Senator Kerry –
I write to you as a supporter, on the eve of the March 2nd primaries. I’m sure you get plenty of advice, especially the unsolicited kind, but it wouldn’t be much of a democracy if I didn’t claim the right to add my voice to that chorus.
Everyone – the press, the candidates, and voters – is fixated by where the candidates stand on the key issues of our day. Foreign policy, the economy, health care, social security, and the environment occupy countless pages in our newspapers and keep those of us who write blogs and websites busily tapping away at our keyboards.
And I’d like to suggest that the process has become too fixated on the details of policy proposals and issues. We fixate on issue positions because they’re easy to report, package, and deliver to the public. And in the process we forget that we’re interviewing somebody to take the most demanding and difficult job this country has to offer. By definition, if the President has to deal with it, it’s a complex issue, often with no easy answer and billions of dollars or millions of lives at stake. If the issues were amenable to “yes” or “no” answers or glib one-liners, they’d be dealt with long before they hit the desk you hope to sit behind.
And in that very complexity is the advantage that your opponent, President Bush, has over you.
In a real and growing sense, perhaps it’s the only advantage he still has. The President has simplified the complexities of our economy down to the assertion that tax cuts are good – no matter what. He’s simplified the complexities of fighting terrorism down to a single policy, and a single approach. He’s simplified the complexities of saving Social Security down to the notion that privatization will save the system. He’s simplified the enormous challenges we face protecting both morality and diversity in a pluralistic society, by selecting only one group he’ll choose to make happy.
The simplifications make the front page, while the discussion about the real issues is left to the back pages, op-ed columnists, and the growing mass of people discussing the issues on the Internet.
And that makes your job difficult – because you’re the guy who has to step up and say, “Fixing the budget, and tax policy, and deficits aren’t going to be easy, here are the tradeoffs, and it’s not going to happen overnight.” You’re the guy who has to say “combating terrorism and staying safe involves a lot of different measures, each suitable to the type of threat we face.” You’re the guy who has to face all Americans, regardless of religion, race, or sexual orientation, and say “America is for all of you, but that means we have to respect each other and protect morality and diversity at the same time.”
He gets the easy one-liners, while you get to do the hard work.
But here’s the good news…
You’re the one that gets to restore our faith in the notion that a President can also be a hero– your opponent has long since lost his credibility on that score.
We all know the job is tough, and we know that a President can’t always do everything they promise. But in my lifetime, we’ve also grown accustomed to Presidents that can’t turn around without a scandal breaking. We’ve grown accustomed to Presidents that are far too cozy with the industries that do business with our government. I’m only in my late 30’s, and I’ve heard the words “impeachment hearings” applied to Presidents twice. As a result, many in my generation have been apathetic about politics because we’ve seen little beyond inefficiency, corruption, and hidden agendas.
And sadly…we’ve grown accustomed to being lied to. That’s barely news anymore.
And that’s your chance to be a hero. Set a higher standard, and stick to it. Sure, tell us what you think about the issues, but don’t make promises just because they sound good. Have the courage of your convictions. When you have to change your mind, tell us you’re changing your mind, and why it’ll help the country. In business, and in life, the people I respect the most have these strengths – why would I want a leader who was any different?
I predict that people – Democrat and Republican alike – will respond in kind. We face serious issues, and we need leaders who think about the options, and pay attention to data, and give us the straight scoop. Not everything you say and do will be popular, but what will be popular is your courage in doing what you believe is right. It’ll be refreshing simply to know that if you tell us why something needs to be done, we could believe what we’re hearing.
We sometimes think as Americans that we’ve left behind all that “Old World” nonsense about knights and nobility and honor, but we haven’t – not in our hearts. We need leadership with honor and courage; we need a leader to inspire us while we take on the issues our country faces.
I support you in this election, Senator Kerry. I am a Kerry delegate from my precinct, and I support you financially. I pledge a portion of my paycheck monthly from now until the campaign is over, and I’m going to donate a portion of my tax refund (not just the portion from the Bush tax cut – I think you need more help than that). I’ll do what I can, and I’m sure you’ll make a great President. In return, give us an honest man in the White House.