Friday, February 15, 2008

Letters to the (Probable) President

from a current longtime supporter as told through the L.A. Times

I'm enclosing my third donation to your campaign because I believe strongly in your candidacy. But please, before you cash my check, consider my concerns:

I'm a University of Chicago graduate student, and I was your constituent when you were a state senator and when you became a U.S. senator. I know your strengths as a genuine progressive with a vision rooted in social justice movements and a trenchant critique of our political system. But I've lived in Southern California for the last few years, and as you saw on Feb. 5, a lot of people in California and around the country are unable to see in you what your current constituents do. Please stand up and distinguish yourself!

I hear smart, progressive, well-educated, politically engaged people out here saying - over and over - that you and Sen. Hillary Clinton are essentially the same. Even while giving you an enthusiastic endorsement, the Los Angeles Times recently stated that the two Democratic front-runners are "a hairsbreadth apart" on policy. I believe you are close on major policy issues but far apart on fundamental principles: executive power, financial transparency and ethics, philosophy of foreign diplomacy, commitment to reforming racist aspects of the criminal justice system, commitment to the 1st Amendment and a perspective that comes from community organizing rather than from corporate power and insider politics. My friends tell me, "You must know that from living in Chicago, because I'm not hearing that in the debates or in the campaign speeches."

Second, these smart progressive people are getting really cynical about the rhetoric of "hope" and "uniting people" when it's not backed up by substance. And there I have to sympathize with them. Hope is an empty diversion without substantive, original arguments on issues. When will you discuss rebuilding New Orleans? Can you offer creative thinking on the Iraq war as it currently exists, instead of just reminding people you opposed it years ago? Why don't you demonstrate a respectful, nuanced view of the Middle East instead of referring to the "the terrorists," as you did in a recent debate? How do you envision the United States' role in Africa's many dire problems and conflicts? How do you plan to fix our decrepit infrastructure and invigorate the economy in just and environmentally responsible ways? Will you argue for the value of a well-regulated, domestically produced food supply, favoring produce over commodity crops, for our safety and environmental health? What are your positions on international trade agreements? Do you have creative ideas for generating more affordable housing in our cities? And how will you handle the responsibilities of the presidency when you can't unite and persuade, as will inevitably happen sometimes?

When I express my support for your candidacy, people ask me these questions, and I can't answer them on your behalf. When I can't answer, I wonder if I too should be more skeptical of your visionary-but-vague rhetoric.

It's too late for me to sway any more California voters than I already did (and I swayed plenty to vote for you). But it's not too late for you to stand up and do it yourself in the primaries still to come. Please - we need you, yes, but we also need to know why to need you.

With continued commitment to you and your candidacy for president,

Sarah M. Miller

and one from a "young, hip, cynical former Obamaniac" (who sounds a little like me...if I had ever been sucked into The Hope that is)

Dear Barack:

I know it's kind of lame to break up with you on Valentine's Day. And on the Internet to boot. But it's also kind of ironic. And that's what I need to tell you. As an ironic, contrarian, so-hip-it-hurts Gen X-er, I just can't love you anymore. I can't like you because … because, well, everyone else does. And suddenly supporting you just seems soooo last week.

Last week, my hip friends were all thronging stadiums and manning phone banks for you. Now they're all blogging against you and downing water and Tylenol like they've just done 12 Obama shooters in 20 minutes and then barfed in the cloakroom.

I know this is going to sound strange, but it's not you, Barack, it's me. Really it always was me, but now it's really, really about me. I don't know when we started to feel weird supporting you, but: My friend Hanna thinks it started with that "Yes We Can," video. I mean, last week I was totally crying watching it. Now just thinking about how choked up I got gives me the creeps. I think I felt something at the time, but even if I did, I'm pretty sure I don't want to feel it anymore. Feeling inspired is soooo early-February.

Or maybe it started when everyone began madly posting last week about how you are not the Messiah. And that got me thinking. Then, when commentators started accusing me of being a venomous drone in a "cult of personality," I just needed to get out. I mean cults are soooo 1970s. And cults of personality? So totally first century.

Cult or no cult, this week I just started getting really confused about you. I mean, when people start to say that your strengths are actually weaknesses? That just makes sense, if you really think about it. I mean, what's the point of being such an inspirational speaker if all you can do is give inspirational speeches? Do better, Barack. I mean, do worse!

So I've been thinking a lot about our time together, Barack. Supporting you wholeheartedly was the best damn 14 days of my life. I liked you before liking you was cool. But now it is, so it's not. Know what I mean? At least now I can go back to being flip and cynical and edgy again. I bet you wish you could, too.

But don't be sad! My friend has a Web site: It's not much of a site, but it sure is funny. As for me, well, I just can't be comfortable liking you now that liking you is like liking an iPhone. Maybe if you can be more of a jerk or play hard to get or something? Maybe you could uninspire some of your fans? Maybe then I could believe in you again. I'm hopeful. Or at least just hopeful enough to still be cool.

Me, I'm going to roll up my sleeves and start working for the Dennis Kucinich 2012 campaign. Edgy, no? And if things start really truly going south for you, I want you to know that you can count on my future fleeting and conditional support in the months and years ahead. Yes, you can.

and finally one from the Media
Dear Barack,
We wuuuuuuv you!

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