Web Letters | The Nation

Web Letter

I am very thankful for Mr. Barack Obama. I am an African-American woman and this is the first election I will be voting in. I am a firm believer in God, and though Mr. Obama and I differ in our faiths, I can't help but say that God has a hand in this. I was so upset when I heard some idiots killed a black bear and wrapped it in Obama posters. That was an indirect threat to him and they should be ashamed. Are they going to get any time or a fine?

Everyone wants to give McCain a pat on his back because he was a POW. Well, that is all well and good, we know he defended our country at some point--but if he does not give the people in the middle and lower classes a hand, doesn't he know that upper class will fall also!? I just happened to be one of the many Americans who did not have a silver spoon in my mouth upon my birth. What about those in the service industry? The housekeepers, gardeners,cashiers and so on who are trying to feed a family? Where do they turn? What happens to them when they can't rely on the food pantry to give out enough rations for them to survive, even with the added money from their paychecks? Where do they go? What about when they are sick and hurt, and can't afford to go to the hospital? What then?

Also why, if he does, would he support these other issues like gay marriages? When they passed the rights for lesbians and gays to legally marry, it felt like the world was coming to an end.We are indeed living in perilous times. Where in the Bible do you ever remember reading men joined together in a marital format? You won't! The Bible has remained true over the course of time and will be the rock this world will pray it can lean on in the end times. God has not changed His Word and He will not change! Nor will He change his Holy Word! It is us who must fall in line! So if it takes what some of you see as a threat to fix what Bush tore down, give Obama the hammer and nails!

Jessica Jemelle Boyd

Forrest City, AR

Oct 21 2008 - 11:12pm

Web Letter

Everything is embedded in a context. Therefore, it is useful to examine what has happened in previous instances of The Nation announcing unconditional support for Democratic nominees, no matter how anti-progressive the candidates' positions may be.

Has throwing away the left's only card gained anything from Democrats? On the other hand, have the Democrats continued to shift to the right, even dragging antiwar people and images off of their convention floor? Which one?

The Nation's readers and editors should find common cause with the peace protesters in the "free speech" cages away from the convention; there is no evidence to suggest that Democratic power-brokers will tolerate anything from the left except quiet obedience.

At some point, evidence must matter. The wishful thinking that informs your open letter is just embarrassing. It's also how the Dems shift continually to the right with impunity.

Clark Iverson

Royal Oak, MI

Aug 25 2008 - 7:20pm

Web Letter

While vacationing in Hawaii recently, the Democratic presumptive nominee, Barack Obama, called for a stand from the united international community to put an end to Russian aggression towards the sovereign nation of Georgia. This began with the calling for a cease-fire resolution to be enacted and enforced by the United Nations--a position McCain held first. With bilateral support from both nominees, why is this a controversial claim by Obama?

Back in 2002, Obama, a state senator at the time, did not support the US invasion of Iraq but decided against calling for a resolution from the UN to stop the act. Obama draws a metaphor between both invasions: "We've got to send a clear message to Russia and unify our allies. They can't charge into other countries. Of course it helps if we are leading by example on that point." So why call for a resolution against Russia and not against the US when in both cases Obama did not support the invasions?

Maybe he didn't support a UN resolution against Iraq because if the war turned out to be favorable, the issue could be played against him in a future presidential race in an anti-patriotic slant (in that he'd be calling on an outside community to put the US in check). Maybe he was somehow against the US invasion but did not want it to be stopped so he could be shown in a more favorable and contrasting light compared to his future opponents (this option automatically fails due to the fact that the US has veto power and would simply have overturned the decision). Or maybe he jumped on the issue only after McCain called for the same resolution so as not to appear inferior to his foreign policy experienced opponent. Either way, the fact that Obama has made this decision now and not in the past should call our attention to a political game of grandstanding and disingenuousness that Obama's Change We Can Believe In campaign was supposed to be devoid of.

Matt Cucchiaro

Danville, CA

Aug 23 2008 - 7:31pm

Web Letter

A spirit of change has taken root among Americans and Obama has become the embodiment of that spirit. Because of this we find The Nation's open letter to Obama to be of pivotal importance in its raising of concerns about his campaign. However, asserting our voice is not enough to turn his rhetoric of change into real change. More must be done to heal our democracy; more must be done to move forward with the potential of this historic moment.

The Nation makes note of the movement of "everyday people" that Obama has built. Their support is vital to the success of his campaign. We must not forget, however, that in the aftermath of the elections, Obama's ability to effect change remains dependent on the power built by his supporters. Moreover, the level of real change will be measured in the degree to which this power becomes independent of Obama, the degree to which a true social movement is built. As you note, "Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind [Obama] can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics".

Central to this is the stand taken by The Nation in establishing national social priorities for an Obama administration. Making such commitments explicit now will facilitate the transition from the rhetoric of change to real change in our democracy. However, for too long the American people have not decided the direction of their country. This movement must be one that fosters real dialogue between the people and their government, something that has been lacking from our democracy for a long time.

It is not enough for such a base to demand change from Obama, or from anyone else. It is not enough to react—to support or challenge his stands on issues as they are presented to us. In the continual struggle for progress we must not chase the opportunities established power concedes; rather, it is vital that we make them for ourselves. Only then can the potential of our moment be realized.

More than bring people back to the political system, we must give them ownership, give them power that is independent of charismatic leadership. We must bring politics back to the people and the people back into politics. More than demanding change from our government, we must inspire people to work for that change. More than building a movement to elect a man, we must build a movement to hold him accountable. More than having the nation's priorities be ones that matter we must allow the people to determine what their priorities are. More than a multitude of alienated and fragmented groups fighting disjointedly for the same goals of progress, we must have effective coordinated action. And more than cure a broken electoral system, we must heal an ailing democracy. These are the opportunities that Obama doesn't create--they are for we the people to create.

In the name of these pivotal steps forward we would like to introduce the Hundred Days Campaign, a coalition of students and progressive groups who are committed to taking hold of our political moment. During the first hundred days of the next Administration the coalition will organize nationwide action to ensure people do not leave politics after the votes are counted and that our social priorities must be the nation's priorities, whether it is in Washington or in our hometowns. We invite you to join the effort and help cure our democracy.


New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Detroit and Washington, DC, USA

Aug 21 2008 - 7:22pm

Web Letter

I was excited by the principles articulated there, so I signed the open letter. Now I regret it. Having read the web letters, I see it as a tactical error. Our job, as so many letters insisted, is to stop the divisiveness and just get him elected. All those principles become nothing but warm vapor if John McCain wins.

Donna Boyle

San Diego, CA

Aug 18 2008 - 5:31pm

Web Letter

Any lamebrain coward can sign a fawning, vacuously deluded plea. What the left needs to deliver to Obama is a stern reminder that war is not in our best interests, and that means any war--"good wars" only exist in the brutally co-opted imaginations of committed American imperialists. Distorting the reality of Obama's record and campaign platform to serve the collective hopes of the signatories, and then having The Nation print such an insulting demonstration of political chicanery, shows just how pathetic and spineless most of the so-called left really is. Why not inform Obama that if US troops are not out of Iraq and Afghanistan, if the NED and other CIA fronts are not out of Venezuela, Colombia and numerous other nations by March 1, 2009, then we're going to shut America down? Why not let Obama know that we'll foment revolution right here on our streets, and let's see if he thinks that would be a "good war" to fight? Why not tell him if he doesn't change his tune immediately, we'll all vote for McCain just to facilitate the blood-letting that clearly needs to happen when the so-called "change" is nothing more than dried-out tripe!

Peter J. Warner

Fort Bragg, CA

Aug 14 2008 - 10:47pm

Web Letter

I think it’s cute that you guys think you can influence Obama to support progressive causes by writing him this open letter. You’re assuming he was progressive to begin with. HA! Somebody hasn’t looked at BO’s Illinois and US Senate voting records lately.

Gillian Rosheuvel

Chicago, IL

Aug 14 2008 - 10:09am

Web Letter

Reading the web letters in response to this open letter is an object lesson in just how fractured and schismatic the American left is these days. (As is the right, let me stipulate; while most of us can only look at it from the outside with puzzlement, it is clearly deeply divided over whether and why to support McCain and what to expect from him.)

On the one hand, we have a contingent arguing that Obama is obviously a sold-out right-wing corporatist, and to ask him for anything at all is shamefully obsequious and futile. On the other hand, we have a contingent arguing that Obama is our last best hope, and that to say anything that could be construed at criticism at this point is just playing into the hands of the right.

What amazes me is how few respondents stake out any position between these two--especially bizarre, given that nearly 30,000 people so far have signed the open letter, and thus presumably support it.

We're living in strange political times; many of the old political verities and the alliances that coalesced around them no longer seem reliable. This makes "change" of some sort pretty much inevitable, albeit unpredictable, and at least opens the door to grassroots efforts to make that change progressive and productive. But, of course, there are no guarantees.

Along these lines, I think this letter is reasonable, prudent and principled. What it expresses captures many of my own sentiments. On the one hand, I've been disappointed by some of Obama's recent statements, particularly his inexcusable vote on the FISA bill, which greatly dimmed my early enthusiasm for him. On the other hand, I still recognize that he is by far the best viable candidate in this race (even if only as the "lesser evil"), and moreover as the head of the ticket can help sweep many genuine progressives into Congressional seats.

If we wait around for a candidate who agrees with us on everything--well, that'll happen just after we all agree among ourselves, which is to say never. If we simply keep our mouths shut and vote on blind faith, we're hoping for a candidate who can read our minds, and that's not realistic either.

This open letter strikes a perfectly rational middle ground--it tells the candidate what he's said and done that we like, and what he's said and done that we don't like, in a way that's honest and forthright. It doesn't get caught up in trying to second- or third-guess his strategy, or that of the Republicans, or to divine anyone's secret agenda, or to foretell the future (either hopeful or doom-laden). It's just a straightforward expression of policy priorities, in the best tradition of open, public American democracy. I see absolutely nothing wrong with that, and that's why I signed.

Chris Miller

Chicago, IL

Aug 13 2008 - 11:56am

Web Letter

You guys just don't get it, do you?? If Obama doesn't get elected, he can't change anything.

Moving to the center for the general after winning the primary is basic Political Science 101. I can't believe how naïve a lot of us here are. This letter is a perfect example of that.

And while you are at it, you'd better get used to compromise, that's the name of the game in successful administrations. That means you will not get everything you want, but you may at least get what you need...

Leeroy Perkins

Tacoma, WA

Aug 12 2008 - 10:49pm

Web Letter

Your open letter to Senator Obama seems like a desperate attempt to make Obama something he is not, and never can or will be. Unfortunately, the only way a black man in the country can advance within conventional circles as far as Obama has is compromise on really important issues. Furthermore, in my opinion, the only reason he is the presumptive Democratic nominee for President is that the powers to be do not think this black man will not threaten white supremacy and transnational control of our government.

Finally, I am really concerned about your definition of "cautious and centrist stance," as outlined in the letter. Obama's vote to support the recent FISA legislation cannot be labled as centrist, it is exactly what the Bush Administration wanted. Obama's speech to AIPAC cannot conceivably be considered centrist--he sounded like the rest of the neocon hawks walking the halls of the White House and Pentagon. His blaming black fathers for the problems in African-American society is simplistic and does not represent progressive thinking. Siding with the Bush Supreme Court on gun control and the death penalty cannot be considered centrist. His desire to continue with the Bush faith-based initiatives can only foster governmental theocracy--it is not centrist. Etc., etc., etc.

Obama has flopped on so many issues that it sickens me that we again are left with two choices that are not appealing.

I look to The Nation to provide the American people with real progressive (not regressive) leadership on important issues. You can begin again by calling Obama to the carpet, rather than giving him a slap on the wrist.

Gordon Alderink

Coopersville, MI

Aug 11 2008 - 3:09pm