Barack Obama and Richard Cordray (AP Photo)

President Obama has chosen to begin 2012 the way he ended 2011: fighting for the poor and the middle-class.

Following the Iowa Caucus, the battle for the White House is officially on and the GOP’s choices are clear: Mitt Romney, the multimillionaire who thinks the vulnerable should be foreclosed upon and sent packing from their homes, Rick Santorum, who “doesn’t want to help black people by giving them other people’s money”, Newt Gingrich, whose economic plan is to employ poor and inner-city children as janitors, and the 76-year-old Ron Paul, who can’t remember if he wrote racist propaganda for profit throughout the 80s and 90s.

President Barack Obama may have a tough fight going forward, but his opponents are more akin to the charlatans of the Revolutionary era than the protesters who defined the age of populist change.

In a bold and surprising move yesterday, the president appointed Richard Cordray to head the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The GOP has consistently blocked Cordray’s appointment and had done the same with respect to the president’s original choice, Elizabeth Warren.

Warren, who is now running for U.S. Senate in Massachusetts, originally designed the CFPB in direct response to 2008’s mortgage crisis and growing problem of predatory and sub-prime lenders targeting working-class and minority communities.

The move is controversial, since Republicans had not officially gone into recess. During the holiday break — in an exacting effort to prevent President Obama from making recess appointments — the Congress failed to approve a recess measure, and as such ensured a gavel was struck every few days, though no real Congressional session has occurred, and no government business done.

Obama’s newfound defiance may be in part a response to Democratic supporters calling for him to have more “fight”.

As the election heats up, Obama has chosen a populist message that is sure to appeal to the 99 percent. Gone are the days of bipartisan compromise. Despite his instinctive desire to reach across the aisle, it seems Obama has fully accepted that incalcitrance and obstinence is all he can expect from the modern Republican Party.

GOP leaders have already begun their soon-to-be, well-rehearsed claims that the President is engaging in a massive overreach of power. But the numbers don’t lie. Ronald Reagan made 243 recess appointments during his tenure. George W. Bush made 171. Bill Clinton made 139. All of which occurred over the course of their 8 years. However, the first President Bush, George H.W., made 77 recess appointments in what turned out to be his one and only term in office.

Obama in comparison? Twenty-nine recess appointments total.

Talk about challenging the president’s appointments in Court is no surprise and already à propos for Republicans who claimed providing the American people with health care is unconstitutional, and as such have taken that battle to the U.S. Supreme Court. But with no evidence of an abuse of power with regard to these new appointments, GOP attacks will likely fall on deaf ears.

Besides Cordray, Obama also appointed three new members of the National Labor Relations Board, another agency the GOP has attacked as being an example of too much government oversight. But at a time of sweeping redundancy and corporations continuing to send jobs offshore to exploit cheap labor, the NLRB protects the rights of working Americans.

The Republican mantra has been to keep money in the hands of the 1 percent they call “job creators”, while choking out the middle-class. Under their leadership America would begin to resemble a third-world plutocracy, not a first-world democracy.

But how did we get here?

Obama came into office on a wave of hope, change and bipartisanship. Republicans turned his goodwill to naught by refusing to play fair. And President Obama has been attacked on all sides for not sufficiently matching their ire.

In a recent interview with Jet magazine, Don Cheadle expressed his disappointment in the President for not being “gangster” enough. The term naturally sparked criticism for its racial undertones, but Cheadle quickly clarified, “I used the word gangster and I meant it. But I wasn’t talking about pants sagging and forties and ‘hoes’ or any of that other nonsense…I was talking about wish fulfillment; my own and my desire to witness something more than I had.”

Cheadle, and notable 2008 Obama supporters like HBO’s Bill Maher and actor Matt Damon, have articulated what many in the Democratic Party have felt: that Barack Obama’s balanced, bipartisan approach was seen as kindness by those who loved him, but taken for weakness by those who despised him. Neither was a winning strategy and needed re-engineering.

Cheadle continued, “Many of my friends and family are scratching it out somewhere decidedly south of the ever-widening gap between the haves and have nots: looking at losing their homes, colleges they can’t afford and healthcare they can’t avail themselves of. They’re the ones I’m thinking of when I say gangster.”

The sentiment in the actor’s words translate across racial and socio-economic lines. It reveals a resilient defiance that leadership demands. As President Franklin D. Roosevelt famously said of his Republican opponents, “They are unanimous in their hate for me — and I welcome their hatred!”

Barack Obama’s decision to begin the new year, with a new approach to old school political games, conveys he is in it to win. September’s “American Jobs Act” proposal, which he has traveled across the country selling as an example of his commitment to the average American worker and middle-class families, remains a testament to the kind of policies the nation would enjoy under Obama’s leadership, if not for a GOP hell-bent on destroying him.

The lesson? Come November, Republicans need to be sent packing. There is work to do. My hope is that we keep Obama employed long enough to get the job done.

Edward Wyckoff Williams is an author, columnist, political and economic analyst, and a former investment banker. Follow him on Twitter and on Facebook.