Progressive Food for Thought.
Welcome. Are my positions novel? No; they represent basic progressive thought, expressed (at least for the longer pieces) in a fairly formal way. They are the editorials that should be in the mainstream press, but seldom are. They are something to show your aunt, to counter what your right-wing uncle says.
I won't be delivering frequent updates, stream-of-consciousness, or witty denunciations. (Others currently do that very well).
Congressman Ron Barber, "Congress on Your Corner" open meeting with constituents, June 23, 2012.
Sometimes a broad problem is best understood through a look
at specific examples. So I begin by asking: Who is Congressman Ron Barber, and how
does he exemplify — indeed, what is — this more general problem of vital
importance to the future of both the Democratic Party and the entire United
Well, to answer the first part of the question, Ron Barber
is the Democrat first elected in June 2012 in Arizona Congressional District 8
to fill the vacancy produced by Gabrielle Giffords’ resignation. He was then
reelected in the November general election to a full term representing the new
Congressional District 2 created by Arizona Congressional redistricting.
The answer to the rest of the question is of necessity much
longer, taking up the remainder of this piece but getting to the heart of
contemporary American political dysfunction.
I live within both the old and new aforementioned districts,
and thus have a more than passing interest in the positions taken by the
politicians ostensibly representing them. There are many indications that Mr. Barber
has the intelligence and basic human decency desirable in a public official. With
his white hair, small beard, and cane, he also bears a bit of a resemblance to “Colonel”
Harland Sanders, of Kentucky Fried Chicken fame, hence “The Chicken Man” nickname
light-heartedly applied to him by others. Unfortunately, the relevance of that moniker
extends beyond its intended allusion to an iconic purveyor of poultry, for what
Congressman Barber does have cannot mask what he appears to lack: cojones, and a commitment to rational
political stands even in the face of the right-wing opposition that is to be
expected in early twenty-first century America. (And the Newtown murders
notwithstanding, the “rational political stands” and “right-wing opposition” to
which I refer are broad-based; this piece is not a polemic on the subject of gun
I have no quarrel with many of Congressman Barber’s votes,
but some others have been so objectionable that I have been obliged to
reexamine my opinion of both the man and the Democratic Party. On June 19,
2012, the very day he was sworn in as congressman, Mr. Barber would cast a vote
in favor of H.R. 2578, a 14-section
collection of anti-environmental legislation, one of the components of which
included the gutting of, in the name of “security”, virtually all environmental regulations within one hundred miles of the entire U.S. land border.
One month later, July 19, 2012, he would vote against a defense appropriations amendment that sought to freeze
fiscal 2013 core military spending at 2012 levels, this assuming that
sequestration did not occur. (That proposed freeze had been denounced by some as
a cut because it reduced by just over $1 billion the 2013 levels previously
approved by the House Armed Services Committee, though not the entire House.
However labeled, the $1 billion at issue was neither the 89% cut in defense spending that occurred post-WWII, 1948 vs. 1945, which did
not cause the sky to fall, nor even the 10-15%pruning and redirection urged last year by
a group that included retired U.S. military officers; rather, it amounted to only
an extremely thin slice (0.2%) of the $528 billion core military budget, and an
even smaller percentage of true total military spending, large portions of which are “hidden in plain sight”
within the budgets of other government departments. Accordingly, this amendment
could not be credibly characterized as a threat to our national security, and opposition
to it was patently unwarranted. See the discussion for Amendment number 1, pages H5054 - H5057 of the Congressional Record). More recently, on September 12,
2012, Congressman Barber would vote for
H.R. 5949, which extended for five years the FISA Amendments Act of 2008, a measure
that in effect nullified many of our Constitutional protections against
wide-ranging governmental search and seizure, protections that served this
nation well for more than two centuries. This act, rationalized in the name of
national security, has legally enabled an ever-expanding multi-faceted domestic surveillance infrastructure that spies daily on millions of ordinary law-abiding U.S. citizens.
An aside: Although not part of the above-referenced Congressional
discussion on the military “budget”, it is at this point worth noting as a
matter of morality and priorities that the Global Polio Eradication Initiative,
which seeks to collect and spend just over $2 billion during 2012-2013, found
itself as of October 2012 $700 million short in contributions for that two year period. (See here
for a more detailed accounting). And consider that during the January 2008
through early October 2012 time frame, U.S. governmental contributions to the
GPEI totaled only one-half of the amount provided by the Bill and Melinda Gates
foundation. While the money saved by a sensible reduction in U.S. military
spending could fully erase the 2012-2013 GPEI shortfalls, as well as fund a
multitude of other highly worthwhile projects both domestically and
internationally, which would probably gain this country far more admiration,
respect, security, and employment than would hundreds of billions of dollars of military expenditures,
the military-industrial-security-governmental complex has had and will continue
to have its own warped priorities for our tax dollars.
I am not privy to Congressman Barber’s thought processes,
and I can only speculate about what motivated his votes for the abominable anti-environmental
H.R. 2578, against even a freeze in our bloated military spending, and for the
H.R. 5949 extension of the totalitarian-style FISA amendments. Perhaps he genuinely
believed that these absurd and dangerous positions were desirable; in that case,
he is at minimum badly mistaken, and this will call into question his judgment
in all future matters. On the other hand, perhaps his votes were simply crass
political maneuvers, attempts to establish political “street cred” with the
conservative portions of his district, or the corollary, due to fear of being
tarred by future conservative charges of being soft on border enforcement
specifically or national security in general. That last possibility is perhaps
the most insidiously dangerous of all motivations, for it represents a
continuation of the Democratic Party’s fear-driven political behavior of the
past three decades, which, above all else, has been marked by a nearly-complete
failure of political nerve at the first insinuation of weakness. Such fear was
a major motivation for Democratic support of the Congressional resolution that
authorized the insane U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, and for the passage and
subsequent expansion of the liberty-destroying, perversely-named Patriot Act.
However, the adverse impact extends much further; in countless other areas, the
absence of adequate Democratic advocacy for reason and social justice has
allowed Republican politicians to frame the debate, and these Republicans have thereby
successfully dragged the political center far to the right of any rational
location for it.
Congressman Ron Barber, news conference, June 23, 2012.
Partly in fairness to Mr. Barber, but mostly because of its wider
and more fundamental implications, I must emphasize that this positive-feedback
loop of deficient advocacy and constrained or faulty action is apparently a significant
affliction among Democratic politicians. With regard to H.R. 2578, 16 Democrats joined 216 House Republicans in voting for it, and 6 Democrats failed to vote. On the
amendment to freeze defense spending (sponsored by Republican Mick Mulvaney and
Democrat Barney Frank), 21 Democrats voted no, while 12 did not vote. Often, even greater numbers of
Democrats cast their votes in favor of (usually Republican-originated) bills
that, at best, rate as political scat, or against (usually Democratic) bills
that constitute the mildest of necessary reforms. In the case of H.R. 5949, 74 Democrats voted in the affirmative, supplementing
the 227 Republicans who voted for passage.
But a high incidence of such political cowardice in no way excuses
or mitigates it; indeed, in such a situation, every increment of cowardice
weighs ever more heavily, greatly reducing the likelihood of a favorable
outcome for the nation. A large number of insane ideologies course through the
veins of the contemporary body politic, including: a belief in American exceptionalism
(despite our inferior rankings by a multitude of measures); a desire for worldwide military supremacy (and
a blank check for the vast military spending that accompanies our futile
pursuit of it); a worship of unfettered capitalism and some imaginary “free
market” (all the while enabling anti-competitive corporate behavior and socializing
the losses of corporate speculators and incompetents); an opposition to
planning, regulation, and the moral use of national resources (never mind that
the “wisdom of the market” is often antithetical to the true long-term
interests of the people); and a rationalization of poverty and insecurity for a
large portion of the populace (while aiding the accumulation of extreme wealth
by those at the top). The unvarnished truth is that the successes of the
Republicans and the gains of their worse-than-Social-Darwinistic agenda are not
due to Republicans alone — Democratic unwillingness to boldly challenge these
delusions has inexorably led to the national ascendancy of such views.
Additional local evidence of such Democratic deficiency
comes via the Arizona Congressional District 2 primary election held in late
August. Consider newspaper coverage of the positions of the two Democratic (and
two Republican) candidates (Arizona Daily Star, August 7, 2012, page A4, “Candidate Q&A: US Congressional District 2” -- CD2 candidate bios sidebar). Asked
their “top priority”, all candidates unsurprisingly listed multiple items. However,
for Congressman Barber, who would win the Democratic race, the first item was
“bipartisan problem solving for Southern Arizona”, while for his Democratic opponent
Dr. Matt Heinz it was the similar “build consensus”. Whether evaluated
abstractly or morally or strategically, those are highly flawed top goals, mealy-mouthed
conflations of process with concrete objectives. (And it should be noted that like
most Republicans already in office, neither of the two Republican candidates gave
even a hint of willingness to compromise or work with the opposition). A further
look, to Dr. Heinz’campaign website [dead link], saw him referring to his time in the
Republican-dominated state legislature and speaking of “building consensus… working
diligently to find common ground with other representatives”. As for Congressman Barber’s campaign website, it originally showed his stated desire “to put politics aside …
lead with civility… ”. Those phrases were later removed, prior to the general
election. Did the congressman have an epiphany, or was the change simply one of
election strategy? What positions will he take on the extraordinarily-important
matters to be addressed during the remainder of this term and in the one
beginning January? Support for a “Grand Bargain” that largely protects our bloated
military spending, barely imposes on the wealthy, but shafts the remainder of
the people — and all arrived at with the utmost of “civility” of course? What
will your moral legacy be, Congressman Barber?
News flash, Mr. Barber, Mr. Heinz, and Democrats everywhere:
Those goals of procedural harmony, admirable though they might be in a perfect
world, are unattainable in this one — except at the cost of a surrender of most
substantive Democratic principles. When the overwhelming majority of your Republican
opposition is malevolent, obstructionist, and seeks to take this nation into a
social-political-economic structure reminiscent of Dickensian England, no rational bipartisan consensus is possible,
and it is fundamentally counterproductive for Democrats to either believe or pretend
otherwise. Any possible political gains among independent voters produced by Democrats
making conciliation with Republicans a high priority are more than offset by
that preoccupation’s destructive impact on Democratic ideology and self-respect,
and its communication of weakness to the opposition. Democrats, striving ever
harder to demonstrate their accommodating reasonableness, have over the past
several decades ceded not just the hair and hoof trimmings of a Democratic Party symbol, they have surrendered the muscle and vital organs of a once proud
ideology of social justice. It came as no surprise when the Democratic Party in
2010 abandoned the kicking donkey as its logo. All that remained was a skeleton
stripped nearly bare, with the predatory wolf packs of the Republican Party
howling in anticipation of their next meal.
Perhaps Democratic politicians should take a cue from the
natural world (especially since they have ignored the lessons of the political
one). David J.T. Sumpter (Collective Animal Behavior, 2010, Princeton University Press) describes the process by
which a honeybee swarm chooses a new home: Scouts explore and return to the resting
swarm, dancing in support of potential new locations; additional trips are
made, competition for viewers and fading of the dance intensity over time
occur. “Mathematical models of this process predict that the site at which the
bees give up dancing for most slowly is eventually the focus of all dancing”
(Sumpter, p. 214).
With regard to the human political environment, no biologist’s
empirical description or mathematical model should actually be necessary. It is
obvious to any sentient observer (even if not to the Democratic politicians
seeking votes) that a political position with inferior advocacy is unlikely to
prevail. Progressive advocacy shouldn’t be confined to the few days of a highly-scripted
quadrennial presidential nominating convention, or even to the months of
campaign season. All Democratic politicians — from the President on down to the
lowliest local office-holders — need to strap on their balls, every single day unabashedly
make the case for progressive positions, and then — because advocacy is a
necessary but insufficient condition for favorable political results — act courageously in the spirit of that
advocacy at every executive, legislative, and judicial opportunity. Within the
system, only that course will reverse the decades-long deterioration of this
country and improve the future for the people; only that course will halt the
accelerating slide towards a plutocratic national neo-fascism, prevent the
eventual appearance of the well-justified but unpredictable pitchfork brigades,
and ensure preservation of the Republic.
The perceptive reader will have noticed that in focusing on
a Democratic failure of courage, my critique of Democrats has been much
narrower in scope than it could have been. Considerably more damning
assessments equating them to Republicans and attributing their political
behavior to a complete sellout to corporatist, plutocratic, and/or
military-industrial forces have been made, backed by substantial evidence. But
while the influence of these corrupting forces is certainly large and sometimes
even dominant, I believe that the situation is frequently more nuanced, with a
mixture of mutually-reinforcing causes at work. The outrageous cost of
campaigns, the human tendency to follow the path of least resistance, the political
careerism of those who hold political office, coupled with their egotistical tendency
to see themselves as indispensable, thereby rationalizing any action in order
to retain such office — all contribute to the current situation.
But whatever else may have contributed, the failure to demonstrate
political courage in support of rationality and social justice has played a
significant role. Notably, a dearth of courage is potentially the most easily
remedied factor, ultimately dependent as it is only upon oneself. Such political courage (or lack thereof) from
current and future politicians — and if necessary, directly from the downtrodden
ordinary citizens who may yet bring us a transformative “American Spring” — will
ultimately be decisive in determining the future of this nation.
Drumlevitch. Permission hereby granted to any registered voter (but not a
commercial website or publication) to copy this post in whole or in part for
the express purpose of directly transmitting it to one or more Democratic Party
politicians, provided that attribution, a link to the original complete post, and
notice of any excerpting are all included.
With that title, I’m referring not to the color of soldiers’
uniforms or St. Patrick’s Day attire, but rather, to modern attempts by the
armaments makers to greenwash their operations, and to the taxpayer greenbacks
that pay for American militarism instead of genuine environmental preservation and
other beneficial programs.
Of course, “Raytheon Celebrates Earth Day”. From their
But for a truly astounding example of such greenwashing
(which I still find surreal more than a year after I first saw it), watch the
following 2011 video from KVOA television, the Tucson NBC affiliate:
(The above link provides access to both the video and a
Above is one frame from the web version of that KVOA “news”
segment, “Raytheon innovates
new ways of going green”, aired October 13, 2011.
Though not usually associated with armaments suppliers,
greenwashing of corporate activity is nothing new, and I presume that the above
local “news” segment was supposed to make viewers feel all warm and fuzzy about
the merchants of death at Raytheon. (How, though, is beyond my comprehension,
unless the viewers are regarded as complete morons by both Raytheon and KVOA —
which may well be the case).
Depending on one’s point of view, the military-industrial
complex may or may not be a giant sinkhole swallowing desperately-needed
national resources and perverting national priorities, but none of that is even
an issue, all’s right with the world, for they recycle their soft-drink cans
and office supplies! While high-efficiency lighting or solar panels might be of
benefit for logistical reasons within a combat zone, can anyone in their right
mind believe that recycling — or even the grandest of environmental initiatives
— by a defense contractor stateside makes a laudable difference, in the context
of the overall waste of national resources by the military and its suppliers?
“Inane” doesn’t even begin to describe this gushing television segment. The
presentation by KVOA of this greenwashing tripe as newsworthy, with no
reference to broader concerns and not even a trace of irony, must rate as one
of the clearest indicators I’ve ever seen of the journalistic bankruptcy of
local television “news” reporting.
One needn’t be a pacifist to recognize that the American
military-industrial complex now plays a pathological role in the course of
contemporary human events. And in fact I am not a pacifist; I understand that
in our present world, some military capability is necessary. But the true
problems of our nation receive, at best, token attention, while unnecessary and
futile wars drag on year after year, taking an incalculable toll. All but the
blind can see America's basic military readiness harmed, soldiers demoralized,
or worse, made physical or psychological casualties of our insane interminable
wars. All but those suffering from terminal American exceptionalism or denial
should be able to understand the immorality of foreign civilians injured and
killed — and the new enemies thereby created. Technology will not provide a
magic solution; our high-tech semi-robotic instruments of war may reduce U.S.
casualties, but they cannot mask the destruction and hatred created on the
receiving end of our actions. And used or unused, the costs of our war
machines, and indeed, of our entire military, are bankrupting the nation, and
have a massive “opportunity cost” of better things not done.
Perhaps the most under-appreciated damage involves what has
been done to our national ideals and the political process. For decades, both
officeholders and candidates have been afraid to take rational positions with
regard to our military spending, our worldwide military presence, and our
military actions. For politicians, mustn’t be seen as weak or hesitant; for the
human cogs of the war machine tasked with keeping the pipeline of cannon fodder
full, mustn’t be seen as in any way reducing the flow. Washington, D.C., or
Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington State, the result is the same. Even the
term “Defense Department”, for what used to be called, more honestly, the
“Department of War”, hints at the disconnect between our perceptions/actions
and reality. Nearly every military action, even an unjustified, massive
invasion and occupation of a sovereign foreign country, such as the United
States led in Iraq, has been rebranded as “defense” — and since, in the popular
mind, one can never have enough defense, an unending string of wars is
rationalized. Should our present ones show signs of winding down, well, the
chicken-hawks of American politics, the CEOs of our military manufacturers and
mercenary armies, and the visiting foreign heads of state, all are highly
skilled at an improvisational syncopation that will promote new conflict.
In this time of impending sequestration and other budgetary
pressures, the “dog-and-pony” shows of the weapons manufacturers and the armed
services have only just begun. They will cycle through multiple themes. Most
will revolve around fears that will reference past attacks on the United States
— but conveniently ignore that many of the weapons systems being purchased at
extravagant cost are of little relevance to defense against any attacks we are
likely to face, and that bountiful weapons combined with an American psychology
of overreach have played a significant role in creating many of our
international problems. Some will pander to concerns about the jobs that will
be lost if we reduce military spending. (Attention/Achtung! My fellow 19th
century American Southerners/20th century Germans, we must continue slavery/the
concentration camps, lest unemployment rise!). The Pentagon and its
contractors, having over the course of decades masterfully distributed military
bases and manufacturing across so many Congressional districts, are now able to
exploit economic-based fears of cutbacks to enlist the support of Congress
against necessary military cuts. Together they will also leverage the complex
blend of patriotism and justified pride at the historical role of the U.S. in
fighting tyranny during WWII, now exploiting such feelings to imply that a
never-ending worldwide projection of U.S. force in the service of supposed
liberation is desirable — never mind that our actions in Vietnam and Iraq and
Afghanistan did not go according to plan, and future ones may not either. Given
the diversity of themes used to influence political opinion in favor of
irrationally high levels of military spending, perhaps it ultimately is not
surprising that they have thrown in a bit of greenwashing too.
For those with an interest in the ecological opportunity
costs of U.S. militarism, consider this: In an article published in Science magazine in 2001, Stuart Pimm and colleagues
examined the costs of preserving a significant fraction of the world’s
biodiversity. They estimated then that the preservation of twenty-five
biodiversity “hotspots” plus the acquisition of tropical wilderness preserves
could be achieved for a one-time cost of approximately $25 billion for
terrestrial ones, and an additional $2.5 billion for marine reserves. While
species numbers have significant correlations to area (see here,
and therefore preservation would ideally include more land than the Pimm et al.
proposal, implementation of their proposal would be a good starting point
towards the preservation of biodiversity. Assuming that costs have quadrupled
in the intervening years, such preservation could be achieved at a ONE-TIME
current cost of $110 billion. Current U.S. “defense” spending, stripped of its creative accounting, is
well over six times that figure PER YEAR.
Recommended reading on the topic of military spending and
related politics: anything by Andrew Bacevich.
Fred Drumlevitch blogs (irregularly) at
He can be reached at: FredDrumlevitch12345 (at) gmail.com
With regard to the aftermath of the Sunday massacre of 16 Afghan civilians allegedly done by a supposedly lone U.S. sergeant, what can we expect?
Perhaps Obama can repeat his 2012 State of the Union spin that our military actions have made the U.S. “more respected around the world”. Lest my sarcasm be considered unwarranted, I will add that he said that on a day in January when a U.S. military court would release with absolutely no prison time the leader of a U.S. Marine squad that in 2005 massacred 24 civilian men, women, and children in Haditha, Iraq — a war crime within the even broader war crime of a war of choice by the U.S. against a country that posed no threat to us.
Only in the logic of politics and empire can war crimes be converted into delusions of respect.
Those delusions are not unique to the United States; historically, they have found expression many times, and in many nations. But currently those delusions are most strongly American ones, the inevitable result of a people living in a time warp (to circa 1946) about our role — no, make that “mission”, and “manifest destiny” — in the world.
It is over ten years since our most recent military operations in Afghanistan started; that involvement began with a genuine justification of going after those who attacked us on 9/11, and after those who provided them with shelter. (I omit here consideration of our previous involvement during the 1980s, which greatly complicates conclusions about responsibility and justification). But even during the assumedly justified beginning of our actions in 2001, our style of warfare was too often imperial, relying on bombing from on high, and largely subcontracting to Afghan groups such as the “Northern Alliance” on the ground. We would for many years thereafter continue to emphasize aerial operations, with the inevitable dissociation from reality and the civilian casualties that would cause. Afghan wedding parties and villagers blasted to bits by American air power, if even investigated by the U.S. and acknowledged as non-combatants, were ultimately classified as regrettable collateral damage; if those deaths were in any way compensated, it was at a payment schedule that valued Afghan life much cheaper than even the most down-and-out American would be. Even after a U.S. transition to emphasize ground operations carried out primarily by U.S. soldiers, that imperial mentality still dominated, as has been amply and repeatedly pointed out by others. It continues with the recent escalation of drone operations.
Certainly, not every foreign death at the hands of U.S. forces rates as a war crime. Let us stipulate that most are not. But by any reasonable measure, there have been far too many, and an offensive amount of rationalization about them. Worse yet, the U.S. legal response has been grossly inadequate (and quite telling of prevailing U.S. arrogance, both in and out of government). The wheels of U.S. “justice” seldom bring any real justice for the victims of war crimes committed by the U.S. military or U.S. civilian mercenary “contractors”. The standard trajectory for such cases: first, denial and cover-up; then, if strong contradictory evidence becomes public, promises of formal inquiry; finally, errors of investigation and prosecution, and defense testimony from superiors and psychiatrists, which produce acquittals, plea-bargains, minimal sentences, and/or successful appeals.
Long term, the failure of the U.S. to adequately punish most U.S. perpetrators of war crimes may be even more dangerous than the killings themselves — for in the calm of formal inquiries and occasional court proceedings, this country has, in effect, repeatedly said that U.S. military killing of foreign civilians doesn’t much matter. What have we become?
Ten years of war in Afghanistan and a completely unnecessary war in Iraq didn’t just kill and wound thousands of U.S. soldiers, bankrupt the United States, pervert our national priorities, and expand beyond any reasonable rationalization the domestic dominance of the U.S. military-industrial-security-governmental complex. They have destroyed the morality of our nation.
I propose a new rallying cry: the U.S. out of Afghanistan within 90 days. No more rationalizations, no more excuses, from either major U.S. political party or any politician.
2012 is upon us, and 2009, the year of President Obama's inauguration, seems like only yesterday. Perhaps that time distortion owes a bit of its presence to how little both the Congress and the President have accomplished during the past three years. Mission not accomplished, mission not even attempted. While most Americans didn't expect much from the Republicans (beyond the rescue of their traditional moneyed constituency), we did expect more, much more, with regard to social and economic justice from the Democrats, and, most of all, from a Democratic President who, in a time of economic crisis, had campaigned in a manner that implied that significant populist change would be pursued.
By midsummer 2009, it was clearly apparent that either Mr. Obama's political savvy, or his willingness to engage the reactionary forces of this country, or both, were sadly lacking, a far cry from what trusting voters had been led to believe. Such timidity could not possibly result from presidential ignorance of the alternatives. Advice regarding a desirable progressive course of action was plentiful from all corners, including academics, the press, and the public. I myself chimed in, though with no real expectation that the president would read, let alone heed, what I wrote.
The blog post below is the exact text ofmy comment (comment #2)posted to Paul Krugman's July 26, 2009 (in-print July 27) column"An Incoherent Truth"at the New York Times. As 2012 begins, it seems appropriate to reprint it as review of what might have been. Faced with a 2012 choice between a Democratic president who has for three years followed a course grossly inadequate to the needs of the nation and most of its people, and Republican challengers dedicated to blending the selfish and the delusional into one poisonous stew, one can now only wish for a genuinely progressive alternative to appear in the form of an unlikely Democratic challenger or third-party candidate. How sad that our hopes of January 2009 should have been reduced to only that.
July 27, 2009
You've recently delivered several decent speeches on healthcare, President Obama, rational and earnest, though more than a bit short on passion and specifics. You choose your words carefully, undoubtedly aware of their power, but you still seem overly worried about offending (let alone confronting) the healthcare industry, your Republican opponents, or "blue dog" Democrats.
Talk is good, Mr. President, but only up to the point where action is required, and action should occur long prior to the point where important principles get badly compromised. Do you still think that you can bridge the gap between progressives and Republicans? Even if achievable (it isn't), that would truly be a bridge to nowhere, a purgatory of thin mush in which your presidency would sink as if in quicksand.
It takes more than a teleprompter and a BlackBerry to govern. It takes more than an elusive --- or a meaningless --- consensus. Text softly and carry a big stick. Read about Abraham Lincoln if you choose. But also read about Lyndon Johnson, a generally progressive president (with the exception of his pursuit of the Vietnam war) who was a masterful politician, employing, at various times, promises, threats, flattery, and old-fashioned "horse-trading" in order to advance desired legislation. The American public understands that a few political compromises may be needed, and will tolerate them, provided that the overwhelming benefit accrues to the majority of the people, not to the rich or to corporate interests. We won't be satisfied with half a loaf --- not when we've harvested the grain, milled the wheat, baked and transported the bread. We won't take kindly to charade or co-optation. (Senators and Representatives: Are you absorbing this message? It's directed at you too.)
As a matter of pragmatism, Mr. President, I would advise you and your allies to stop worrying about the next election --- excessive worry about the future is the enemy of achievement in the present. Accomplish something substantial during your current term, and the future will take care of itself, you'll be re-elected in a landslide. Or piddle around instead, and history will consider you nothing but placeholders in the decline of the American Dream.
Both a grand vision and political leadership are required, not a finger-in-the-dike strategy. Your mission, should you decide to accept it, is to significantly move this nation in the direction of freedom, justice, and morality. Freedom includes but is about much more than political freedom; freedom includes freedom from exploitation, freedom from hunger, freedom from homelessness, freedom from ignorance, as well as freedom from inadequate access to medical care. Justice includes not only justice within the legal system, but also economic and environmental justice. Morality isn't about a flash of nudity on television, it's about how the least among us, anywhere in the world, are treated --- and how the world itself is treated.
A large number of Americans understand the full scope of what is needed. Do you, Mr. President? Do you, Senators and Representatives? Equally important, do you have the political acumen and the courage to unabashedly work to achieve it?