What Progressives Expect from Obama
Dear President Obama,
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Dear President Obama,
You would have lost the election but for your progressive base. For the second time in a row, we saved you. You gained traction in the long campaign only when you changed your tone to appeal to progressives.
The first time you secured a large electoral victory, you wasted it by turning against your own base, acting as if you'd never need us again. We came to your help a second time because we realized the much greater threat from Mitt Romney who would have set the clock back more than would have been tolerable.
Now that we--minorities, immigrants, Latinos, gays, women, the educated, the young, the unionized--have handed you this second big victory in a row, what will you do with it?
Will you squander it like the last time?
We don't need big promises you can't deliver on, but we don't want you to compromise on fundamental liberal values. We don't want you to tamp down the reawakened liberal spirit for the second cycle in a row. You crushed our spirits during the first three years of your presidency, and only the specter of the imminent victory of the far right mobilized the electorate you'd put into dormancy for much of your presidency.
Alas, your victory speech was a terrible start, anticlimactic after weeks of expectation.
The same militarism, jingoism, paeans to American exceptionalism, calls to duty and communitarianism and obligation. Where is the joy and optimism? Where is the vision? You repeat phrases like economic inequality and immigration reform and it sounds hollow, like you're reading words without any real feeling.
As in your convention speech, you were dour and weighed down, surrounding yourself in a cloud of rhetoric, bending over backwards to praise the very forces of extremism whom we've just voted against in such a clear manner. George Romney? Did you have to thank him too?
It's okay if you don't accomplish much in the way of policy change. Your second term is an opportunity--a second opportunity--for you to reset the tone. Start changing the terms of discourse, get away from your lofty rhetoric and descend to the level of real people, set forth a vision for a more humane and compassionate America. That's all we ask of you.
You chose to remain free of substance during your entire campaign--the victory speech being no exception. You're focused on cutting a grand bargain with the Republicans on deficit reduction. And then if that goes through, putting forth an immigration reform plan. At least that's what you've said.
Instead of cutting secretive bargains with a reactionary opposition party, how about bringing into political discourse the ideas that excite your electorate?
Here are some thoughts.
The canard is that we live in a center-right country. Yet the conservatives seem to have settled at an electoral vote ceiling well under 300, and falling. Colorado, Virginia, and Florida are becoming blue states, with North Carolina, Arizona, and others likely to follow soon. The new demographics should translate into a policy agenda going beyond tired old battles and wasteful populist rhetoric, otherwise voting and elections become meaningless.
We don't expect miracles, and we don't expect you to sacrifice yourself and your party on the altar of false expectations, especially when you'll continue to be hemmed in by a relentlessly hostile opposition party. Yet returning the traces of liberal discourse to a country that has moved unimaginably to the right--so that contraception is on the line again, and torture has become a forgotten subject--is the most important thing you can do to pay back the people who elected you.
With deep sincerity,
Your New Electoral Majority
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