Obama needs a student movement

Russ Caditz-Peck

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The “Change” has begun.

Last week President Obama announced his budget proposal. It is visionary, necessary and historic. As young Americans with an interest in our nation’s future, now is the time to fight.  

For the past thirty years, conservative policy and global economic forces have eaten away at the American middle class. If our generation is to preserve widespread prosperity in a global economy, a renewed public social contract is necessary. Obama has shown his commitment to this: his support for health care, education and the environment is unprecedented.

Now the President needs a movement. If the only outspoken support from the left is Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman, we are in serious trouble.

We cannot sit back and assume Obama will magically fix everything. His electoral victory only just a step: now the battle begins.

Obama’s budget will face intense, well-funded opposition from corporate interests. Their opposition will stem less from conservative principles than from knee-jerk protectionism of bottom-line profits. Even conservatives such as David Brooks and William Irving are now behind massive public investment. Nevertheless, insurance agencies, oil companies, banks, big student lenders etc. will now spend millions on lobbying and propaganda.  

Obama alone cannot be the voice of progress. Social change requires more than politicians. The President must have a loud, committed progressive movement to free his hands.

Those who form public opinion: from journalists to politicians: rely on the notion of “the center” to decide what is reasonable, responsible and moderate. He needs a multitude of voices and pressures demanding his budget be enacted, and more.  

The core of this movement should be students: those with the passion, the time and most importantly a vested interest in a prosperous future.  

Read the news, read some blogs and talk to your friends. Organize! Get involved in Campus Climate Challenge, Young Democrats, or start your own group. Coordinate events and petitions. Write letters and Op-Eds. Attract media coverage and make your own media. Build coalitions.  

In order to pass the New Deal, Franklin Roosevelt required a strong movement demanding sweeping change. Today we have a social safety net and middle class to thank for it. President Obama now needs his movement. Let’s get to work.