I recently had the opportunity to listen to David Axelrod, long time advisor to President Obama and key strategist for both his 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns, speak about his new book "Believer: My Forty Years in Politics". The event was sponsored by the Women's Democratic Club of Montgomery County and was quite enlightening.
Of particular interest to me was the issue of dealing with the rampant partisan politics within the beltway. In his book, Mr. Axelrod had indicated that one of the motivating factors convincing President Obama to run for the presidency was his sincere belief that he, as someone new to the "beltway", could have a significant impact on cutting through the partisan politics that so stymies the ability of the federal government to get anything accomplished. Regrettably, the reality that is all too apparent to anyone following President Obama's time in office is that this president has faced more blatant obstructionism than any other president in history, certainly any president in my own lifetime which goes back to the Truman Administration.
The election of the first minority candidate for president, rather than serve to indicate how far we have come as a nation, served all too often to awaken in too many the desire to take us backwards to where we once were...30, 50, 100 or even 200 years ago in areas such as race relations and how we react to the differences that exist among all of the various members of our society.
My question to Mr. Axelrod was simple: Knowing what we now know, how would you have advised President Obama differently in the early stages of his administration in dealing with the blatant partisan obstructionism intended to undermine any attempts by the president to move this country forward? I made it clear that this was not a trick question, Jeb Bush notwithstanding. His response was both extremely honest and, in my opinion, quite appropriate. His answer was "I don't know" and he didn't know, he went on to say, because there really is no surefire way to deal with an opposition that "won't take YES for an answer".
If I could find one positive thing to say about the intentions of the opposition it is that at least they didn't try to hide them. They were quite upfront with their plan from the beginning which was to win back the White House by blocking everything the President attempted to accomplish. As Mr. Axelrod indicated, Mitch McConnell made that strategy quite clear when he declared that his goal was to "make this President a one-term president". Regrettably, this strategy is still being adhered to in a second term.
So how do we break through the obstructionism that plagues today's "beltway politics" and all too often places party before the best interest of citizens? Mr. Axelrod did offer a solution, be it one that requires time and dedication. His solution is "bottom up" politics. Looking at local elections, whether for school board, City Council, and the like and working and voting for candidates who represent the best interests of citizens. It is local and state legislatures that serve as the breeding ground for the senators and representatives in the Congress of the future and it is an investment well worth taking.
Mr. Axelrod also referred to the strategy used by Ronald Reagan to curry favor with what is now known as the "Reagan Democrats" of the southern belt through social issues. He did so not to win back that specific voting bloc as much as to use as an example of rallying a group around a specific set of issues. As the middle class continues to shrink as a result of the policies of the current Congress, the rallying point for those of us who consider ourselves still part of the middle class must be, according to Mr. Axelrod, around economic issues.
These, of course, would include the earned benefits we worked for such as social security and Medicare but they should also include recognizing the need for investment in education and infrastructure. It should also include a tax structure that rewards hard work over making money off of the money others earn. That tax structure should also reward investment in creating jobs in America while penalizing those companies who ship jobs overseas. Supporting candidates who understand and support these middle class issues when they are running for office at the lower echelons of the political spectrum is the most effective way to ensure that they make their way to the upper echelons of the political spectrum down the road.