The same dreary political dilemma: Vote for the Feckless Democrats or else the Satanic Republicans will take what’s left of the country. Most of us are damned tired of it. You wanted the job and you seem to want it again. The only way you can hope to rekindle any of the enthusiasm that carried you into office in 2008 is to speak truth to the powerless. That’s what we expected you to do. That’s why we voted for you. Many of us already know the truth anyway; we just don’t know about you. We’re not “independents” whose votes are up for grabs; we’re the people who will never vote for Romney. The issue, as you well know, is whether the tens of millions of us who have always voted will ever vote again.
Despite the good things you’ve done—and there is much to talk about – many who voted for you are through with electoral politics. Sane people can’t stomach the Republican brain poison, but now they can’t listen to you either. We see you making a speech and we switch channels. You’ve lost your authenticity, Mr. President.
When you began appointing people like Larry Summers and Bob Gates and all the other Washington insiders, I argued with my friends, “Well, what’s he going to do, hire Paul Krugman? He’s got to have people who know how the government works. He probably sat down with these guys and said something like, ‘I need you; the country needs you. Here’s my agenda. If you’re not down with it, don’t take the job.’” Anyway, that’s how I imagined it.
I was still with you.
When you fired Howard Dean and we kept getting these lame, internet love letters from the DNC and Obama For America, I argued with my friends, “So, he’s got a new generation of internet-savvy political hacks; maybe this stuff works. Howard Dean? Who knows what really happened?”
I was still with you.
When you upped the troop levels in Afghanistan, I understood the pressure you were under. What did I know about it? We’re caught between the monsters and madmen over there and the monsters and madmen here. You were doing your best.
I was still with you.
But when you failed to speak out against, much less prosecute, the Wall Street gangsters who brought the country down, when you renewed the Bush tax cuts, when you gave torturers a pass and let Bradley Manning rot in an inhuman isolation cell, when you didn’t bother restoring habeas corpus and became a serial civil liberties violator yourself, I ran out of arguments.
You lost me.
Nobody could figure out whether you were in over your head or whether America’s corporate-controlled government is just too sinister a beast for anyone to tame, and the Democratic Party too deep in the tank to climb out. Some said you were surrounded by incompetent, cynical, or hero-worshiping advisers; some speculated that you’ve always navigated white America by compromising, a strategy doomed to fail in our take no prisoners politics. The armchair strategists said you were playing the long game, positioning yourself to show the country that you tried to compromise but the radical right wouldn’t have it. Many argued that it’s impolitic for a black president to get too angry; white folks don’t like angry black men. There were plenty of theories. None of them really explained why you couldn’t explain to the people why and how you were being held back, and who was doing it. All the hair-splitting about what you had promised-go back and look at what he actually said-We don’t buy it. Presidents aren’t supposed to rely on the fine print.
Still, we don’t want to see blood in the streets, good people jailed, and all the rest of it. Many—nobody knows how many–are clinging to that last shred of hope that elections still mean something. But we –and certainly the politics doesn’t matter crowd—have to hear the truth spoken by a politician willing to take a risk to speak it. So while there’s still the slightest chance that you are who we thought you were, take the risk that enough of us may listen to something real, maybe even an apology.
Take the risk that you can tell the truth not only about the Koch brothers, but also about the fatuous, “I’m a social liberal, fiscal conservative, life-long Democrat” crowd, the 1% political paymasters who, no matter how much they have, want more, no matter how destructive their gangster capitalism has been, want it all. Among other things, that means you have to stop crawling across broken glass to get Wall Street’s support. Tell the people, you don’t want it, won’t take it if offered, and will do everything in your power to reign them in—and that if you can’t do it, you’ll tell the country why you haven’t done it
Maybe you’re thinking that you’ll squeeze in, and then show us the Obama we thought we had elected. Forget it. You won’t get a second term, and even if you did, without a Democratic sweep as big as the Republicans had in 2010, you won’t be able to do much with it. The Republicans do as they please; they don’t need a mandate. You do. And as far-fetched as it may seem, maybe you can still get it. But you have to explain to the people who voted for you in 2008 just how far the Republican-Democratic Party and its financial backers are willing to go to take our homes, health care, social security — all of it. You have to tell the people that there are too many in your own party who will go along so long as they can hold onto their own privileges. We know it-We have to hear you say it. And while you’re at it, maybe you ought to tell us why it’s taken you so long.
Your handlers will object. They will show you the demographic break downs, the analyses of the battle ground states, the polling data and focus group results, and all the rest of the marketing apparatus that turns potential political leaders into talking points.
They’ll say you can pick up just enough electoral votes to make it. don’t speak truth to the powerless; it’s too risky. Don’t listen to them. Please.