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Obama can’t change Washington alone

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Kai Ryssdal: So the elections are officially over. Even the shouting from last night has died down. Which means, really, that things are just getting started. We’ve got a pair of commentaries today on the Obama transition. First, Robert Reich.

Robert Reich: Obama’s stunning victory, combined with larger Democratic majorities in both Houses of Congress and the deepening economic crisis, should provide him a strong mandate for change. America and the world have signaled they’re ready for it.

But as we roll up our shirtsleeves, it’s important to be aware of the challenges ahead.

First is the ever more powerful army of Washington lobbyists. Pharmaceutical companies, insurers and giant hospital chains will seek to control any health-care initiative. Producers of coal, ethanol and nuclear power will try to dominate the energy and environmental agenda. Military contractors will want to maintain defense spending. And Wall Street will want even more control over its massive bailout.

Then there’s the ballooning budget deficit brought on by slower growth and the Wall Street bailout. As a result, fiscal conservatives — including a newly-enlarged group of “blue-dog” Democrats — will be reluctant to support any new spending.

And don’t forget all the business groups, Republicans, libertarians, talk-radio hosts and yell-television personalities will fulminate over anything resembling a tax hike on the rich or big corporations.

Obama’s agenda can survive all this, but only if he continues to mobilize and energize the public behind it. That means creating a new politics, utilizing his vast campaign network of volunteers, grassroots activists and Internet participants and turning it into a movement to take back our democracy from the lobbyists, naysayers, pork peddlers and moneyed interests that normally run things in Washington.

In other words, the real contest is just beginning. Can Obama succeed? As we heard last night, yes WE can.

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