What should President Obama’s second term priorities be? There are lots of issues to tackle: the “vaulted” debt ceiling, climate change, energy policy, gun control, mental health, but what first? I can see gun control being up there especially as a response to the 7 mass murders committed in 2012 ending in the Newtown, CT tragedy. The president issued a series of executive orders to address the issue, including mechanisms for improving the system of background checks; gun safety education; establishing a national dialogue on mental health issues; nominating an ATF Director (what, there isn’t one?) and authorizing the CDC to research the causes of gun violence, which the NRA had successfully prevented it from doing in the past. Now it’s up to Congress to take substantive action, which the House appears unlikely to do, despite wide spread public support for a ban on assault weapons and high capacity magazine clips.
Given the staggering numbers of Republicans in Congress who serve to protect the NRA, there isn’t much hope for significant legislation to curtail gun violence and prevent mass murders, so what would they support? They can’t continue to be simply the party of NO, standing only for rejecting any proposal supported by the President. If the GOP continues to stonewall, filibuster and obstruct for the next 4 years, they will forever be known as the party of no support from the people they desperately need to attract – women, Blacks, Hispanics, and moderates.
But Congress, with its pitiful 18% approval rating, has to do something to restore the confidence of the American public. What can it do? For starters, Congress can vote to raise the debt ceiling so as not to risk downgrading the nation’s credit rating. This alone won’t be enough to win the hearts of Americans. No, they have to go bigger, and why not go big with immigration reform? This could be a win win for all. But when I say big, I mean big, real big. First, employ the unemployed to tear down the fence along the US southern border. Don’t bother with the Northern border – first, to my knowledge, there is no fence there and second, the only Canadians who have any interest in living in the states are rockers and comedians. With all that concrete along the Southern border, we could build hundreds of new schools, employ tens of thousands of teachers and construction workers for all the new schools needed after opening up the border. Yes, I mean it. Open the borders to any and all law abiding citizens of the world provided they can work, have no criminal background and can show some means of support or sponsorship, (unless they have refugee status). For those upstanding citizens of the world without employable skills, adult education programs would be funded to teach English literacy and general vocational skills to serve local sectors of the U.S. with the greatest demand for workers. All new entrants and the previously undocumented living in this country would be issued a Social Security number. Consider this: the best way to ensure the solvency of social security is to have more people paying in, not simply to raise the retirement age to 96.
Republicans should champion these ideas as a means of competing for the loyalties of a changing USA demographic that will soon be a non-white majority. But the thing is, they won’t because the radical fringe that seems to be calling the shots would rather secede from the Union than come to grips with a loss of power in a democratic process that they despise and have tried desperately to rig in their favor through gerrymandering, and voter suppression tactics.
Let’s get it done – gun control, immigration reform and the greening of the planet in the next two years. And let’s not let the GOP say “frack that”.