within the next month, Democrats need to kill it and start over when the economy improves.

Tell Dems in Congress to stop fighting and push back

Even with the election of Brown, the Democrats still have 59 votes, far more than Bush-era Republicans did.

Obama needs to take a page out of Dubya’s playbook by telling congressional Dems to stop this ridiculous infighting and ram stuff through for once. They must start replicating some of the party discipline that defines the GOP.

If Republicans aren’t interested in cooperating with Obama and the Dems, why keep trying?

Be tougher on Wall Street

Americans angry with Wall Street have been under-whelmed with the Obama administration’s response.

Following nine months of all bark and no bite about executive bonuses, a new tax on banks to recoup bailout money is seen by some as too little, too late.

It’s time that the president does something that actually gets under the banking industry’s skin and is received positively by the public.

Prep the chopping block

Obama must determine which current cabinet members are potential liabilities going forward.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel has proven to be a sub-par liaison to Congress and Wall Street in terms of pushing the president’s agenda, and he should have squelched the Fox News controversy before it started.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner appears to be another incompetent corporate puppet.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano dropped the ball with her recent bungling of the underwear bomber issue.

Unleash Michelle

First Lady Michelle Obama is an incredibly under-utilized resource who has thus far been relegated to discussing fashion, gardens and other fluffy subjects.

Her immense popularity and strong oratory skills would be a boon to an administration that is struggling to connect with voters on certain policy issues.

Things may look bad now for Democrats, but Obama has almost three years to change that. Voters have a notoriously short memory, as evidenced by the high expectations and a sense of optimism from just a year ago that has vanished almost overnight.

To take advantage of this, a lot has to change within the Democratic Party, starting with how its leader runs the show.

Kevin Hollinshead is a junior political science major. His column appears Mondays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.

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