Cover of January 3, 2011 Issue

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January 3, 2011 Issue

Mark Hertsgaard on Cancún's successes, Harvey Sloane on healthcare reform's teachable moment and Ben Ehrenreich on Frederic Tuten.

Cover art by: Cover design by Stephen Kling/Avenging Angels

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Esther Kaplan on the GOP's message to miners; John Nichols on Bernie Sanders' filibuster; Jennifer O'Mahony on the UK student pro...

The Cancún Compromise

The agreements reached at the Cancún climate summit oblige all nations to reduce future emissions. The challenge now is to generate the political pressure on national ...




The Bucks Don't Stop Here Austin, Tex.   "The hard truth is that we have a corporate class that funds electoral conflict for the purpose of forging a political class that will govern in its interest" is as brutally honest and accurate as is the entire article by John Nichols and Robert W. McChesney "The Money & Media Election Complex," [Nov. 29]. Yet a majority of voters would not understand its audacity and complexity, nor would they under­stand how their vote, based on negative TV ads, endangers our democracy. Do voters realize that their vote in 2012 could help disable our democracy? Do they under­stand they are voting for a plutocracy? This essay is too important and outstanding to keep within The Nation. It needs to be the basis of a push for campaign finance reform. I suggest a ban on political advertising on TV because it's dangerous to your health, like the ban on TV cigarette peddling.   CYNDI COLLEN     Corvallis, Ore. John Nichols and Robert McChesney blast election campaign TV ads: "As ads become the primary source of political information, we create a politics based on lies or, at best...quarter-truths." Strong words. Their solution? More TV ads! "Free TV ads for every candidate on the ballot." Since, by the writers' account, TV campaign ads absorb two-thirds of all campaign funds, wouldn't the proper solution be a legal ban on those TV ads? TV campaign ads are already banned in England. Let's think big. Repeal any First Amendment protection for election campaign ads on television, radio and billboards, and prohibit all such ads. Candidates could still use debates, newspaper, magazine and Internet ads, mailers, fliers, books and phone calls. This could reduce the amount of money any candidate needs by two-thirds. Citizens lacking wealth could run for major public office! LEO W. QUIRK     'Don't Cry for Me': B. Obama Mt. Lebanon, Pa. Re William Greider's "Obama Without Tears," [Nov. 29]: my shoe leather is where my heart is. I am one of thousands who walked, and knocked, in the last two elections. I have been inspired by President Obama, but not lately. The president has changed from a transformational leader to mediator. When Wall Street went down, I wanted a president who would indict the perps while fixing the system. (W. didn't, but I thought Obama might.) Instead, his opening position was compromise. Compromise is necessary, but you often get the best deal by championing your values, defending the ideal and explaining the process to the faithful. You negotiate but assert that the dream shall never die. We need candidate Obama back. Let someone else broker the deals. I didn't walk a hole in my shoe for a mediator. I sweated for the best, most inspiring leader since Bobby Kennedy. TOM O'BRIEN     Santa Fe I continue to be confounded by President Obama's inability to evidence real indignation against a know-nothing, do-­nothing GOP. Perhaps he doesn't want to be perceived as an angry black man; but he is beginning to look more and more like Gen. George McClellan, whom Lincoln despaired of ever engaging the fight with the forces seeking to divide and conquer. For far too long Obama has suppressed legitimate outrage in favor of lawyerly, overly conciliatory, above-the-fray detachment while the right seizes the narrative. For the sake of the country, "fired up and ready to go" from candidate Obama needs a revival from within the bruised-but-not-bowed presidential psyche. BARBARA ALLEN KENNEY     Gwynedd, Pa. Those of us who were moved by Obama the candidate and cheered him on to victory must feel let down by Obama the president. Perhaps we should have known better—a bright, caring, very articulate black president would be anathema to America's white reactionary establishment. The Tea Party is the well-financed bully mob of this establishment. Future historians will have to grapple with Barack Obama, the black, bright and sensitive youngster with a strange foreign name, who must have learned early to be nice if you don't want to get beaten up. I know: growing up in Weimar Germany as "Jesaja, that Polish Jew-boy," you avoided even eye contact with "them." But it never works, no matter how accommodating you are.  SI LEWEN     Nashville I've always maintained that the key to under­standing Obama is to study Abraham Lincoln. Both men were rather detached, cerebral and able to inspire crowds with lofty language. Both men were brilliant and cautious by nature. Both men sought areas of consensus with their adversaries even as their adversaries rebuffed them. Both men had genuinely progressive core principles and sensibilities; yet because they sought consensus first, both men's actual policy positions were more moderate, and frustrating to progressives. Both men saw this approach as the key to getting any progress out of this profoundly conservative country with a government of checks and balances. Both men took fierce criticism from the right—much of it race-based—and from the left. And somehow, both men managed to move the country in a more progressive direction in spite of itself. What's different is us. Progressives. In Lincoln's day, facing bigger obstacles than we face today, abolitionists had a cause that was larger than Lincoln, and they never stopped fighting for it. Although immediate abolition was out of the question, they sought out every smaller fight they could find. Can we exclude slavery from the new territories taken from Mexico? If Congress can't abolish slavery in the states, can we at least disentangle the federal government from slavery by abolishing it in military posts and the District of Columbia? If a true abolitionist is unelectable, can we at least elect Lincoln, who is a moderate on abolition but is with us at heart? The right wing understands this. Its leaders announced before Obama even took office that they would work to make him fail, and they've been doing that nonstop ever since. And what of the left? A lot of the turnout that elected Obama stayed home inNovember and allowed Republicans and Tea Partiers to win in state and Congressional races. That side never stops fighting. Obama told us this. The causes we believe in are bigger than him, and we would have to keep fighting even after Inauguration Day—and every single day. The abolitionists knew this. We do not. That is the difference. That's where progressive change is won and lost. KIM WHITE No Fan of the Tan Man Holmes, N.Y. More on Boehner as muse ["Letters," Nov. 29]: Pelosi and Reid, I must accede, Just couldn't go the distance. And so the switch to McConnell, Mitch, and the Boehner of my existence. JEREMY WOLFF Read More


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