I see you’re the first one out of the gate in declaring your candidacy for 2012, Mr. President. I suppose I’m not surprised. You’ve left so many unfulfilled promises on the table during your first term that you must be itching to become a lame duck, which would remove that re-election harness and allow you to run free, right? Well, for whatever it’s worth, and I know it isn’t worth more than one vote, you can’t have mine again. Don’t worry, I’ m not going to throw it away by voting for your Republican rival. That would be worse than voting for you, but I’ve promised myself that voting for the lesser of two evils will no longer be an option for me.
I can’t tell you how very sad I am. You earned my vote in 2008 by making me believe. It had nothing to do with the fact that you would become the first black president ever. Your color was simply an accident of birth, just like mine. No, it was your soaring rhetoric, your debating skills, and all the good things you promised to be and do. It seemed like we finally had a chance to elect a sensitive, empathic, intelligent human being to the highest office in the land and that some very significant changes in our society would become possible. It was a time of great hope, and when you won, it was a time of great jubilation.
I know that not everyone felt that way. There were many people who wanted you to lose. And when you didn’t, a great resistance developed in many quarters and forces were joined to make sure that you would fail as president. And you met those forces with an extended hand and a desire for compromise and bipartisanship. And you held onto your belief that you could work with these forces and do good things for the people. You were wrong. Time and again, you were wrong. But you never let go of your illusions, or perhaps you didn’t have the strength to fight for your real principles – those that you proclaimed in all of your elegant and inspirational speeches. Or maybe, and here I go with my political cynicism, those weren’t your real principles after all.
I hope that isn’t the case, but in the end it doesn’t matter all that much. What matters is that in almost every way imaginable you compromised or backed down. That isn’t the president I thought I helped elect. And that certainly isn’t the president that’s going to improve the lives of the great majority of those who need someone that cares more about them then the powerful interests that will fill his re-election war chest.
It seems to always get down to this dynamic in our country, doesn’t it? Courting those that provide the enormous amount of backing that gives one the ability to gain and hold power trumps all the good things one could do with that power. You’ve become just one more link in a long chain of men who couldn’t risk breaking the umbilical cord – another president willing to serve the few that need no serving at the expense of the great many that do. How does one justify voting for someone like that?
The thing about it is this, Mr. President. We have the money to increase the quality of life for all of our citizens. All this talk about deficits is obfuscation and distraction. If you were to take the billions upon billions that we waste on these absurd wars alone … never mind, sir, you already know this. That’s the saddest part of all, you’re an extremely smart man and there’s no chance you can’t see how completely warped our national priorities are. That you would allow this all to be laid on the backs of teachers and poor people is a testimony to your character, not your intelligence.
Self-interest and self-promotion take a great deal of intelligence and you clearly demonstrated that in the campaign of 2008. But the country simply can’t afford that kind of intelligence anymore. It requires a leader with the ability to see the big picture – to recognize how interrelated everything is and how important it is to have a well educated, healthy citizenry to make a real democracy functional. Above all it takes character – the kind Dr. King made reference to those many long years ago. That’s what appears to be lacking in you Mr. President. Its absence was revealed in your first term. I can see no reason whatsoever to believe you’ve earned a second.
In the final analysis it will be quite difficult to sit on the sidelines as a non-presidential voter in 2012. If many of us do that, quite possibly someone with even less character will replace you. But at some point, to preserve one’s own integrity and character, a line has to be drawn. It’s only one vote out of millions but you still had to earn it. You did not.
The author is a Democrat and a writer living in Santa Barbara.