Obama’s Challenge

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Title: Obama's Challenge: America's Economic Crisis and the Power of a Transformative Presidency
Published by: Chelsea Green Publishing
Release Date: August 25, 2008
Pages: 224
ISBN13: 978-1603580793


Barack Obama approaches the Presidency at a critical moment in American history, facing simultaneous crises of war, the environment, health care, but most especially in the economy. If he is able to rise to the moment, he could join the ranks of a small handful of previous presidents who have been truly transformative, succeeding in fundamentally changing our economy, society, and democracy for the better.

But this will require imaginative and decisive action as Obama takes office, action bolder than he has promised during his campaign, and will be all the more difficult given the undertow of conventional wisdom in Washington and on Wall Street that resists fundamental change. Decades of regressive politics and political gridlock have left America in its most precarious situation since the onset of the Great Depression. The collapse of the housing bubble continues, as does the financial meltdown it triggered; a revival of 1970s style stagflation threatens; incomes continue to lag behind inflation; our household and international debts pile higher; disastrous climate change looms; energy and food prices continue their escalation; and the ranks of un- and under-insured Americans grow as the health insurance system unravels.

Facing their own great challenges, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Roosevelt, and Lyndon Johnson rallied the American people to overcome deadlocked politics in order to achieve progressive transformations—abolishing slavery, transcending economic depression, and redeeming the promise of civil rights. In his own way, Ronald Reagan oversaw a grand shift in public attitudes and government direction. Each president used exceptional leadership to change the national mood, and then the national policy.

By appealing to what was most noble in the American spirit, these presidents energized movements for change, and in turn put pressure on themselves and on the Congress to move far beyond what was deemed conceivable. They generated accelerating momentum for far-reaching reforms that proved politically irresistible.

Solutions to our multiple challenges do exist, but they won’t be found in overly cautious or expedient quick fixes. With his exceptional skill at appealing to our better angels, Barack Obama could be the right leader at the right time to re-awaken America to the renewed promise of shared prosperity coupled with responsibility towards future generations and the international community with whom we share the Earth. Invoking America’s greatest leaders, Robert Kuttner explains how Obama must be a transformative president—or a failed one.


"Bob Kuttner pulls off the all-but-impossible. He hits the high notes with artful precision, lifting expectations and articulating the steps that can make Barack Obama a great president—while setting forth a strong and highly readable call for comprehensive and essential economic change."
John Sweeney, AFL-CIO President

"Obama's Challenge is the fruit of Bob Kuttner's lifetime of engagé reporting, analysis, and advocacy... it is riveting, brilliant, and persuasive. Kuttner, in concise chapters written with great vigor and clarity, shows what the change could look like if Obama is bold enough to go for it and the gods continue to smile on him."
Hendrik Hertzberg, from his New Yorker blog

"As Kuttner convincingly argues, a President Barack Obama will have an historic opportunity to radically transform America's direction--but only if he rejects the tired centrist policies of the past and inspires his fellow citizens to forge new progressive paths. Kuttner systematically lays out the case for why Obama should give full voice to a robust progressive message at a time when the American people are suffering from years of conservative policy. Obama's Challenge is an enlightening road map for all Americans who hunger for a change in direction and priorities in America, and who hope Obama can be our leading agent of change."
Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, founder of DailyKos.com, author of Taking on the System and coauthor of Crashing the Gate

"A manifesto, forceful but fair, by a leading political economist who lays out a bold but solid program if Obama is elected. As current as the morning's newspaper, this book should be read by all activists—especially Barack Obama."
James MacGregor Burns, author of Leadership

"Robert Kuttner has incisively captured the political moment, underscored by the deepening economic crisis. Lucidly and passionately, he lays out the hurdles facing an Obama presidency and challenges him to seize the moment and achieve greatness by redeeming the promise of America."
Arianna Huffington, cofounder and editor-in-chief, The Huffington Post

"Kuttner's erudite book is highly recommended for readers of all political persuasions who are open to exploring viable solutions for the current U.S. economic and political crises--especially those in favor of working collectively to arrive at a solution."
Library Journal

"In the latest from Kuttner (The Squandering of America), the liberal author and commentator correctly anticipates the economic failures only recently unfolding, and proposes a bold, transformative plan he believes can only be carried out by presidential candidate Barack Obama. ..."
Publishers Weekly