fresh voices from the front lines of change







The country may be cynical. The country may be dissatisfied. The country may be angry.

But the country does not want to stop Barack Obama.

An ABC News poll this week found that: “For all their economic gripes, 52 percent of Americans say they’d rather have President Obama than his predecessor in control of economic policy, vs. 35 percent who’d prefer to have former President Bush in charge.

Also, a new focus group analysis finds middle-class mothers have “patience” with Obama underneath the initial disappointment at the pace of change. W. Post’s Ruth Marcus reports:

They are less enraged than unconvinced. “It’s hard to trust him,” one woman in St. Louis said, but it turned out that what she meant was not that Obama wasn’t trustworthy — it was that she was uncertain that matters would improve. “A lot of things have happened since he’s been in office, so we tend to blame him,” she said. “And things haven’t turned around very quickly, so what is going to happen next? You don’t know.”

Neil Newhouse, a Republican pollster who viewed the groups, said he was struck by these voters’ seeming patience with the president. “I’ve seen it before that people want him to do well. But the clear voicing of sympathy for the guy was a surprise for me. They feel sorry for what he inherited and what he’s got to deal with. . . . There’s frustration he hasn’t been able to figure it out. There’s a clear sense that he’s not the guy they voted for two years ago, but they still have hope that he can still be that guy.”

And as I noted last week, the latest NYT/CBS poll found a strong majority disagrees with conservatives that President Obama has expanded government “too much” and that the stimulus was “too big.”

Add that all up, and it’s clear that we Americans are not looking to stifle President Obama. We do not want to junk the premise of active government. We simply want our government to work better than it has to solve our deeply daunting economic problems.

What does that mean for voters in the upcoming midterm election – most of whom are still rooting for President Obama to fulfill his agenda?

As a literal matter, President Obama is not on the ballot. Your vote does not pass judgment on President Obama’s record to date.

The full House and one-third of the Senate are the seats on the ballot.

So the fundamental question for voters is: what kind of Congress do you want President Obama to deal with?

One that works with President Obama? Or one that doesn’t want Barack Obama’s presidency to work?

That is what’s at stake in November.

Few want a rubber stamp Congress – it’s an independent branch of government for a reason. And few want an obstructionist Congress – there is too much to do.

No one expects candidates to pledge blind loyalty to the President. But there’s clearly a difference between proposing different ideas to meet shared goals, and repeatedly making excuses to justify relentless gridlock.

Most Americans want our government to work. We want Barack Obama’s presidency to work. And we want a Congress that works with the President to meet America’s needs.

The only way to get it is for you to vote.

Of course, many voters simply look for a D or an R. But not everyone. For those who don’t, may I suggest examining the record and rhetoric of the candidates asking for your vote and assessing:

* Which of my choices is being constructive: not only criticizing what hasn’t worked, but recognizing what has worked so we can build on proven success?

* Which of my choices believes that effective government is essential if we are to avoid the failures of the recent past?

* Which of my choices is most interested in working with the President and fulfilling the agenda we asked him to accomplish two years ago?

We need to build on the initial success of the Recovery Act, create more jobs, lift up and expand the middle-class, unleash the clean energy economy, and spark a truly robust recovery.

We can’t get there without a constructive Congress. We can’t get a constructive Congress without your vote.

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