I just indulged in one of my great passions-- lunch at my local diner. Other than being a little crazy about diners just because well, they are cool and full of great people and inexpensive-- I also love them because you know what you are going to get, and its almost always good. There are a few bad ones out there, sometimes things aren't perfect, but generally, they are pretty damn okay. Which brings me to you-- and your first two years and two months as president.
I knew it wouldn't be roses the whole time. Hell, we were coming out of a mess. Eight years of a president who divided us-- got us into two messy wars that really were not about 9/11 at all or WMD or anything else that really mattered. We needed strong leadership. We needed, wanted, and voted for the Audacity of Hope. We believed you when you said we could-- but, sadly, you haven't. Or at least it feels like you haven't--which is very much the same thing.
Someday, 100 years from now, historians will likely laud you for your many accomplishments. You have done more in your first term than many others. But it just doesn't feel that way. Why? Because you have failed to find your voice as a leader. It matters not what the books will say, or even, in many respects what the facts are. What matters more is that you express yourself and your vision to the American People in a manner that says: you are in charge: we are going somewhere better; and you are going to help us to get there. Even when-- especially when-- the road may be difficult or unpopular.
There will always be people in opposition. Being bi-partisan does not mean agreement 100% or even 80% of the time-- especially when both sides are not equally willing to listen to the facts or to adjust their opinion in the face of evidence contrary to their view. But it certainly requires communicating your view to those who will listen-- who will evolve their ideas when shown a better way. The health care plan is an excellent example of what happens when you loose the message and the minds of the middle. So much good in the plan is misunderstood-- misstated and misrespresented by so many people. It is your place to address this- from day one. Permitting the opponents to control the message is bad for all concerned and it dimishes the value of your efforts-- even when you have the facts on your side.
Why is Ronald Reagan viewed so favorably-- because, in part, of how he made Americans feel. The news conferences and the oval office addresses and the humor-- all of it gave us the impression that he was in command and understood what it took to improve the nation and our lives. No matter what the reality of his policies and politics-- the result of the 1984 Election was proof of what people "felt" about him.
I understand that times have changed. But those 20% of the American people who watch (and believe) Fox, Rush, Glen, and Sarah are NEVER going to vote for you. They didn't vote for you in 2008 and they wont in 2012. However, those of us who did vote for you expected more-- and we expected to feel better about it in the process. That is why you were elected in 2008-- in many ways because you made us feel yours would be a better presidency. However, along the way, something has been lost. Too much political calculation, too much intellect-- not enough reaching out and speaking directly to the 80% of the population who either loves you, likes you, or is at least somewhat willing to listen. This doesn't mean you have to make rash decisions-- or behave like a frat boy a-la GW, but it does mean you need to better message your goals and interests to the American People.
A trip back to the Barry we loved and voted for would involve two major elements: style and content. The first you have the ability to do-- we have seen it before. The nomination speech, the race speech-- both were amazing and connected with people because you took stands and expressed a clear and consice message about issues you cared about it. You spoke with a heart and passion and honesty that rang like a bell in the hearts of so many Americans. Those were challening and honest messages, spoken in a language and style that people identified with. They learned from your words and grew as Americans. That rare ability is who we want to see-- who the country needs. That is the candidate who had people partying in the streets in the New York the night you were elected.
The second element requires you to take principled stands on at least some of the issues that matter to the American People-- and communicating those opinions and policies in a direct, consistent and significant way. No nuance, no hedging-- a frank talk to the people-- drawing a line on a map and putting forth not just a concept of going forward but a specific course. The course of the republicans is by all measure obvious and you have not done your part to counteract it. Your silence on the collective bargaining mess in the midwest, your silence on gay marriage, your silence on your own defict reduction commision-- these and many more examples are not what we expected nor are they what we deserve.
Something or someone has to fill the silence. By failing to provide your voice and leadership, you create a vaccuum that the Glens and Rushs and Sarahs are only too happy to fill. Speaking to these issues and advocating for a progressive or center-left approach would motivate your base and show independents that you are serious about what matters to at least 60% of the country. Those 60% are the ones who elected you. They are opposed to collective bargaining rollbacks, support rights for gay people; and are in favor of common sense gun control (like background checks). They are aching for the person that they elected to communicate with them. Not from the stark corner of the room as a pragmatic and intelligent professor-- but as a progressive, inspiring, and demonstrative LEADER standing center stage. History shows who these leaders were and just how unpopular they may have been at times. But despite the screeches of the opposition and the howls of certain people in the media-- they took a stand and people loved them for it. Further, in the case of Lincoln, FDR, Reagan, and Clinton-- they were also rewarded with second terms and changed the country for the better in the process.
There are no true risks in stepping up to the plate Barry,however there are great risks if you dont. And by the way, Yes Mr. President-- we can and we did-- but can you?
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