A Letter to President ObamaPosted in Articles, Democracy
August 10, 2011
The White House
Washington D.C. 20500
Dear Mr. President:
My family and I are praying for you and your family. No one knows except those who have walked in your shoes what it is like to assume the enormous burdens of leading our nation during its current crises. Having said this, I also know that the peculiarities of your challenges are far unlike those of your predecessors.
You are a man and a half to be in that job and I pray that God will continually give you strength as you climb your mountains and wade through your “dark nights of the soul.” God will give you strength. Keep looking up Mr. President. Keep looking up!
As a person who truly cares about his country, I am also concerned about the current climate of rancor and vitriol permeating much of political discourse in our land. This is nothing new. But what is new is the pervasive Orwellian double speak, the dazed, catatonic Zombie like manner in which Republicans proffer their loony quack talking points brooking no admission to facts and truth.
I am concerned that certain persons who have been called to govern our nation through compromise are hell bent on destroying our nation and would rather sink the ship of state with their gambits and gamesmanship rather than help this nation actualize its greater potential.
I am concerned that the opposition is interested more in running you out of office than creating jobs and passing legislation that will help this nation. Rutherford B. Hayes said, “Who serves his country best, serves his party best.”
Three suggestions I would make to you Mr. President that might help change the current tide.
First is get back into the ground game. Sir, this is a wonderful opportunity to get back with the troops. Wisconsin provided an excellent opportunity to provide a show of support for Democrats, and although they did not reach their goals, an added “umph” from you may have given them the triumph they needed to reach their objectives. Get back into the ground game Mr. President. Get up close and personal. Have no compunctions about getting out there and advocating the values and vision of a greater democracy. Take a stand on some issues. Speak loudly and boldly. Help your party. This is absolutely essential. The seismic shifts that will soon be occurring on our political landscape might determine whether democracy lives or dies; whether America will remain a beacon of freedom, hope and justice or a Gulag of plutocratic despotism, where government of the people, by the people and for the people no longer belong to the people!
“Right is still right even when everyone is against it. Wrong is still wrong even when everyone is for it.” Some things are just right and others wrong. Get out there with your supporters. Get into the arena in the words of T.R.; get muddy and bloody if necessary, but let them know that you are with them in the trenches.
Second, play to win and don’t play not to lose. These are two different strategies. When we play to win we are assertive, aggressive and pro-active. When we play not to lose we are hesitant, regressive and reactive; always backpedaling and on the defensive wondering what our opponents will do next.
It appears Mr. President that sometimes you seem to be reacting to the Republican agenda; that you are forced to make decisions because they put you on the defensive.
They posture imperially as supreme power, appearing to dictate to you by talking down to you like you are some political bellhop or playing to you as though you don’t deserve to be in the game or have lost the game before it begins.
They do things that appear to put you on the defensive, where the wind is at your face, where you are looking forward but running backwards so that this becomes your permanent default position rather than running a charge straight on to them with the wind against your back. The Republicans appear to play you like you are forty points behind in the last few seconds of a championship game.
Now Republicans are talking impeachment which is another attempt to put you on the defensive so that you will play not to lose rather than play to win.
Reverse course, Mr. President. Flip the script and put them on the defensive and make them play not to lose.
You are in charge! You are the commander in Chief! Play to win and don’t play not to lose. Just shoot your fabulous jumper from the corner. Whirl into your sky hook and shoot your best shot Mr. President! Play to win and stop playing not to lose.
As a pastor, I admire your transformational style of leadership; conciliation; reconciliation and rapprochement; dignity, civility and quiet temerity. You are a strong man in the words of the great poet Sterling Brown, “getting stronger,” a man whose quiet style belies a deep competitive ferocity.
Keep your civility and seize the moral high ground by taking the fight to them rather than having them always appear to thump you with their “in your face school yard tactics and antics.” Take them to the hoop. Do some three pointers! Slam dunk on Boehner and slap back the chump shots of Cantor and the other crazies. “Do da do” Mr. President and send them to the showers!!!
Third, as George Lakoff reminds us, you and the Democrats must start framing the debate by using metaphors and language of your own choosing that set a larger context for your vision, stir the public’s imagination and give you the competitive political advantage.
Lakoff says that by creating our own metaphors and employing language of our own choosing, we can shape the images people develop in their minds about those issues and thus influence the trajectories of public discourse that support those arguments and help win the day and keep you ahead of the game.
I like Rev Emmanuel Cleaver’s description of the Republican machinations in arriving at debt ceiling decisions as equivalent to “eating a sugar coated Satan sandwich, which is biblical language with glints of Judas and Faustus, bespeaking a political process smacking of the demonic, or in the words of Bob Dylan, one that promises good but “purposes evil.”
It is not uncommon to employ such words to describe political policies, but I found it quite exhilarating that such language would be used to depict a political decision making process.
It has been a long time since I have heard any Democrats use such descriptive language to frame a debate, forge a vision, incite the imagination and galvanize support.
John Kennedy spoke of the “New Frontier.” Lyndon Baines Johnson coined the “Great Society.” FDR espoused the “New Deal” and referred to certain nemesis of the fiscal elite as “Economic royalists.” TR touted the Square Deal and Harry Truman referred to the “Do Nothing Congress.” Ronald Reagan invoked images of the “City on the Hill.” Watch words! Catch words; words that take fire and go higher.
You must coin a phrase and use language and images that people can grasp, see, feel, touch and taste; language bristling with ideas that will lift their sights and raise their hopes; language not abstract, but concrete; a metaphor that will shape a new context for the new directions of your great vision that will compel them into the future.
Rev. Cleaver’s use of this language is a refreshing attempt to speak from a vocabulary that every day people understand. This is what we need, plain, frank, vital imagery that enables the American people to recognize what the opposition party is trying to do as they attempt to drive American Democracy off the cliff, in Reverse! Remember when you said the “D” in Democrat was for drive and the “R” in Republican was for reverse? That was language that got our attention!\
Finally, Mr. President we thank God for you. You are a scholar and a gentleman whose model of compromise and gentility inspires our admiration and is worthy of emulation.
But sometimes you must jack hammer the stones; lose aplomb, raise an eyebrow, thump a podium, call down thunder, collar a Republican ala LBJ in the Oval Office with a crazed, dazed Tea Party look in your eyes. Tell the Republicans those famous words spoken by Doc Holiday in the movie Wyatt Earp, “I’m your huckleberry!”
Chomp gum with jaw jacking vengeance ala MJ sky walking to the hoop. Soar like an Eagle, Stop traffic. Hold court! Call out the opposition! Do something or say something to rouse the troops and get people’s attention.
Remember Lincoln and his frustration with George McClellan when the General seemed more interested in pomp and parading the troops than engaging them in battle? Remember his effusive jubilation in finally deciding on Ulysses S. Grant as his new commander?” “That man fights,” said Lincoln. Lincoln’s metaphor was preserving the union and in many respects Mr. President that too is your mission.
Get back into the ground game. Play to win and don’t play not to lose. Frame the arguments and win the debates Mr. President! Much is at stake.
Keep fighting! In the words of Winston Churchill “Never, never, never give up! Keep fighting and pressing the cause until the battle is won. We are with you. Keep pressing on to higher ground.
“Leave no stone unturned, no avenue unexplored. Go through fire and water. Move heaven and earth; ride the whirlwind and direct the storm, in the words of Addison.
Thank you for taking time to read these suggestions humbly offered. God bless you and your family and God bless America!
Dr. Carlyle Fielding Stewart