The President and Vice-President seemed to suggest that waning liberal enthusiasm was nothing more than the product of sheer laziness and an unwillingness to look at the results. That's where I have to draw the line. As someone brought into politics by Aaron Sorkin's "The West Wing," I consider myself a fairly liberal voter. If I had been old enough, I would certainly have voted for Barack Obama, and even though I wasn't, I drove 4 hours to Nevada on my dime to campaign on his behalf. I'm glad I did, because I think given the polarization of our national discourse in the past couple of years and the gradual closing of the political center, I believe the country would be much worse off in the hands of John McCain and Sarah Palin.
But that said, Mr. President, there's more to how we feel than just sloth. I can't speak for everyone else, but I follow the news closely. During the first year of your term - when you had the Presidency, a supermajority in the Senate, and a firm grip on the House, the only major legislation you signed was the stimulus bill. Admittedly, the ban on federal funding for stem cell research was lifted, you instituted Fair Pay, and you brought our economy back from the brink. You put Sotomayor on the bench, not to mention receiving a Nobel Peace Prize and restoring our relationships with foreign countries across the world. And in your second year, you brought health care back from the grave - no one thought it had a chance after Scott Brown won in Massachusetts. But you brought it back, and because of that, millions more Americans will be insured in the years to come. All while managing two wars and fixing Wall Street. None of that is easy, and all of it was productive.
But sir, no one elected you because we thought the job would be easy. We supported you because you told us that if we did, you would usher in a transformative era in American politics. You told us that you would push to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" because it doesn't make sense to discharge qualified and patriotic soldiers at a time when our military needs all the help it can get. You told us you would close Guantanamo Bay, and told the world in your inaugural address that "we reject as false the choice between our security and our ideals," promising to end wiretapping. You advocated fierce reform for public schools in our country, not just $4 billion in more funding without addressing the key issue we face. Most importantly to me, you promised environmental protection and a push for greener, cleaner energy to wean us off of foreign oil. Instead, you lifted a ban on offshore drilling and put off a fight on climate change legislation, despite the fact that Senator Lindsey Graham was willing and eager to help.
I'm 19 and I don't see the policy briefs or the data that you see, nor do I have entire buildings full of incredibly qualified advisors, so I'm sure there are some technical problems with that analysis. Moreover, you're the smartest person in the room - that's why I campaigned for you, and why I'll continue to support you. But please don't tell me the reason I don't feel enthusiastic right now is that I'm sitting on my hands.
You had one full year - a whole year with our allies in the White House and Congress. In 2008, even Alaskans elected a Democrat to the Senate. You had a full year, and all you could come up with was a stimulus bill? I know it's hard to handle the economy, but was it really that paralyzingly difficult, so unimaginably constrictive that you could not mentally handle anything else? I don't work there, but you could have told some aides to spend a week, maybe, figuring out how to push forward on cap-and-trade, or on repealing DADT, or on meaningful education reform. You had a whole year, sir, with our allies. A golden opportunity that Bill Clinton and I both know doesn't come around that often, and what do we have to show for it? The fact that our unemployment rate isn't quite as high as it would have been otherwise?
Don't get me wrong, I don't mind if you actually disagree with me on any of this. I think you truly believe that there is something to be gained from offshore drilling, and I think you believe there is a legitimate enemy in Afghanistan. I trust your judgment, and I support your decisions. What I can't stomach is the fact that you're not willing to fight about the other stuff - the stuff we do agree on. That's what I elected you to do! I heard you say last week that your legislative accomplishments were mild thus far because, and I'm paraphrasing, "it's hard getting stuff through Congress." Did you really not know that going in, sir? Because if so, I should have worked harder for Governor Richardson. Where are you on education reform, on energy policy, on civil rights? We need you to lead, sir.
Here's why I think you haven't, so far. With all due respect, I think you don't want to start the discussion on any of these issues because you think you're going to lose the debate. And frankly, I'd be scared of that if I were you too. If I didn't know any better, and took my cues from the way your communications staff runs the message, I would think we were all socialist, godless, and amoral. I, too, would think we were trying to set up death panels and destroy the private sector, guided by a deep-rooted, anti-colonial, non-American-born ideology. Because when Republicans come out with their ridiculous scare tactics to scare voters into opposing legislation, you usually come out with some variation of "well, to be fair..." instead of slamming them for embracing a deceitful campaign of propaganda in lieu of actually debating the facts.
My point, sir, is pick your battles - you have too many as it is. I'll vote on November 2nd, and I'll line up and vote for the Democrats, because I think they're a lot better than the alternative. But that's why I'm not inspired, because that's my motivation for voting Democratic on election day - they're better than the alternative, not because I believe strongly in our capacity for the progress you promised.
If you want my enthusiasm, sir, and I think you're going to need it when you run against Mitt Romney, I suggest you hire a new communications team, tell them to stop making our party look like a bunch of clowns, and most of all, gear up for the policy fights I expected you to fight.