An Open Letter to Barack Obama
I’m 26 years old and I never voted for anyone in an election for anything until this past November. I don’t think politicians can be trusted. I don’t think they care about my interests. I don’t believe them when they say they’re looking out for the little guy — on the odd occasion these days when they even bother to say it. Politics in America is corrupted and perverted, and power has been pulled from the many into the hands of the privileged few. I’m not a Republican or a Democrat, my beliefs don’t fit into either category of liberal and conservative; I just believe in what I think is right. I don’t think I’m all that different from most people in that respect. Whatever we believe, most of us just want to do what we feel is right, and we think it’d be nice if a few of our leaders wanted the same thing. I’ve abandoned any belief that politics as it exists today can do anything good for the people. That’s why I’d like it very much if you were for real.
You seem like a smart guy, but more importantly like a genuine guy. When you laugh at something, it looks like you actually think it’s funny, and you’re not just being patronizing. You’re a good sport; when you participate in something like that video open for Monday Night Football a few months back, you seem to legitimately be enjoying yourself and not just doing it because one of your college student interns told you it would be “cool.” When you talk extemporaneously to people, I get the impression you’re actually listening to the people and responding to what they are saying, rather than looking for holes to plug with pieces of a stump speech. And when you do give a prepared speech, it at least seems as though you’ve read it prior to the occasion and have some conviction about what you’re saying.
For the men and women who have already thrown you their support, all this goes without saying. It’s not my wish to be a kiss-ass here and tell you what a wonderful man you are and how I can’t wait to vote for you. I think all that I just wrote about you is true. I’d like it to remain true is the thing. If you want to stand any realistic chance of winning this election in 2008, if you want people like me who regard politics with nothing but cynicism and snide derision to even consider casting a vote for you, a candidate from one of the two political parties which have co-opted and corrupted and ruined our democracy, it must remain true. You cannot morph into the bland, homogenized Democratic Candidate and expect to change anything. You have to be you.
People will want to work for you, people with experience in these kinds of things. Stylists and writers and assistants and spin doctors. They’ll tell you how to dress, what to say and where to say it, who to say it to. They’ll tell you what questions to answer and what questions to dodge. They’ll tell you that you don’t have much experience in national politics, and if you do what they tell you, you might have a shot at beating the odds and shocking the world with an historic victory. For God’s sake, don’t hire these people. Don’t listen to them. Don’t surround yourself with them — don’t have even one of them on your payroll.
Dress how you want to dress, say what you want to say, to whoever you damn well want to say it to. Answer every question. Answer every question. If it’s a yes-or-no question, say “yes” or “no.” Don’t dance around, don’t evade — plant your feet, say what you mean and don’t back off.
You’ve backed off some already, and it worries me. I’m worried you might be lending those spin doctors your ear already, and your campaign has barely gotten started. I wanted to shake your hand for your “if he’s ginned up to fight the good fight” remark in response to Australian Prime Minister John Howard’s criticism. Then you apologized and tried to “clarify” your statement that 3,000 American lives have been wasted in Iraq, and I wanted to crack you in the skull. You suggested that the troops killed in Iraq have died in vain. You’re right — they have died in vain. It takes nothing away from the bravery or the valor of those men and women who have served honorably in Iraq to point that out. Everything I’ve seen and read tells me that the service of the troops overall has been exemplary, and those troops have been wasted and exploited since the conflict in Iraq began. There’s no need to be diplomatic when pointing that out. Say it. Don’t apologize. Don’t retreat, don’t recant. You are on the side of righteousness with this one, so stand the hell up.
And don’t let anyone try this “Obama is too inexperienced” bullshit, either. One of the problems with the way this country is run is the fact that only old men who’ve been in the Senate or the House for twenty years ever run for President. The fact that you haven’t spent your life in Washington is not a weakness, it is an asset. I know you’ve already said this, and that part of your message is that you’re an outsider who wants to change the way Washington does business, but don’t let anyone talk you into de-emphasizing it as you get further down the road. Underline it. Highlight it. Point to your colleagues in the Senate and the House, to the President and the Vice President, and say “I am not like these guys. I can do better by you than this.”
For God’s sake, don’t give in to the political pressures that I’m sure are squeezing you from all sides as I write this. Don’t sell your soul thinking that’ll get you elected. Don’t let what happened to John McCain happen to you. Speak your mind. Follow your heart and your conscience, and remember that your first duty is to the people of the United States — the common, ordinary people who get up every morning and go to work to afford food and a place for them and their kids to sleep — the people who have had their democracy stolen from them by your colleagues in Congress and their rich and powerful friends.
You show me you’re an honest, thoughtful, compassionate man, a man of true integrity, and then ask me if I give a shit about your position on stem cell research or abortion or immigration. Everyone says that voters care about issues, but that’s not true. Voters want leaders they can be proud of and can trust. There aren’t any in Washington that I know of. There certainly haven’t been any in the White House, not in my lifetime. I hope you turn out to be the guy who changes that. If you do what you know is right, if you exchange politics for humanity, you might be that guy. If not, you’ll wind up just another politician out there hustling me for my money and my vote, and even if you manage to win, it won’t mean a goddamn thing.
Yours in Christ,