Tuesday’s election results are a bitter pill for the president and his supporters to swallow. To be essentially routed by the Republican Party from top to bottom goes beyond humbling. It’s a wholesale rejection of the Democratic Party as well as many of the policies championed by President Obama.
So what world do we face now?
In many ways, I view the first half of President Obama’s term like the first half of a basketball game, the president’s favorite sport. Some things good, some bad. At times we were leading, but now we are clearly losing at the half. And like any smart team leader, his job is to now go into the locker room and make some pivotal half time adjustments.
Here are the four adjustments I think the president must make to regain his footing, get back in the game, and lead his team to victory:
One: Team communication is a must. When a team is defending against the pick and roll, each player must communicate to know what the other is doing. That’s basketball. Poor communication also hurts in politics. By your own admission, Mr. President, you and your team have done a poor job of communicating what you are doing, why you are doing it, and what it will mean for the American people. You said on Jon Stewart’s show that the American people don’t know a lot of the things you have done. Well, that’s not their problem, that’s your problem.
YOU have to make it clear. Frankly, your communications team has been weak. They have missed or flubbed opportunities to make your case. Sir, giving a great speech is one thing, but your communications team speaking persuasively to the American people on a daily basis is another. And that has to improve.
That leads me to the second issue, Mr. President. You have GOT to pass the ball. We often hear from your aides that no one is better at communicating the issues than you. That may very well be true. But just like in basketball, you CANNOT play all five positions. In order for a team to win, that means every player must play their role and do their job.
The business community has complained that your administration is anti-business. So where is Gary Locke, the commerce secretary? Jobs is issue No. 1, so where is Labor Secretary Hilda Solis? Her appearance on our show today is the first time. There’s a foreclosure epidemic, so where is Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan? We’ve said it on this show before that Attorney General Eric Holder has had a straightjacket placed on him. Discussions about energy policy? I never see Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. It seems that the only Cabinet members who have free reign to speak out are Arne Duncan at Education, Hillary Clinton at State, Bob Gates at Defense, and to some degree, Kathleen Sebelius at Health and Human Services.
Mr. President, those may be your starters, but you need to play the bench, too. Let them engage, take some fire, deliver some blows, and show folks that they are in this battle with you. There simply is no way one player can take on the opposing team all by himself.
Three: Go on the offensive. A running team knows when to push the ball up court, hoping to put the opponents on their heels and run them out of the gym. There has been a passive attitude emanating from your administration. Sir, when the other team continues to drive the lane and score on you, sometimes you have to deliver a few hard fouls to get their attention and send a signal. You must do the same.
Your opposition is emboldened by ripping you to shreds. Only rarely has your team engaged in the kind of fighting that can quickly get the attention of your opponents. This isn’t time to keep taking hits and act like they won’t stick. Mr. President, those body blows have stuck. Your White House is holding back the Democratic National Committee. It’s time to let it go. Let them foul hard and be aggressive. If you don’t, your opponents will do whatever they want with you, and you’ll be on the losing side in two years.
Four: You’ve got to be the true team leader like Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, Oscar Robertson, Bill Russell, Hakeem Olajuwon and Kobe Bryant. When times got tough, their teammates looked to them for inspiration, energy and guidance. Right now, your teammates — the broad coalition of millions who put you into office — are confused by the conflicting messages sent out by your administration. In many ways, this movement has been abandoned. Young folks, African-Americans, Hispanics and so many others are waiting to be engaged and to be put to work — to work with you to achieve victory.
But if you’re standoffish, don’t talk to them regularly and don’t inspire them, your agenda will never resonate with them, and you’ll have a team in disarray, not knowing what to do. You want be a transformational figure like Ronald Reagan, but that means leading your movement and keeping them involved.
For all sports fans — and President Obama knows this — no game is won in the first or second quarter. Yes, you can fall behind and look seemingly out of it. But until the clock reads zero, zero, zero, there is always time to rebound.
Mr. President, I get the question all the time as to whether you will win a second term. Frankly, we don’t know. But right now, I do know that you are behind and in desperate need of a second-half comeback to have any shot in 2012.
Roland S. Martin is an award-winning CNN analyst and the author of the forthcoming book “The First: President Barack Obama’s Road to the White House as originally reported by Roland S. Martin.” Please visit his website at www.RolandSMartin.com. To find out more about Roland S. Martin and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
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