Data from the election results indicate that even though President Barack Obama won a second term there were some weaknesses in his first term.
It is clear that Obama has a problem with angry old white men such as the Roman Catholic hierarchy in the U.S. As an angry old white man I would volunteer as a cabinet advisor on this issue, but I’m having trouble figuring out how the Roman Catholic hierarchy might be considered relevant. Their dogmatic pronouncements on contraception, gay marriage, and abortion are to be considered prior to other issues. This policy has effectively nullified Catholic Social Teaching concerning labor for the hierarchical church and its true believers. (e.g. no official support for the striking Palermo Pizza workers – also: “Bishops fail to agree on economic document,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Religion New Service, November 14, 2012, p. 3) But despite threats of hell itself from the bishops, a majority of Catholics voted for Obama. The hierarchy has lost its moral core established by Vatican II.
My first blog posting (9-1-09) expressed hope that with the new Obama administration we would make progress on health care, immigration reform and labor law.
The passage of the Affordable Care act was a monumental accomplishment. Both Roosevelts, President Truman, Presidents Kennedy and Clinton expressed a desire to pass such legislation but were unable to do so. Why health care for all? John XXIII wrote in his encyclical Pacem in Terris:
Beginning our discussion of the rights of man, we see that every man has the right to life, (see U.S. Declaration of Independence) to bodily integrity, and to the means which are necessary and suitable for the proper development of life. These means are primarily, food, clothing, shelter, rest, medical care and finally the necessary social service. (Pacem in Terris, Part I, 11, 4-11-1963)
Nothing was done on labor law reform. The desperately needed EFCA – employee free choice act was hardly mentioned. If such a law were in place the striking Palermo Pizza workers would have a union that Palermo management would be required to accept and negotiate with “in good faith.”
Immigration reform was not achieved. The administration policy of prosecutorial discretion whereby only felons would be targeted for deportation was not adequate. Our experience in Milwaukee was that we were unable to save family bread winners from deportation even though they were not felons. Efforts in Chicago were more effective.
Congress failed to pass the “dream act” which would make it possible for undocumented students to attend college. DACA, however, put in place by the Obama administration before the election, makes it possible for young people to delay deportation in hope of a new immigration law. In Wisconsin the Walker administration rescinded the “in state tuition” law which would help undocumented students go to state universities and technical colleges.
“Every human being must also have the right to freedom of movement and of residence within the confines of his own country, and when there are just reasons for it, the right to emigrate to other countries and take up residence there.” (Pacem in Terris, Part I, 25. The document refers to a similar comment by Pius XII Christmas Message in 1952. See U.S. and Mexican Bishops on immigration – Strangers No Longer: Together on the Journey of Hope, Jan. 2003)
SOME ANECDOTAL CANVASING DATA
I have admitted that I’m an angry old white man, but my partner, we’ve been married 40 years, is white - old, but female and positive. She works with confident skill for social change. We did canvassing in three neighborhoods for the Obama campaign. We went out twice in the Latino neighborhood with Voces de la Frontera and once in an African American neighborhood under the direction of Wisconsin Jobs Now. We also did a turn in our own community of Wauwatosa.
As always we enjoyed talking to people in the Latino neighborhood. All that we talked to in our two two-hour excursions, except one, said that they would vote or had voted for Obama and now Senator Tammy Baldwin. One young man said he wasn’t going to vote because they are “all liars.” I was sympathetic to his position, but Joanne convinced him that Obama was not a liar and that a vote for Obama was crucial for the Latino community.
The African American community was very welcoming. We had a list of addresses and names of voters but some of the addresses turned out to be empty lots. – monuments to the choice of nothing. We talked to a lot of people, some not on our list, all supporting Obama. We were invited into homes to talk to grandparents and kids. It was a moving experience. On the street we encountered 5 or 6 young men. They asked what we were doing and our response started a dialogue. Do we get paid for our work? No – we are volunteers. They told us they needed work. We suggested that they contact the neighborhood election office because there were some paid election workers. The banter evolved into a serious political discussion. Why vote, they asked. What good would it do? The African American community has had high chronic unemployment for many years, yet lots of people, outside the community, are making lots of money. It was a spirited discussion; Joanne and I stayed out of it. The conclusion was - that it could be much worse – they would vote. Consider John XXIII’s Mater et Magistra:
“As regards labor, Pius XII repeating what appeared in Leo XIII’s letter, declared it to be both a duty and a right of every human being.” (Part I, 44) “In this connection, it is today advisable as our predecessors clearly pointed out, that work agreements be tempered in certain respects with participant arrangements, so that ‘workers and officials become participants in ownership, or management, or share in some manner in profits.’” (Part I, 32)
We also canvassed in our own Wauwatosa neighborhood. The canvassing was directed by our political organization – “Grass Roots Tosa.” In our two-hour turn we didn’t talk to as many people as in the other neighborhoods – not many answered the door. Those we talked to said they would or had voted for Obama and Baldwin. A young woman said she wasn’t going to vote because she didn’t know enough about the issues. Dialogue was impossible; she wanted us to leave. One angry old white man shouted at us from a second floor porch, “who-do-ya want?” We explained. He shouted back that he wasn’t going to vote because he’d been fooled too often, but his daughter was going to vote for Obama which didn’t make any sense to him – end of discussion. The President won white suburban Wauwatosa.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
In my opinion climate change should be the priority issue and the criteria for policy in the next four years with special reference to “preferential option for the poor.” Other major issues that must be dealt with are income inequality – the right of workers to organize, chronic unemployment, unemployment due to technological advancement and also immigration reform. Can there be immigration reform without an economic improvement in Mexico and Central America?
Consider a prayer offered at St. Benedict the Moor Parish, Milwaukee, Sunday November 18, 2012 in solidarity with the people protesting at the “School of the Americas,” Fort Benning, GA:
“As we gather here we wish to be in solidarity with all who are participating in the vigil and civil disobedience at the ‘School of the Americas at Fort Benning today. Along with them, we denounce all violations of human rights, the tactics of torture and war taught and initiated through the ‘School of the Americas.’ We will speak such that we might be heard that we might be heard in the White House, in the halls of Congress and in the hearts of people across the Americas so that the ‘School of the Americas’ will be closed forever and the foreign policy of the United States will be changed.”
These issues must be resolved with effective action that will also address climate change and maintain a preferential option for the poor. As a nation we should reject the “American Dream” as moving up in the consumer society.
President Obama has the skills to lead the nation in this direction. The politics seem impossible, but then so did a second term. It was a great win. After the election I’m having trouble re-establishing myself as an angry old white man.