With re-election safely behind him, we hope Obama will be bolder in his second term. He should diversify his inner circle of economic advisers and cabinet appointees to include more progressive voices, not just those who reflect business and banking. He should use his bully pulpit to focus public attention on the disproportionate influence of the Chamber and other corporate lobbying groups. He should be willing to deflect their attacks, as FDR did when he said, “I welcome their hatred,” referring to the forces of “organized money.” We’d like to see more of the Barack Obama who showed up on December 6, 2011, at a high school in Osawatomie, Kansas, echoing the themes of the then– burgeoning Occupy Wall Street movement.
As he did during his 2008 campaign (but stopped doing once he took office), Obama should encourage the organizers and activists who are challenging corporate power, recognizing that their ability to agitate and mobilize ordinary Americans can help him be a more effective president. LBJ understood this inside-outside dynamic when he embraced the civil rights movement—adopting its “We shall overcome” motto in a 1965 speech to Congress—and took on the segregationists in his own party.