Barack, Please Listen to Your Base
I am sending the following email to Whitehouse.gov.
Dear Barack Obama, I will try to make this letter relatively brief. I am a part of a large, progressive base who supported you in the 2008 election. In my case, I am a progressive blogger as well as a supporter. It has been 2 years now since your election, and I am still a supporter, but events over these past two years have been both alarming and disappointing. We have been disappointed with the people you have surrounded yourself with from the beginning - Rahm Emmanuel, Tim Geithner, Lawrence Summers, and so forth. We have also been disappointed with your top-down response to our financial crisis, although I suppose that was what was to be expected, considering who you were listening to. Helping out the banks wasn't what should have been the real goal. The real goal should have been to help financially strapped citizens. We were appalled when you won the Nobel Peace Prize, but promptly escalated the United States' military presense in Afghanistan. We stood solidly behind you on health care reform and financial regulation. We are happy that legislation was passed, but very disappointed in the intensely compromised legislation that was passed. I thought you had wanted a public option for health insurance, but found out that you had dealt away any chance of having a public option from the beginning.
I have to wonder, why is it that Democrats compromise with Republicans, but Republicans fail to reciprocate? There is a lack of reciprocity in our current system. The social contract is being broken. Democratic politicians, who represent the majority of people in this nation, give in to the demands of right wing terrorist-like Republicans, time and again! What the hell is going on here? I thought this nation was supposed to be a representative democracy, only to find that we have become a corporate plutocracy run by political right-wingers, regardless of who is in the White House. At least, as an interested observer, that is how it seems from here.
Barack, I know that you were elected against long odds, and inherited a horrible situation. I also know that you were a relatively progressive Senator, and believe that you have the heart of a progressive. Furthermore, I believe that you have the public interest at heart, and lastly, I know that you are a brilliant person of outstanding intellect. I have known from the beginning, that moving forward in any sort of progressive way would not be easy. However, I had hoped that at least you would appear to be listening to those among us who believe in "hope and change." That is why I am writing this letter; I am involved in the progressive community here in the United States, so I know that there are a great many of us. Although I can only speak for myself directly, I believe that the majority of Americans feel much the same as I do.
I live in Moreno Valley, California, and in our state, last week's election turned our pretty well from my perspective. However, nationally, it turned out very poorly. Perhaps California is way ahead of the rest of the nation politically, or perhaps our experience with the political temper tantrum that resulted in Arnold Schwarzeneggar's election as Governor, combined with the obvious wealth influence in Meg Whitman's and Carly Fiorina's campaigns. I believe that a combination of these factors influenced California. I also realize that the influx of corporate money due to the Citizen's United decision made things more difficult for Democrats in this election.
However, in my opinion, last week's political temper tantrum which resulted in the election of so many Republicans nationwide, was not a result of voters being convinced that Republican ideas or ideology is superior to that of Democrats. Rather, it was another political temper tantrum much as occured a few years ago in California, with the only point being to punish Democrats for their perceived failures. It is my belief that had your administration paid even modest attention to the wishes of your base, this election would have turned out much better, and our national attitude and economy would be improving at a faster rate. I know that you showed great courage during your campaign, but I have to wonder what happened to it since your election. I think you have tried to play nice with people who don't like you, and don't want to cooperate with you. Perhaps this has to do with the emphasis of progressives on cooperation, while conservatives emphasize individualism. We want to cooperate, while the other side wants to do whatever it can to get into power, and thus, sabotages their opponents rather than engaging in any form of cooperation.
I think this is a good time for you to contemplate this reality, and get tough on those who are frankly, your political enemies, although I am afraid that instead, you will feel the need to compromise even more with the Republicans. There has already been too much compromise! In my view, your compromising is a big part of the problem. I speak from personal knowledge of the way progressives, and to an extent, most Americans think. When asked about what they want, the large majority of Americans in polls support progressive change. However, when they see it not happening, many of them become frustrated to the point of not participating politically, not voting, or voting for the "other party" which they see as the only other viable option in a political system that makes it difficult for any other parties to compete, and which is badly in need of reform such as public financing, instant runoff voting or proportional representation by party voted for, as other nations implement. Many of my friends, or former friends, on Facebook and the Thom Hartmann Community, have turned against your administration, which is tragic, and has caused me to argue with them and lose their friendship. The same is true of many people I know or hear call in to political talk shows.
I know that midterm elections traditionally don't go well for the party in power, so last week's election is no exception in that regard. I expect the election in 2012 to go much better and anticipate you serving as President for another 4 years. However, this may not happen if you don't start representing your base better. Although many such as I will still support you, you need to win back the support of those who have been disillusioned with politics to the point of discontinuing their support of your administration. Also, although I realize that you already understand this as you mentioned it recently, you need to do a much better job of messaging. Most voters are relatively low information voters, and respond mostly to "sound bite" messages and relatively simple, compelling memes, something I know about as a Social Psychologist. I realize that the so-called mainstream media has gone largely corporate and thus tends to be more sympathetic to corporate interests and conservative messages, making the task of messaging more difficult. However, the world is no longer forced to rely on network news the way it used to. The internet, and local radio shows as well, such as Pacifica Radio here in California, have become hugely important messaging sources. In any case, if your administration makes consistent, daily efforts to make its accomplishments known, the information will be spread. Those who refuse to report it, such as Fox news, will likely only be making themselves appear biased, making themselves look bad. Also, you need to work to counteract the influx of corporate money to the political process. Try to make it known what the effects of the Citizens United decision have been, and try to shine a light on where conservatives' campaign money is coming from.
I wish you good luck, and please know that there is a large, progressive community in the United States, I think the majority of Americans in the larger sense. The more you listen to us, the more we will be solidly behind you.
Yours, M. Robert Warden, Jr.