In the wake of a crushing Democratic defeat in the Massachusetts Senate race, we find ourselves faced with the one-year anniversary of a spirit-changing day in the history of the United States, the inauguration of President Barack Obama. This odd confluence of events provides an opening for a very timely warning: It is time to remember who your friends are, Mr. President.
Your friends are not the suits on Wall Street, the same ones who fooled Timothy Geithner for years. Your friends are not the timid centrists, who Rahm Emanuel coddles. Your friends are not the giants of the mortgage industry, who fought you tooth and nail to keep the foreclosure crisis out of the courts. Your friend is not George W. Bush, whose crimes you continue to conceal.
Your friends are the progressives across this country, who, when you asked for their faith and inspired them with beautiful words, placed you on their shoulders and carried you to a historic victory.
The progressive movement needs results – we’re too smart to be placated and spun. We’re too cynical – and too determined – to compromise. And, soon, we’ll be too jaded to believe that Democrats are anything but limp windsocks, pointing whichever way the wind blows.
Some have already walked away, according to a recent Daily Kos/Research 2000 poll, which states that 45 percent of Democrats are not likely to vote in the 2010 election.
We know that, in your heart, you’re one of us. Your heart is the element you seem to have forgotten, the element we miss. You used to wear it on your sleeve; we could hear it pounding in your chest when you spoke.
We heard your heart during your 2002 speech at a Chicago antiwar rally, when you called out the “arm-chair, weekend warriors” in Washington for keeping our soldiers engaged in a “dumb war, a rash war.” We heard your heart during your 2004 keynote speech at the Democratic Convention, when you said of the American people, “They know we can do better.” We heard it beating loud and clear on New Hampshire Primary Night, when you spoke of true progress, saying, “Whether we are rich or poor; black or white; Latino or Asian; whether we hail from Iowa or New Hampshire, Nevada or South Carolina, we are ready to take this country in a fundamentally new direction.”
And upon your inauguration, one year ago today, we dared to believe you when you said, “The time has come to reaffirm our enduring spirit; to choose our better history.”
The right wing thrives on vitriol, hate and divisiveness. When the bile they spew goes unchallenged, their disease infects the people around them. They will not lie down, Mr. President. You are going to have to put them down – with true progressive action, not the frail rhetoric of appeasement.
No one has ever proclaimed a die-hard commitment to centrism. No one has ever held a rally to support bipartisanship. Those are Washington DC catchphrases that mean nothing, serving only as a fog for professional politicians huddling together inside the beltway, too timid and too immersed in campaign logic to stand for anything.
Your job is not to get re-elected in 2012, Mr. President. Your job is to fight tomorrow and then fight the next day. If you’re constantly looking up at the scoreboard, worrying about the outcome, you’re going to trip over your own laces. Watch the shot clock instead, and fire up three-pointers like you know they’re going to sink every time. Get in your opponents’ faces and make them work for every single point.
You have a choice now, Mr. President. With your help, 2010 could usher in a host of substantive policy changes: better health care access for millions of Americans, a strategic path to peace in Iraq and Afghanistan and a resounding series of Democratic victories in the midterm elections. However, if you stand aside and fail to challenge every shot, 2010 could give way to a fractured, crumbling Democratic Party – and the re-emergence of a vicious, feudal corporatism.
Choose our better history.