Still, those same progressives beaten
back by 20 years of reactionary Reagans and Bushes and two terms of
equivocating Clintons have been so eager for the revival of movement
politics that they are willing to hope in Obama, even dare to dream
that he can break a path to a better future. The challenge Obama faces
is to get elected in a divided country and still claim a mandate to
In the past few weeks some 15,000 people
have signed an open letter to Obama. It is worth reading, and since it
struck me as both sane and fair, it is reproduced, with minor
excisions, below. The letter recognizes that the movement that gave
birth to the Obama candidacy will have differences with Obama the
candidate without taking the Naderite position that there is no
difference between the two major parties.
Dear Senator Obama:
We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.
Your candidacy has inspired a wave of
political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In
your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future—in
which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and
focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its
citizens at home—that has thrilled voters across the political
spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the
political process for the first time, African-American voters have
rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual
have been re-engaged.
You stand today at the head of a
movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the
mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate
to your campaign and visit your Web site are a powerful testament to
this new movement's energy and passion.
This movement is vital for two reasons.
First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in
November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the
Bush administration, which a McCain administration would continue,
cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of
volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the
book on the Bush era on Election Day.
Second, having helped bring you the
White House, the support of this movement will make possible the
changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a
grass-roots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind
you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a
dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.
We urge you, then, to listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond.
Since your historic victory in the
primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from
the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign,
toward a more cautious and centrist stance—including, most notably,
your vote for the FISA legislation (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance
Act) that granted telecom companies immunity from prosecution for
illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your
We recognize that compromise is
necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to
bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating
from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will
weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and
then deliver the change you have promised.
Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:
• Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.
• A response to the current economic
crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through
a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to
create jobs and repair the country's collapsing infrastructure; fair
trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and
meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of
• Universal health care.
• An environmental policy that
transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the
consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating
millions of green jobs.
• An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.
• A commitment to the rights of women, including the
right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and
reproductive health services.
• A commitment to improving conditions
in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including
disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act
and other measures.
• An immigration system that treats
humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to
citizenship for those already here.
• Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.
• Reform of the political process that
reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies
the voices of ordinary people.
These are the changes we can believe in.
If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we
agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to
an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected
Stand firm on the principles you have so
compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country
the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible. Amen.
Ed Griffin-Nolan’s Sanity Fair column runs weekly in the Syracuse New Times.