What Are You Thinking?: An Open Letter to President Obama’s Supporters

Note: This letter also appeared on the political journal created and formerly edited by the late Alexander Cockburn, Counterpunch.

Dear President Obama’s Supporters,

I am writing this letter as a friend who believes in the same principles that you proudly trumpet: fairness, human rights, honesty, and communitarian commitment to the common interest and public good. Over the past three years, but especially during the past six months, I’ve grown increasingly bewildered over how you could support a President who routinely and flagrantly dishonors all of those principles. I remember our conversations during the horrific years of the Bush Presidency, and I recall how we spoke with shock and outrage over the crimes, abusive and exploitative policies, and sociopathic misdeeds of the Republican President. We were political allies – co-conspirators of democracy battling to bring peace, hope, and sanity to our country. Friendship supersedes politics, and regardless of what decision you make on Election Day, I will remain your friend if you will honor me with the same pledge. If you vote for Barack Obama, however, I am sorry to say that we will no longer be political allies. I fear that our priorities and values are so divergent that future association on political causes will no longer benefit either of us. You will have undermined your credibility on issues of the largest importance, and will therefore make political sympathy and cooperation impossible. I write this letter as a final effort to stop you from making a mistake that will cheapen your vote, degrade your politics, and hideously stain your principles. My words may be strong, but I write them with respect. If I didn’t respect you, I would not waste my time writing this letter. I ask only that you give the information I am about to present fair consideration and thoughtful deliberation. I ask that you vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party or Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party or that you withhold your vote. Please do not give your vote to a man who has done nothing to deserve it and has, over the past four years, shown he possesses far less integrity and intelligence than you.

Everything I am about to describe is verifiable in a variety of credible sources. If you question the sources that I provide to support my claims, I encourage you to research the stories independently. I trust you will find that I have taken nothing out of context, I have made no distortion to the record, and I have made no attempt at manipulation. I have no reason to defame or impugn President Barack Obama.

In the 2008 Democratic Primary, I voted and volunteered for Hillary Clinton. She earned my support because of her greater experience, her greater resolve, and in my judgment, her greater intelligence. I also had a bad reaction – like the one you have when fumes of a foul odor slither into your nose – to the hysteria surrounding the Obama candidacy. Many of his most ardent supporters viewed him as if he was surrounded by a Messianic light, and that he rode into Washington D.C. sitting on a donkey, while crowds of adorers waved palm leaves to greet his arrival. I thought it was unhealthy to cast a mere mortal into the role of Savior. He had not earned such devotion. Unearned devotion builds an ego to megalomaniacal proportions. The result is often a personality cult that empowers the recipient of cultish fervor to do as he pleases, because the devotees will excuse, defend, rationalize, and justify any error or sin, no matter how severe or costly. The object becomes the advancement of the personality, and not the progression of a policy.

When the general election campaign season commenced, I set aside my concerns and not only vowed to vote for Barack Obama, but donated a small sum of money to his campaign, worked the phones to convince undecided voters in the state of Indiana to go Democrat, and drove disabled Obama voters to the polls. He was speaking beautifully in a populist and democratic tongue, and he was speaking eloquently in an inspired rhetoric that energized black voters, young voters, moderate voters, and disenchanted Republican voters in unprecedented numbers. On top of the promise of his presidency rested the reality of his candidacy. He was the first African-American candidate to win the nomination of his party, and if elected, he would be the first African-American president. When he defeated Senator John McCain with authority, Barack Obama shattered one of the highest glass ceilings in the world, and he did so with eloquence and intelligence far greater than many of his predecessors. In his cleverly crafted slogan and with powerful symbolism, he brought hope and change back to America.

After the election of John F. Kennedy, Gore Vidal wrote that “civilizations are rarely granted a second chance.” Following the Bay of Pigs debacle and the invasion of Vietnam, Vidal mourned that “something mysteriously went wrong.”

I wrote those same words about Vidal and Kennedy in a column for the November 12, 2008 edition of the Herald News in Joliet, Illinois where I wrote a weekly column for a little over a year. The Obama victory column would be my last. My final words for the column were hopeful – “Whether something mysteriously goes wrong during Obama’s administration remains to be seen, but this feels like a second chance, and right now, that feels like enough.”

Something went wrong – catastrophically wrong. It is not much of a mystery. The seemingly unsolvable conundrum is why so many people refuse to acknowledge the wreckage lying at their feet, and why so many people refuse to identify the man behind the handle of the wrecking ball.

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