Congratulations on your election. You are the very person I wanted to win after I accepted that there was no possibility of Dennis Kucinich, John Edwards, Ralph Nader or Michael Moore getting in. In truth, the only things I had against you were that you were a senator and a Democrat. I don’t hate either of those things; it’s just that, as a class, each of them has underperformed so spectacularly through eight years of Bush debacle (a word far too polite for anything connected to that man), I lost my faith.
You are well into your cabinet picks now, and I have to say that I’m trying really hard to remember through it all that you will be telling them what to do, not telling them to do what they have done in the past, because if you were telling them the latter, it would mean you are looking to take the country back to business as usual before setting us on the path to the change you promised, and that way lies disaster and a ruined presidency, in my arrogant opinion.
I just had (well, maybe caused) a promising Facebook conversation crash and burn because I was probably too hasty in complaining that no progressives are yet to be seen anywhere near the list of cabinet choices for your new administration. I probably owe Mr James Newman of Seattle an apology for meeting ordinary bitchiness with scornful condescension. Mr Newman believes, with arguably good reason, that the centrist picks are necessary to keep the cabinet meetings from polarizing to a degree that would erode timely and meaningful progress, and keep the rabid right merely yapping at your hubcaps, or better yet, pulled right under your wheels. Wired jaw, meet wire wheels.
I’ve given the matter considerable thought in the couple days since my intemperate ripostes to Mr. Newman, reading meanwhile some of the refreshingly high-order commentary on the subject by fellow readers of Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo, and it’s inclined me to take a completely different tack. Here’s why: Even if you go ahead late in the piece and include a couple of reputable progressives (and I do certainly lament the occasional conflation I encounter of “liberal” and/or “Democrat” with “progressive”) it will still be very hard to move policy through congress that its denizens will have a hard time selling back home. We’ve all seen those chilling interviews of people attending the McCain rallies out in the heartland during the campaign, and we know you have too, and that will be motivation enough to get you moving quickly fixing some of the problems with our education and health care systems.
You won’t be able to pursue some of your most deeply felt ambitions for change, because you won’t have the time it would take for you to overcome the vision deficit of the unready boys and girls of the mainstream media, or the people who will celebrate the slightest gaffe or failure of your administration. The W years have made that inevitable, and some of your best friends, moi par exemple, will have difficulty breaking the habit. Even so, I think you and millions of others without the vision deficit might agree when I suggest that we need a way to enfranchise what appear at first blush to be the worst possible ideas that could be rendered into national policy. Even so, that’s exactly what I am suggesting we do.
As of today, we’ve seen something like 2 trillion dollars awarded to the wealthiest class of Americans to keep the organized crime of economic depression from breaking their legs and maiming their nearest of kin to the 3rd or 4th remove. And they are grateful for it, but as you’ve pointed out, still won’t forego the corporate jets and big bonuses. You say they’re tone deaf; I say that’s because assholes don’t have ears, but ehnhhh! Here’s what I’m thinking:
How about giving every state a billion dollars off the top of that big finance bailout. Yes, even the undeserving ones like Alaska. The only stipulation should be that the money be allocated in ways that help those who have gotten the least help from the public treasuries in the past. That group of people, oddly enough, turns out to be surprisingly well equipped to make the most of the opportunity. I’m talking about the people who have completed educational studies in all of the academic disciplines that are notorious for the difficulty of making a living on one’s degree).
Divide the money up between social researchers, artists of every stripe, unpaid bloggers, inventors, shut-ins and those with special needs, Native Americans without casinos, homeless families, single parents without jobs, teachers without tenure (or just abolish tenure and let the Foghorn J. Leghorn professors scratch with their adjuncts for awhile, so there is enough fertilizer for the new ideas that spring up.
If we look at the example of China today for inspiration, we want to dismiss the obvious gains they have made, tsk-tsking the fact that they still are not free and they have plenty of problems. Even so, they are a lot further advanced than they would be, had they not endured the horrible cultural upheaval of Mao’s Great Cultural Revolution. We don’t imagine for a moment that the US needs anything like it to accomplish the same degree of transformation that a growing number of people recognize will be necessary if the nation is to reach the end of this century intact, to say nothing of the next, if we get one.
In closing, because I know you are an avid reader (and given what we’ve been through, we REALLY appreciate that about you!), I promise that I will follow this letter up with another every week or two, until all this pent-up inspiration is off my chest and onto yours. You’re a much younger man than I am, and I haven’t dunked a basketball in my entire life. In the course of my life, I’ve read about thousands of interesting ways we could have gone but didn’t as a people and a nation. Usually, the forces arrayed against any effort to try new things or solve old problems were led by selfish people with either a vested interest in the status quo, or selfish people who resist any public expenditure of tax money on things they either don’t care about, or which benefit any group of citizens of which they are no part. Of course there are also the religious ideologues who believe that because they have memorized one book, and it is God’s word, the rest of us are unworthy. I will close this letter as reasonably as I know how, by not saying what I think of them.