The Summer of Shove Begins

By Al Giordano

The President’s express track nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the US Supreme Court – he wants the Senate to confirm by its August 8 recess, and the steamroller comes for anyone that stands in the way – is obviously a big deal, and yet it’s also just the opening salvo for phase two of the still-young presidency.

Michael Tomasky, writing for New York magazine, coined the term “the summer of shove” for the season ahead in a recent essay. He notes that “Obama’s first actions—the stimulus bill, Timothy Geithner’s bank plan, the stabilization of GM and Chrysler—were all about the forced agenda,” imposed on him by last autumn’s economic crash, and that now comes “his agenda,” on the big matters that he campaigned on:

Now the president is pushing his agenda. And push is the word. Almost every day, there’s something: the credit-card bill, the call to overhaul regulation of derivatives, the deal on auto emissions … in normal times, any one of these (especially that last one, which Congress had failed to pull off for 30 years) would have been thought a huge deal.

But in the present context, they’re only the appetizers. The really grandiose stuff is coming toward us right now, and the moment is dramatic. What’s remarkable about it is that Democrats in Washington don’t merely hope that by September we’ll have a health-care bill and that climate-change legislation will be accomplished by November. The Obamans, with a confidence that borders on arrogance, expect it. The deals are being cut on the Hill right now...

I would quibble with the use of the word “arrogance.” Since when is keeping campaign promises an act of hubris? It is, rather, a refreshingly humble calling: Of obedience, to the public that elected him.

The big enchilada of the package is health care, where Tomasky notes, remembering the ghosts of 1993, with understatement, “The Clinton failure looms large.”

And yet despite – perhaps because – Obama’s first hundred days were wracked by gigantic economic problems and almost every official pundit from the right to the left was acting like a petulant backseat driver, the President today has more political capital and armament to fire than he expended in the first 100 days.

The daily screeches that the first moves taken to stabilize the economy would bring certain doom are now mere whimpers. It’s evident after just four months, even to the harshest critics, that slowly but surely the hemorrhaging has clotted. The names “Geithner” and “Summers” no longer have the epithet value that some inferred on them. The attempt to demonize them failed. The Chicken Littles then moved on to new bogeymen, mainly in the area of foreign policy.

After last week’s big speech on torture and civil liberties, the White House pulled another basketball championship head fake and shifted the news cycle back to domestic matters in a single stroke named Sotomayor.

There is one difference between the lost prospects for Clintoncare and the better chances for Obamacare to change the health care system, and it will be tested during The Summer of Shove. In two words: grassroots organizing.

David Plouffe, the general of Organizing for America, sent an email blast last weekend to a few tens of millions of close personal friends:

Remember this date: Saturday, June 6th, 2009. We will look back on that day as the moment when the fight for real health care reform began in your neighborhood -- perhaps even in your own living room.

On June 6th, in thousands of homes across the country, we'll gather to launch our grassroots campaign for health care. We'll watch a special message from the President. We'll build the teams and draw up the plans for winning health care reform the same way we won the election: Building support one block, one neighbor, one conversation at a time. And we'll put those plans into action.

These kickoffs are so crucial that President Obama will join confirmed hosts and attendees on a live conference call.

Sign up today to host or attend a Health Care Organizing Kickoff.

There's no prior experience required. We'll send you the details for dialing into the President's call and provide you everything you need to make your meeting a success.

After the election, people gathered at over 9,000 meetings across every state to set priorities for health care reform. Our voices were heard. Now the race is on to make sure Congress produces a plan that reflects the President's call for reduced costs, guaranteed choice, and quality care for all.

To make that happen, we need to build a groundswell of support in every district and every state, and we have no time to lose. All summer we'll be reaching out to our neighbors, knocking on doors, serving in our communities, and building a grassroots network strong enough to win.

These gatherings on June 6th are just the beginning of a battle between those who fought and believe in change and those who would protect a broken status quo. The stakes for our country could not be greater.

Some call this strategy pie-in-the-sky. They say we'll never have enough volunteers to make a real impact; that you need insiders and Washington lobbyists to make a difference. But you and I know firsthand how wrong they are. Starting June 6th, it's once again time to show this country how bottom-up change is done.

The political class of the Republican and Democratic Parties may plan on spending the summer on Martha’s Vineyard, or in the Hamptons, or in Newport, or in Mountain West resort towns, or along elite California beaches, or at country clubs all over, but like NFL players and soldiers at war, community organizers will be at boot camp: sweltering the summer of 2009 door to door with the rest of America for whom such paradises are out of reach.

The door knocking won’t get much, if any, mass media attention, in this season between Memorial Day and Labor Day (did I mention that the news editors and star pundits will be off rubbing elbows with those same elected officials in those same vacationlands?). The Supreme Court nomination spectacle in the Senate – one in which the final result is has a 99 percent probability of raising Justice Sotomayor up on high through a sleepy summer Senate going through the motions of looking busy – will provide cover for the grassroots push from below.

But the real history will be made, this summer - as during the last two - by the unsung heroes and heroines: the organizers. You know who you are. You’re the ones without a second home, or that valiantly choose to skip that beach house, in order to bend the arc of history toward justice once again.

But here's a little secret to which many of you already know the handshake: Which group of people - the vacationers? or the organizers? - will have ended up having the most worthwhile fun this summer?

Keep us posted as to what you’re up to, starting with the June 6 house meetings. The Field, as before, remains at its post to report the story, walking side by side with you, a season before the rest will declare the results of all that work, later, to have come as, gasp, a surprise.

 

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About Al Giordano

Biography

Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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