By Brigitte L. Nacos
Thanks to his clear victory this week President Obama has replenished political capital to assert the same strong leadership he displayed in reaction to Hurricane Sandy.
To be sure, Republican leaders in Congress have shown none of the qualities that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie demonstrated when he abandoned partisan politics and cooperated closely with the president in the face of a horrendous crisis for the benefit of the many hard hit hurricane victims in his state.
President Obama must nevertheless strive to install the bipartisan Obama-Christie cooperation model in Washington in order to find agreements to solve the nation’s most pressing problems. Never mind that Republican leaders, who might want to cooperate, will continue to feel threatened by the wrath of uncompromising Tea Partiers and Grover Norquist, the unelected ruler of the GOP’s no-new-tax dictate.
The president’s stump speeches in the last phase of the campaign underscored that he is an excellent communicator if he so chooses.
Unfortunately, the great communicator Obama was mostly absent from the political arena for most of his first term. Had he explained, for example, in plain language the provisions of the “Obamacare” package, he could have enlisted solid public support.
He left it to the opposition to fill the gap with misinformation.
This must change. In today’s mass society with its many forms of mass communication and mass self-communication a strong leader must constantly inform and engage the people rallying their support for policies benefiting the vast majority and opposition against those measures designed for the super-wealthy 1 percent.
First of all, and before the new congress convenes, the so-called fiscal cliff must be dealt with decisively. Unless there is finally a fair agreement on how to handle the expiring tax cuts adopted during the George W. Bush presidency, there will be across-the-board spending cuts in Pentagon and domestic programs.
President Obama must insist on doing away with all of the favorable tax rates for the rich and super-rich while preserving those for the lowest and middle income groups. He should muster all his communicative qualities to lead a vigorous public discourse on good and bad ways to deal with the fiscal crisis.
And he should try to win former President Bill Clinton to be his negotiator-in-chief with congressional leaders in the upcoming struggle to avoid going over the financial cliff.
But ultimately it is the presidential bully pulpit that matters most.