Mr. President, welcome to Charlotte, the banking city that's been so consumed by your nominating convention, we seem to have lost our minds. This open letter, though, isn't about us. It's about your first term in office and your relationship with, for lack of a better term, your base.
As a longtime progressive, I am supposedly part of that base, the hordes of liberals who enthusiastically supported your 2008 campaign by giving money, making calls, canvassing, putting up yard signs, driving voters to the polls and so forth. I can't speak for the base, of course, but as someone who did all those things in 2008, I have to tell you that I won't be doing any of them this time around. Even though I was never one of the true believers who thought you could practically walk on water, your term has been one of this former supporter's deepest political disappointments. And for good reason.
Remember Guantanamo? You were going to close it down pronto. That didn't happen. The Bush administration's notorious secrecy? Yours is no different and is probably worse. Now, on top of keeping us in the Afghan hellhole, you claim the right to kill Americans via drones in foreign lands, without even the benefit of a trial. And what's with your endless, futile attempts to reach a consensus with Republicans in Congress? Get a clue, Mr. President. Is it really possible that you're the only person on Earth who sees that the new, far-right version of the GOP will never go along with your yen for bipartisanship?
Remember your days organizing the desperately poor in Chicago and the realization that in order to make real changes, you'd need to first gain political power? What happened? You've spent plenty of energy making things easier for the investment bankers who nearly brought down the world economy but help the poor? Not so much. It seems that the time you spent gearing up for a White House run by endearing yourself to power brokers and big shots turned your head from those who most needed you. It's as if the more you enjoyed becoming part of the national elite, the quicker your dedication to the unfortunate faded. No sooner had you been elected than your priorities switched to not stepping on the toes of the moneybags who screwed the country that you ostensibly lead.
You say you're not interested in "re-litigating the past." As a result, America's worst financial villains are free to start their sleazebag trickery all over again — and as the J.P. Morgan fiasco shows, they're already at it. A line from a recent Bruce Springsteen song, "Death To My Hometown," says it best: "The greedy thieves that came around / And ate the flesh of everything they found / Whose crimes have gone unpunished now / Walk the streets as free men now. / They brought death to our hometown, boys."
Your most dedicated 2008 supporters have been disappointed with you for myriad reasons. Letting the irresponsible jerks that wrecked the economy walk the streets as free men is my main one.
Not that you haven't done some good things. The Affordable Care Act is overly complex and a sop to insurance companies, but the immediate creation of state insurance pools for people with pre-existing conditions has already saved lives. Your position on gays in the military and your stated support for same-sex marriage gave a big boost to LGBT causes, moved the culture in the right direction, and probably helped your re-election chances. Same thing with your support of women's autonomy over their bodies.
The nasty irony here is that despite disenchanting your liberal supporters, you drove many conservatives off the rails. You're not American, they say; you don't understand the U.S.; you're out to humiliate America as revenge for western colonialism; you're setting up death panels. And, of course, despite your centrist-to-a-fault policies, you're a socialist dictator. It's been disconcerting, albeit entertaining, to watch the GOP being taken over by people with views that not long ago were considered right-wing extremism.
Those far-right zealots — the people that the normally mild-mannered Garrison Keillor calls the "ignorant fascist bastards" — will be voting for Mitt Romney in November. If he's elected, Romney will owe them a heavy political debt. Just the thought of the neo-cons and tea partiers, the "drill, baby, drill" crowd and the religious fundamentalists once again telling the White House what to do is horrifying.
So here we are in 21st century corporate America, with very limited choices. Despite everything, Mr. President, at least you're not one of the GOP's virulent new brand of nihilists. And that's why although it will primarily be a vote against Romney and the berserk right wing, I'll be pulling the lever for you a couple of months from now. I'd love to say, "Good job," but no.
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