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This Week: Fighting for Progress in a Second Obama Term | The Nation

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Katrina vanden Heuvel

Katrina vanden Heuvel

Politics, current affairs and riffs and reflections on the news.

This Week: Fighting for Progress in a Second Obama Term

SENECA FALLS TO SELMA TO STONEWALL. “We the people declare today that the most evident of truths—that all of us are created equal—is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall.” The president’s much-quoted line from his inaugural speech powerfully charts “an arc of history that bends toward justice,” as John Nichols writes this week. Linking these historic moments to today’s struggle for pay equity for women and immigrants’ rights was a meaningful nod to the electorate that gave him victory on November 6. And while symbolic recognition is not a substitute for policy, it still matters, argues Melissa Harris-Perry in her column this week. “Obama positioned Seneca Falls, Selma and Stonewall as the fulfillment of a nascent promise in Jefferson’s declaration, and thereby recognizes the deeply American narrative embedded in these moments,” writes Harris-Perry.

YES, HE CAN. After a disappointing filibuster reform deal this week in Congress, Obama’s use of executive power has become even more significant going forward. In this week’s issue, we zero in on twenty actions the president should take to push for progressive change. From addressing the economy by creating a National Development Bank to challenging the school-to-prison pipeline—to auditing the Pentagon—the president can, and must, act in his second term to make our country better. “Pressing for reforms through executive action—using both “street heat” and “suite heat”—should be a serious focus of our work in the coming months,” we write. Read more about these twenty actions focusing on the environment, foreign policy, criminal justice, immigration, civil liberties and more. Also, we asked our readers to weigh in—find out what our thoughtful readers would like to see from the president during his second term.

BIG MONEY & POLITICS. As Lee Fang reports, Obama’s first term was shaped by clashes with big-business interests. Take the health reform fight, for example—opponents of reform spent over $323 million in negative advertising and offered $450,000 starting salaries to Democratic Senate staffers willing to join up with lobbying firms. And in the case of some senators, like Nebraska’s Ben Nelson—who eventually became a health industry lobbyist—their efforts paid off. But looking forward, President Obama plans to use his legions of volunteers to push back against special interests. “For Obama’s second term, even with a weaker position given the composition of Congress, he may succeed by returning to his community organizing roots—a recognition that social movements are an essential component in advancing progressive reforms over corporate or partisan opposition.” Find out more from Fang.

CLIMATE CHANGE. “Addressing climate change was—quite remarkably—the most prominent policy vow President Obama made yesterday on the steps of the US Capitol,” wrote George Zornick on Tuesday. But White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave no comfort to environmentalists when talking about the Keystone XL pipeline this week. Read more from Zornick on the troubling signals from the White House—and how approving the pipeline “would cripple any notion that the White House is actually serious about addressing climate change.” Zornick also writes about a new congressional task force on climate change, which will work to push the Obama administration to take action as well as mobilize public support to enact real change. Find out more on how the task force aims to “break through barricades of denial.”

ELECTION REFORM. We‘ve long been familiar with the GOP’s gerrymandering strategy—as John Nichols reports, even though Democrats won 1.4 million more votes than Republicans in House races, the GOP still retains control of the chamber. Now Republicans in statehouses want to divvy up Electoral College votes based on district pluralities in key battleground states like Virginia—which would further rig the system to yield better results for the GOP. After an election with rampant efforts to suppress the votes of people of color, immigrants, women, college students, and the elderly, it’s crucial for the Obama administration and Congress to act and fix our elections. Find out more from Ari Berman on the Voter Empowerment Act and other proposals in Congress—and how they would boost voter participation. Also, take a look at my piece this week on campaign finance reform in New York—the votes are there to clean up our elections, but will Governor Cuomo push to pass legislation? Read that piece here.

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