Tuesday, September 28, 2010

An open letter to Vice President Joe Biden

Dear Mr. Vice President,

I like you. I really do. I was very happy when your current boss tapped you as his running mate back in '08. I think you've got a good head on your shoulders and that you usually know what you're talking about, even if it doesn't always come out well.

But... seriously. What's with telling the Democratic base, your base, to "stop whining"?

Sure, I get your point -- as inartful as it was.

If you put Democrats up against Republicans, and if Democrats are compared to "the alternative," the choice should be clear, and Democrats, suffering from a lack of enthusiasm, should step up and do what needs to be done to prevent the Republicans from winning big this November.

In a two-party system, you've only got two choices, and often that choice is simply the least bad of the two. Is that what you meant? If so, and it would seem so, that's hardly a ringing endorsement of Democrats, hardly an encouraging message to be sending.

To say that your party is not as bad as the GOP is pretty lame, however true. Do you not set higher standards for your party?

Do you not think Americans need some other reason to get out and vote? Of course, they need to know what voting Republican would mean, or what not voting could lead to, but that's not enough.

And while Democrats need to draw clear distinctions between themselves and their opponents, they also need to present that distinction with substance.

Talk up what you've done and what you plan to do. You won't win everyone over to your side, but at least you'll present your party as something other than not Republican. As extremist as the GOP is, voters want a better reason to vote Democratic.

And, please, stop attacking your own base!

Democrats, including many of the president's most ardent supporters, aren't whining, they're expressing their dissatisfaction with their party. Do you not get that? Do you not understand why so many of them are angry, frustrated, unenthusiastic?

There is a lot to like from you, President Obama, and Congressional Democrats, including health-care reform (even a watered-down package without a public option). But what about the escalation of the Afghan War or the failure to repeal DADT or the continuation of the Bush-Cheney national security state (including invasions of privacy) or the support for Wall Street, for the very institutions that were behind the financial crisis? And so much else.

It is "whining" to hold your administration and the two Democratic majorities in Congress to high standards? Is it too much to think that the president was serious when, as a candidate, he talked about hope, about change we could believe in, when he inspired millions across the country to work with him for a brighter future? Was that all just empty political rhetoric?

Look, I do hope the enthusiasm gap narrows, and I think it will. I wrote recently that, while I understand why enthusiasm is low, Democrats really have to start giving a shit.

Ultimately, after all, it's either them or the Republicans, and that should be enough to motivate them. But you aren't helping by attacking your base, the core Democratic constituency that is disappointed but that, I hope, will put that disappointment aside and vote Democratic regardless.

Show you understand. Surely you do?

Show you care. Surely you do?

And do something to win back the support you must have. Repealing DADT would be a good start. Or how about holding a vote to extend middle-class tax cuts while forcing Republicans to defend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy?

Show how you aren't Republicans, but show also what makes you Democrats.

I'm with you. A lot of us will be with you. But don't dismiss us as a bunch of whiners. You can do better, and we deserve better.

And if you do better, and reach out, you'll be rewarded come November.


Michael Stickings

P.S.: Dear Mr. President -- Stop the condescension. Well it may be irresponsible for Democrats not to vote in November it is completely excusable for them to hold you accountable and to demand that you govern up to the lofty standards you set for yourself. Yes, there is a good deal of "lethargy" out there, and maybe some of us do need to "buck up," but we are understandably disappointed with much that you have done. Instead of blaming us, why don't you try to recover what made us support you in the first place?

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