I watched you last night on the first debate for the campaign of 2012. I am a big fan. I was so happy when you were elected almost four years ago. You know why we all voted for you. That optimism and hope thing was more than alluring, it seemed real and genuine to all of us. We wanted someone who would use happiness, intelligence, hope, and wit to fight the old style people who are all about protecting those with money and those who want money. You were the one. Do you understand that? You were the one.
Now, it’s clear you got dealt a crappy hand inheriting the biggest economic mess since the great depression. We know that this wasn’t your fault. We also know that you didn’t start a war in Afghanistan then jump over to start another one in Iraq and bungle both of them like a five-year-old tangled up in his underwear and confused by his own poop. That was the Republicans. They are a sorry, sorry lot.
We also have watched them lie, cheat, and steal over the past four years all in the name of doing whatever they can to defeat you this year. Most everyone voting for them this year knows good and well what that story is about.
We also know that things here in the second decade of the New American Century are very complicated. There are way too many of us in the 99% group who have a hard time. It’s no one’s fault and it’s everybody’s fault. Pretty much all of us want to do better for the world and for our families, but life in a country this size and with so much stuff everywhere (have you noticed that?) is not easy. Lots of us are getting old and that means medical attention like never before. And pretty much no one likes their job. Drinking, smoking, and watching TV (especially sports and reality contests) is how we all get by.
So I can understand you taking the high road last night. I’ve got close friends who are political consultants and less close friends who have run for elected office. I know how trying to be part of the status quo can make you think.
The thing is, I would imagine you’re pretty frustrated about now. I’d imagine you watched the Occupy Movement last fall and understood their demand for participatory democracy and their anger about how government (the people’s government) is teamed up with Big Money, and that democracy has taken a back seat to free market economics and the power system.
I’m sure, like me, you were puzzled that the Occupiers didn’t make specific demands and stand for a list of change items that they could hang their hats on. It took me a while to get it. I just watched this YouTube video called “History of an Occupation.” Now I get it. They were (and are) so out in front the media and those of us who call ourselves planners and thinkers couldn’t understand. They couldn’t make concrete demands because they were operating on their own terms. Those terms meant people of authority (and their enforcers) were illusions. How can you be real in a democracy (the people’s government) when you don’t have the authority of the people backing you? I shake my head. Few of us who had a hard time understanding what the Occupiers were all about actually wanted to see them defeated. They stood for the 99%. That was very important. We all knew that.
But lets go back to the debate. You were very regal. But you were kind of wifty. You forgot to mention that your health care work is predicated on the fact that about 45 million (or more) people don’t have insurance. Also, that health care costs are a ticking time bomb in every family in the country.
You also didn’t pound your fist and tell your opponent (and Jim Lehrer) that it has never been about government vs. the private sector. It has always been about government and the private sector working together. Everyone knows that, especially all the contractors who make money off of public contracts — from roads and bridges to submarines and energy research. I heard you say good things about small business. But I didn’t see you speak the truth about life in the real world. The private sector always needs help. So does government. The two work hand-in-hand doing the people’s business. The data is there to prove that…(I know you’ve seen it).
There’s also the matter of budgeting and planning. Republicans don’t like planning. Planning means you have to take reality into account and make moral decisions. Even you, Mr. President, seem to have forgotten the basic family strategy of budgeting. It’s not about looking at your revenues and cutting the cloth to fit the suit. It’s about tallying up all the things that matter to us as a society (sitting around the kitchen table) and then figuring out how to pay for them. You’re saying that when you talk about raising taxes for the rich, but it’s not getting through.
Maybe your opponent is right. Maybe more should be done by the states for themselves. But the discussion about the states never accounts for the states committing to more taxes to pay for things and the states being more equitable. We need better senior care, support for families with disabled kids, more teachers (lots more teachers), and a more balanced set of transportation options. The states can do that. But the debate needs to change. They need to develop the required revenue. I have no problem paying more in taxes here in Pennsylvania, especially if my federal taxes drop, but I can’t stand the fact that my governor here has increased spending on prisons and decreased it for schools. Someone needs to take that idiot (or bully) out to the woodshed.
I’d continue here, but I’m sure I’ve already made you feel bad. I don’t want you to feel bad. But I do want you to get back on the right horse. My suggestion is for you to open your mind up again, like that bright eyed young candidate we all fell in love with four years ago. Start by watching the “History of an Occupation” video. Think about the idea of democracy and how it’s been trampled on for three decades by the Republican Party. Think about the idea of the people as the ones who legitimate authority. We gave you authority because you offered change, hope, and leadership. I know you still believe in that stuff. I know it’s hard to feel comfortable on that kind of horse after all you’ve been through. But I also know that your daughters will be raising children of their own in about 20 years. A world where they feel like there’s still a chance is a good thing.
Remember, Mr. President, a lot of us still love you. We also know that what you’re up against is damn hard. But we don’t want you to run from the truth. There is class warfare going on. It’s going to get much more obvious very soon (especially if you don’t get re-elected). This election is just like the last one. It’s not about you — even though they’re trying really hard to make it that way. It’s about us. All of us. Every last damned fool American exhaling carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, flushing our toilets, driving our cars, waiting in the doctor’s office, and going shopping.
You’ve got two debates to go. Your opponent is saying your administration is a failure. He wants to take us back to a system that’s proven unworkable — lower taxes; cut spending; let businesses solve problems; more drilling; more coal; less spending on the 47% who don’t need him.
What are you waiting for? We’re all madder than hell. We want you to be that way, too. We’re still hopeful though, too. We believe in change. Hell, change is all we’ve got. The system isn’t working. What have you got to lose? If you go through two more debates like last night’s and don’t beat this sucker, you are going to go out with a lousy taste in your mouth — like kerosene, stale potato chips, and rotting broccoli all churned up in a blender and then poured down your nostrils. That’s the way a lot of us will feel. I don’t want that. Yuck! I want you to remind us of who we are one more time. I want you to tell it like it is.
We all love the idea of speaking truth to power. That’s what this country has been built on from the beginning. But sometimes it’s important for power to speak truth to those trying to take it away from them. This is one of those times. I’ve spoken for a lot of folks here…at least I think I have. But this one last request is just me. Please, Mr. President, you have my permission: fill your heart with love and peace, and then go out there and kick some ass. We’re all depending on you. Make your mother proud. Make your daughters proud. Make me proud.