Thursday, December 17, 2009

President Obama No Longer Seems to Get It, or to Be Listening

From the beginning of his Presidency, unfortunately, President Obama has seemed to lack a clear appreciation for history. And now this lack of historical vision is haunting his bad judgments regarding Health Care Reform legislation. Instead of recognizing that weak middle-of-the-road Democratic politics had already died (twice over) in the elections of 2000 and 2004, he seems to be treating his own election as a rationale for trying to revive and continue the same old dead middle-of-the-road politics that worked so well (!) for President Clinton in the 1990s.

Its time to wake up President Obama. If you continue to try to take this middle-of-the-road path, instead of fighting much more strongly for a truly progressive agenda on health care reform and other social policies, you will be leading us all to the same kind of Democratic legislative defeat Clinton faced in 1994, and to your own single-term Presidency, which would be terribly unfortunate for all of us, for the entire country, and the world.

This middle-of-the-road wishy-washy Democratic politics (which your admin continually defends as realistic and pragmatic) is leaving progressive Democrats--who were your strongest advocates, and who have been the ones fighting most vociferously for health care reform--completely stranded. We are losing the hope you once inspired, when we see this continual process of compromise that gives up more and more of what we thought we elected you to fight for.

And most importantly for the future, and for your lack of a historical sense, you now seem to be conceding the entire energy of grassroots activist politics to the Tea Party types on the right who have been more successful at getting people into the streets than any of this middle-roader politics of continual compromise, which now seems to have yielded a health care reform bill that is so watered down it will force those of us who fought for you to buy the very private health insurance we have so vociferously opposed, without any assurance that prices will be controlled, and without any true option to choose a public alternative.

Those of us who believe that only public health insurance can be democratically accountable, and that any health reform that does not include a public option is a fundamental betrayal of our right to choose, cannot feel anything but betrayal and loss of hope as we recognize that not only are you unwilling to fight for the public option, but you are also now actively encouraging the Senate to pass a Bill that does very few of the things we have been fighting for! We feel like we are being again being sold a bill of false goods, and if this Bill goes through, we will not be inclined to think it is a success-- it will be an even darker defeat than any direct defeat of a stronger progressive bill could have been. If you had fought for a strongly progressive bill, and lost the first battle, this loss would only have inspired us to come right back with all the more strength and struggle.... But any win with this current bill will merely feel like an utter betrayal and utterly pyrrhic victory.

You seem to think passing any bill will be better than passing no bill at this time, but that is not true. Passing a bad bill will be worse than passing no bill because it will demobilize and betray all the people who fought so passionately for your election. You will lose not only those who fought for health care reform, but you will lose your whole progressive base, which you need in order to accomplish anything else of significance during your Presidency, not to mention a second term. Lose us now, and you will be condemning the rest of your administration to lame-duck status, all because you seem to have lost touch with the need to lead the fight for a truly progressive agenda....

Perhaps you've already grown tired of the burdens of the war, and of having to constantly balance war spending against the defeat of all your real hopes for helping the citizens of this country to rebuild it. If this is the case, it would certainly be understandable. But this would also be deeply regrettable. We elected you to be strong and passionate and persistent in the cause of fighting for a true progressive agenda to help us repair a country gutted of its spirit and wealth by 8 years of the Bush administration. No middle-roader politics can do this work of repair...

If you will not fight for us in a strong and progressive way, then you will lose all of those who stood behind you, & who are needed to carry forward any significant work of your administration in the years ahead. But if, after all, you are satisfied with simply having been elected President for 4 years so that you can retire in 2013 after having served your single term as a middle-of-the-road President--well then, I guess that's what you will have. Unfortunately, this will be a terrible blow to all in this country who hoped that a community organizer as President would have more of a will to fight and a fire in his belly to fight for US, the everyday people of this country, than you seem to be showing.

We're sad, disheartened, and losing hope. You seem, after all, to have become merely another wealthy man's President who feels he has done his job well if the stock market is doing well, and you can spend each day worrying about what kind of compromises you need to make in order to stay in the running for your next election. But we who voted for you the first time can assure you that this approach to your Presidency will not win you a second term.

This calculating, compromising approach will surely lose you a second term, and may quickly convert the rest of your remaining term into a lame-duck's nightmare. You'll have inherited the management of a miserable war in order to preside over a further dismantling and demoralization of the progressive and middle classes of the country.

So we can only hope and pray that you will listen to us deeply, and Please, please, please reconsider your strategy, and become the fighter for REAL Reform we thought we had voted for. Our country cannot endure a return to Republican rule, but this middle-of-the-road politics is leading exactly to that result....

We hope you are still listening, and we hope you will become the President we thought we voted for-- a progressive fighter, with the fire and passion of a strong community organizer, a lion for change, rather than another Bill Clinton, even at his best.

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