Dear Mr. President,
I understand why people are upset over recent revelations about Lou Dobbs' shameless hypocrisy. I think that the real shame of the matter is not that undocumented workers were hired by Dobbs' contractors, but that this man who claims to represent the everyday populism of the working class owns horses and an estate large enough to require that many workers for upkeep. The right is notoriously good at pretending to be representative of so-called average America, while hailing from backgrounds of unfathomable wealth and privilege. And while Democrats are often equally wealthy, it seems like they're also more likely to be criticized as "elitist" while they work for policies that are more beneficial to the poor and middle class. I suppose both sides are hypocritical to varying degrees. A system like ours that requires a certain amount of wealth (and, let's face it, a certain shamelessness about asking for money from the rich) while the public increasingly requires our officials to be of the people they represent is basically a recipe for lies and hypocrisy.
Electing those with similar experiences and life history to our own may feel good, but it doesn't guarantee true representation of our interests. The fact that really any poor people vote Republican proves that we often don't vote in our own best interests, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't be responsible for governing ourselves. It's our right to vote for candidates we like instead of candidates who will promote policies that are the most beneficial to us; it makes our whole screwed up system kind of beautiful, actually. The problem Democrats have is that, for too long, they have allowed the right to set the terms of the discussion- to make it about faux populism and personality, to force themselves to drink whiskey shots and talk about guns in Pennsylvania (I'm lookin' at you, Hillary) or stage back-yard photo ops to counter the damning perception that a candidate might like arugula. The conversation needs to be changed. Instead of focusing on how of the people they are, Democrats should be doing a better job showing how for the people they are. I'm a liberal because I believe in liberal ideas and I think liberal policies are the best for our society- not because liberals look, act, or live like the same way I do. Instead of wasting time trying to convince me how similar we are, personally, I'd rather hear what a politician honestly believes and what they honestly plan to do in office. Actual straight talk- not the affected, folksy patronizing McCain variety- requires a frankness that has nothing to do with using too many big words or how much a person's haircut costs.
A politician who speaks honestly and bravely will do more good and, I would imagine, ultimately feel better about their campaign, win or lose on election day. I suspect that it will also, ultimately, make them more likable. I still believe that this is the fundamental change that people hoped for when they voted for you in 2008, regardless of their personal ideology. All politicians, all political pundits, even those of us tiny people out here in the blogosphere who just comment on things in quiet anonymity, all of us are Lou Dobbs. We're hypocrites who can never hope to live up to the grandiose ambitions of our best selves. Accepting our own hypocrisy and refusing to run from it or hide behind a more forgivingly crafted identity is the only way we can move forward, the only way we can elect representatives who will actually work in the best interest of all Americans.
PS this is the second time I've defended Lou Dobbs and I really don't feel great about that.