An Open Letter to the President-elect On the Eve of Inauguration

President-elect Obama: 

I'm an ordinary citizen, perhaps a bit more politically involved than average, and a supporter of yours since the moment you gave that fateful speech in 2004.  You brought the possibility of idealism back to politics after its long slumber during my adulthood.  After a long and grueling primary campaign, during which skeptics daily doubted your ability to secure the nomination, and supporters like me mostly held their breath, you showed yourself to be a serious candidate for this job. 

And on the campaign trail, you confounded the pundits who said you couldn't talk about substance, and could only talk in platitudes and airy phrases.  But your mixture of idealism and pragmatism won the day, as did your competence in fundraising and running a campaign.

And now, you have the job. 

Early indications are that you fully understand the gravity of the situation.  Your speech at George Mason on the economy resonated with seriousness of purpose, and more than a few direct echoes of Frankin Delano Roosevelt's First Inaugural Address, given during the depths of the fiscal crisis as the Depression deepened. 

As an American and long-time supporter of your fitness for this job, I ask only a few things of you.

1.  Clearly and honestly explain the situation to your country.  Demand more of us, as we demand the world of you. 

2.  Be honest about your mistakes.  Don't fear the polls, and keep your eyes on how Americans traditionally behaved:  we admire people more when they can admit their mistakes and then go fix them, than we do any amount of skill in hiding the truth.

3.  Don't lose your principles.  You've got the toughest job on the planet as of noon tomorrow, and the temptation to use your power in ways you yourself deplore and have decried on the floor of the Senate and campaign trail will be overwhelming.  Don't give in.  I can't think of anybody I'd entrust more with this responsibility than perhaps Lincoln or FDR, and they're not available anymore. 

4.  Maintain your idealism, and keep creating it in all of us.  What will get us through the next four years successfully is to not let the idealism fade, especially in the face of all that will happen to us in the next year or two, economically.  We need to believe, and the economy needs us to believe, and we need each other to believe.  And we need you to keep helping us believe.

Do these things, Mr. President-elect, and you'll keep the hearts and minds of Americans.  And as we now know to our pain and chagrin, that bond of trust is critical, and has been missing for far too long between the People and their chosen representatives. 

For too long we've had government of the people, without as much government by the people as we should have, and nowhere near enough government for the people. 

Please, Mr. President-elect, restore the balance.  Thank you.