It all culminated in this one sign, which of all the signs at the protest disturbed me the most. Yes, Obama really did say “Show me the movement. Make me do it.” (At least according to Michael Pollan, who quoted Obama while speaking at an environmental event in 2009.) In fact, a more extended quote from that speech might explain the motivation behind this entire protest:
Now, this agenda that I’m talking about, your own agenda, is not gonna happen just because we have a President and a First Lady who are sympathetic. That’s not how change comes. Change is much, much harder than that. Presidents cannot flip the switch and make things happen…. A friend of mine had occasion to have dinner with him and Michelle, and Obama made it clear that he got it, that he really did understand the issue, but he also said he didn’t think the time was right to push hard. He understood the forces arrayed on the other side and the great amount of political capital it would take to defeat them. … He challenged my friend, he said, “Show me the movement. Make me do it. Make me do it.”
…Now, that language, that language, “Make me do it,” is very interesting. Presidents have uttered that word – those words before. Roosevelt used them when he was being lobbied about certain issues. There’s a very interesting scene when Martin Luther King came to Lyndon Johnson and said, “We need this Voting Rights Act. You know, we need your help,” and Johnson turned to him and said, “I wanna do it. Make me do it.” He wasn’t just gonna do it. He needed to be made. He was telling Martin Luther King to get out in the street and make it happen.
Another example, President Clinton in 1993, he had a very difficult budget negotiation in Congress. He lost a lot. He moved way to the right and gave up a lot of his campaign promises to get this 1993, his first budget. And, at the signing of this budget, Bernie Sanders, the member of his caucus furthest to his left was there, and he came over to Bernie Sanders and he started pounding on his chest like this and he said, “Why weren’t you screaming at me? I needed you to be screaming at me, because then I could have brought you something.” So, as kindly as you feel towards Michelle and Barack, keep those lessons in mind.
Vilsack said something similar to a group of activists he met with just last month, “I need your help. Build a movement.” And he understands. Because the farm lobby is already organizing against him. So, we need to get organized. We need to flex our muscles. …
Now is not the time to savor the moment or rest. Now is the time to make Obama do it. Let’s show him the movement.
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