In the wake of November’s “shellacking,” progressives are rightfully concerned that the next two years may result in little more than total gridlock. With a Republican-controlled House, the chances of major legislation making its way to the president’s desk are, indeed, virtually nonexistent.
But the administration’s hands are not completely tied. On the contrary, the president still has the power to use executive orders, rulemaking and diplomacy to further the progressive agenda without ever consulting Congress.
On Tuesday, the Center for American Progress released a report outlining its expert’s recommendations for advancing progressive change in this new political climate. (The full report is worth the read.) As John Podesta, CAP’s President and CEO noted, “The ability of President Obama to accomplish important change through these powers should not be underestimated.”
1. Use EPA regulatory authority to reduce greenhouse gas pollution by 17 percent by 2020.
2. Launch the new Consumer Financial Protection Agency with aggressive rulemaking to protect and empower consumers.
3. Accelerate the implementation of the Small Business Jobs Act so that small businesses can begin hiring again more quickly.
4. Build a new website that promotes government transparency by tracking all public expenditures in real time.
5. Use the authority of the commander in chief to mitigate DADT’s impact should Congress fail to repeal it.
6. Appoint a special commission to assess the government’s use of independent contractors like Blackwater.
7. Direct agencies to require automatic mediation to avoid foreclosures where possible.
8. Implement the Affordable Care Act while working with the private sector on payment reforms.
9. Create a national awareness campaign on workplace flexibility.
10. Simplify access to federal antipoverty programs.
Not included in the report, but included in my own list: End the war in Afghanistan.
The president can also use his executive authority to advance labor organizing, as my colleague Chris Hayes points out here.
Progressives should keep this all in mind. Over the next two years, we are sure to hear the administration tell us that it cannot get anything accomplished while Republicans controlling the House. Let this report serve as a reminder that they can. All they need is a little courage—and some genuine presidential leadership.
© 2010 The Nation
Katrina vanden Heuvel is editor of The Nation.