This is your base speaking. Demographically speaking, I mean. I’m a white, middle-class, college-educated, Republican-turned Democrat (thanks, Sarah Palin!) woman who voted for you in 2008 because I absolutely supported your concern for those marginalized by the Great Recession, and your emphasis on providing jobs through investment in infrastructure and recognition that our hope for the future lies in providing excellent, affordable education for our youth. And I agreed with your strong statements of support for Social Security as we know it.
I read and I listen, and I am deeply concerned about various actions you have taken in contrast to your earlier promises. I can only guess at the minefields you negotiate every waking hour—powerful interest groups from the NRA to the radical Republicans who want to continue the fiscal policies that created the recession in the first place, to people in your own party who just want to get reelected. But you are our President, and I depend on you to be wise and strong enough to stand up to these special interests—whatever the cost.
As you well know, your most dependable allies are wondering where you stand on Social Security. The willingness of Republican candidates to balance the budget on the backs of the elderly, children, and the poor is anathema to us, and we are anxiously awaiting a strong statement from you that you are sticking by the position you held as a candidate in 2008.
A few of us remember that you said, as a presidential candidate, that Social Security did not contribute to the deficit. As far as adjustments that could be made, you stated in an October 16, 2008, campaign video, “The best way forward is to first look to adjust the cap on the payroll tax… Ninety-seven percent of Americans will see absolutely no change in their taxes under my proposal…. What it does allow us to do is to extend the life of Social Security without cutting benefits or raising the retirement age.”
That resonates with me, Mr. President. In my opinion, you could do a great service to the nation by explaining, in that effective way you have, just what happened to the Social Security trust fund during Lyndon Johnson’s presidency when he was faced with paying for both the Vietnam War and the Great Society. And you could tell the public how every president since has included Social Security and all of the other trust funds in their proposed budgets. I explained this in a blog entitled “Social Insecurity” back in May, but if you were to explain the matter yourself, your audience would be vastly greater.
You would not only make me happy—Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) would be overjoyed. He is a vocal supporter of Social Security in largely its present form, but he agrees with you that it would be appropriate to raise the cap on income subject to the Social Security tax so the wealthy will be paying their fair share. At the same time, you could lend your support to the Senator’s Middle-Class Tax Relief Bill (S3412) that, remarkably, just passed the Senate but has little chance in the House.
On second thought, you’d better leave well enough alone. How many times have people supported legislation only to abandon it when you showed your support? Politics!!!
Mr. President, to wisely conduct your office, you must be a student of history. In this regard, I call your attention to Robert Caro’s estimable biography of Lyndon Johnson. You awarded Mr. Caro the National Humanities Medal for his work, so you are surely aware that he wrote as much about the foundational principles of our nation’s government as he did (and continues to write) about his human subject.
Perhaps you recall his account of President Harry Truman’s response to the reactionary, obstructionist Senate of the late 1940s which refused to pass progressive legislation when it was sorely needed. In a political climate that recalls our own, “Journalists discussed the institution in clichés: ‘The inefficiency of Congress is a national scandal.’ (The Years of Lyndon Johnson: Master of the Senate, page 101)
President Truman, also known as “Give ‘em Hell Harry,” embarked on a national campaign against the “Do Nothing Eightieth Congress.” The Senate remained insular, at the time, due to its historic protective structure, but eventually it had to respond to the public outcry articulated by a man of social conscience, a man such as yourself.
President Obama, these times call for another “Give ‘em Hell” president. When the middle class is being assaulted by economic forces beyond their ability to endure, they need a champion willing and able to stand up to the powerful interests of the most wealthy. Like Harry Truman, you are knowledgeable, you are articulate, you have a social conscience. From the beginning of your public service, you have been a spokesman for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. Because of this you are under widespread attack. You know your reelection is at stake. Your advisors are doubtless trying to modulate your message and steer you away from controversial subjects.
But if “politically correct” influences succeed in tailoring your message to the point that it doesn’t conflict with the Republican platform, you will alienate the young, the idealistic, the independent voters who brought you into office with confidence for a better future.
Stay strong, Mr. President! Speak your heart! We have your back!
What can you do—you are only one person? True, but you are only “six degrees of separation,” on average, from any other person on Earth. You become powerful when you share information with your friends and ask them to share it with their friends—it becomes a global revolution. As Stephen King suggests in The Long Walk, when these “society-supported sociopaths” come, step aside, and find the strength to run…