Vote in November, protest in February?

Cornell West, a very smart man and vehement critic of politicians and governments said he would vote for Obama in November and protest his policies in February. I agree — and here are three issues that are at the top of my list.

Reform the filibuster rules. Unless and until the rules are reformed, the minority Republicans in the Senate will still hold every bill hostage. Under the current rules, Republican majority controls the House and a Republican minority effectively controls the Senate.

Filibuster rules affect every single piece of legislation that your administration tries to pass. As Ezra Klein writes:

Today, the filibuster isn’t used to defend minority rights or ensure debate. Rather, the filibuster is simply a rule that the minority party uses to require a 60-vote supermajority to get anything done in the United States Senate. That’s not how it was meant to be.

And that’s not how it used to be — or how it ought to be.

Ground the drones. (A related issue: ending the war(s) and bringing the troops home.) Our use of drones is making more enemies than they are killing. More seriously, drone strikes are an immoral attack on civilians. The full Stanford/NYU report, Living Under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from U.S. Drone Practices in Pakistan is damning. (It’s attached below as a PDF file.) Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary:

Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning. Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves. These fears have affected behavior. The US practice of striking one area multiple times, and evidence that it has killed rescuers, makes both community members and humanitarian workers afraid or unwilling to assist injured victims. Some community members shy away from gathering in groups, including important tribal dispute-resolution bodies, out of fear that they may attract the attention of drone operators. Some parents choose to keep their children home, and children injured or traumatized by strikes have dropped out of school.

The economy: Where to start? Of course, the fiscal cliff, the adjusted minimum tax, and the Bush-era tax cuts are all on the agenda. But beyond these: jobs and infrastructure. Public payrolls have been slashed and slashed again over the past four years. It’s time to rebuild. From the Christian Science Monitor:

The private sector is in positive jobs territory, having created an average of 160,000 jobs per month in 2012. It’s in positive territory for Obama’s time in office, as well. The US has created on net 780,000 private sector jobs since February of 2009 … The overall job numbers remain weak because public sector employment – federal, state, and local jobs – has actually been shrinking. Obama’s stimulus package contained $54 billion in aid to states to help them keep teachers, police, firefighters, and other less popular government bureaucrats in their posts. That money has now been spent and lay-offs due to government belt-tightening have accelerated.

Teachers, police, firefighters, road builders — we need more, not fewer. And here’s another idea: with youth unemployment still high, let’s expand opportunities for national service, and offer teens and young adults a chance for employment by expanding the domestic Peace Corps programs that have been continuously targeted by the Republicans in Congress.

Immigration reform and rolling back the Patriot Act attacks on civil liberties and global warming are also high priorities, and probably not the only ones.

Back to Cornell West again:

What happens if and when President Obama is re-elected?
Well I hope he wins because Romney is so dangerous. But when he wins, the hard work only intensifies. We’ll still need to critique US foreign policy and the worshiping of Wall Street. Let’s start treating workers the way you treat bankers and have loans available to students the way they’re available to banks at zero percent interest….

But we’ll have to see and we’ll keep putting pressure on him. The important thing to recognize is that when he does win, the work begins all over again in terms of pressing for issues that will be critical of the system that he runs.

The election is over — and now the work begins again.

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