President Obama has found an effective technique for pushing policy, and he is once again following that method to the letter. The basic premise goes something like this: generate enough public pressure to force Congress to act. There are two key ingredients: speeches that encourage Americans to join the fight, and a digital outreach via a website and catchy trend on Twitter.
Remember the 2011 fight over extending the payroll tax cut? President Obama began by enlisting the public: “We thought we’d bring your voices into this debate.” Then the White House launched #40dollars–the amount the administration calculated the average American would see taken out of each paycheck.
A year later, there was the fight over the fiscal cliff. President Obama ramped-up pressure on Congress to extend tax cuts for middle class Americans using the same formula, launching #my2K and saying, “if there’s one thing that I’ve learned, when the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens.”
In both cases, the strategy worked–but it might now be facing its most difficult test yet. The president unveiled comprehensive new gun control measures Wednesday. Not surprisingly, he is looking to overcome congressional opposition by appealing to the public, saying, “This will not happen unless the American people demand it” and launching #NowIsTheTime.”
The White House is again following their formula. Now it’s time to see if their strategy can overcome the gun lobby and actually force Congress to act on gun violence.
In the video above, MSNBC host Alex Wagner speaks with her panel about whether the president has a chance to win this debate, or merely score a pyrrhic victory.