Main Entry: ob·strep·er·ous
Pronunciation: \əb-ˈstre-p(ə-)rəs, äb-\
Etymology: Latin obstreperus, from obstrepere to clamor against, from ob- against + strepere to make a noise
Date: circa 1600
1 : marked by unruly or aggressive noisiness : clamorous
2 : stubbornly resistant to control : unruly
synonyms see vociferous
— ob·strep·er·ous·ly adverb
— ob·strep·er·ous·ness noun
Obama's Grade at 100? What About Our Grade?
By: Robert Borosage
But what Obama has been missing has been an independent, obstreperous citizens' movement demanding fundamental reform. Roosevelt had the labor movement... socialists and communists challenging him from the left. Johnson had the civil rights movement forcing his hand.
This kind of opposition isn't easy. No president likes to face disruption, particularly from what he would consider his base. There are similar stories told about both Roosevelt and Johnson meeting with leaders of the movements and saying something to the effect of, "I agree with you, now go out there and make me do it." But in reality, Roosevelt wanted to squelch Long and tame labor. And Johnson repeatedly ordered Hubert Humphrey to bring the civil rights demonstrations to an end, saying that they weren't helping the cause. King got a lot of pressure —to say nothing of wiretaps and FBI investigations—to get back in step.
Yet it is precisely these movements—independent, disruptive, passionate, demanding bolder reform, taking on entrenched powerful interests—that enabled Roosevelt and Johnson to achieve far more than they ever thought possible. The New Deal we remember—Social Security, the Wagner Act, Fair Labor Standards, the SEC and Glass Stegall, progressive taxation—came not in the first 100 days, but as Roosevelt, under pressure from his left, geared up for re-election. The Voting Rights Act surely would not have been passed without Selma and many other sacrifices transforming public opinion to enable Johnson to act.
The absence of these movements on the left opens dangerous space for ersatz populist movements on the right. We saw that with the tea-bag parties that the Fox News Channel huckstered. We've seen conservatives conflate the trillions going to bolster the banks with vital spending in the recovery plan to get the economy going. They are weaving a corrosive message that ties big spending in Washington with Wall Street wastrels. The country would be far better served with an angry populist movement that indicts Wall Street but demands greater support for working families and Main Street. But anyone building that movement will have to understand that they might earn respect, but they won't be loved in the White House.