Thursday, September 30, 2010

Day 273- Keeping Fear Alive

Dear Mr. President,

You seemed to endorse the Rally To Restore Sanity in an interview the other day. I think that's probably a wise decision on your part, since the rational, calm and willing to disagree without outrage are probably your most loyal constituents. While conventional wisdom continues to spell certain doom for Democrats this fall, I think that the quieter voices of those who would rather not shout or hang tea-bags from their hats or paint hitler mustaches on their opponents are yet to be heard. I understand, however, that it is actually in your interest to keep the fear alive, so to speak. Lowering expectations frightens supporters to the polls on election day, scares money out of donors and time from volunteers. Doing and changing and acting and governing with conviction might also accomplish the desired result, but that is, to be fair, a much more challenging thing to do.

I heard Robert Gibbs insisting that the things you have accomplished are more surprising than the things you haven't accomplished. I understand that Mr. Gibbs is paid to try to make reality sound more favorable, but I think your administration's strategy of insisting you've kept your promises is not going to work. For one thing, the level of discontentment among voters would not exist if their daily lives had measurably improved over the last two years. I think that they will improve, and that your policies have often looked to favor the long-term benefits over instant gratification, but I don't think that is a message you or Mr. Gibbs will be able to sell to an increasingly desperate middle class.

Honestly, Mr. President, when you spoke, I used to listen. What you were saying and the way you were saying it, used to inspire me as few people ever had. When I heard you speak, I heard a leader. These days, you sound like a politician. And it isn't style that bothers me; I don't think that your political problems can be solved by changing the tone of your voice. It's substance. You can't rely on the same soaring rhetoric when trying to justify the underwhelming and often mundane changes you're making. And while I'm not suggesting that every speech you give ought to lend itself to a youtube music video I think the reason people are so disappointed is that there isn't much glory in bickering with right-wing democrats to wrangle watered-down legislation through inane congressional procedures.

I think you can be a better President than you have demonstrated, and I think Democrats can lead the country better than they have so far. I hope you find your voice again soon. What brought liberal voters out in record numbers in 2008 wasn't fear of losing to John McCain. It was the faith you gave us that we didn't have to be afraid all of the time, that our collective efforts and our collective courage could change our country. That we could make it safer, as we made it freer. That we could make it fairer as we made it more reflective of our values. That we could would wake up one day and believe, again, in the promise it held for all of us, no matter who we are. And those aren't promises you can make to the voters, this time around. You can say we're not finished yet, you can scare us with what Republican control will do to the little progress we have made, but you can't rely on fear alone. Stop lowering expectations and putting off controversial votes and trying to win the middle by turning on the left. Start showing people that you're not afraid of an ugly fight in the fall, that Democrats will stand up for our values and talk to us like we're adults. Empower your supporters instead of just scaring them. And watch that Yes We Can music video, one more time. I feel like I'm staring at a fresh glass of Hope Koolaid, just waiting for you to give me a reason to start drinking it again.

Respectfully yours,



  1. Very well said! Keep up the great work, Kelsey!!! - Rob C.

  2. I suppose most would say that I fall on the ‘extreme-liberal-progressive’ side of the aisle so my disappointments over the past two years have been profound. I absolutely agree that what Mr. Obama needs is to find his voice again and to energize the progressive-liberal base. An excellent start would be to stop pretending like liberals are super excited about his legislative accomplishments thus far- because we simply are not. Republicans have always excelled at drumming up a froth-mouthed crowed of zombie-like followers by pandering to their base about tax cuts and limited government. What I want from Mr. Obama is a clear set of progressive liberal values and for him to put his foot down and say this is the line- we will fall back this far, but no farther. As demonstrated in the healthcare debacle that line isn’t clear- and without a firm stand on his values he will continue to bleed political capital until the bitter end in 2012. -ARLEN-

  3. Thanks, Rob! I hope you are doing well, I miss you tons!

    Arlen, I completely agree about drawing a line. I think the Republicans strategy- to FREAK OUT at anything the Obama Administration tries to accomplish as "socialism" isn't a tactic that can best dealt with by trying to reason with them, which is what I think the President is doing. I admire that he thinks they're reasonable people who respond to compromise, but I just don't think they've proven this to be even close to the truth.