19 January 2010


I'm fairly certain that people don't read rabbis' blogs for political insights but I am so NOT surprised that Martha Coakley lost in Massachusetts tonight. Frankly, I was pulling for Alan Khazei, the co-founder of City Year, who lost in the primary. Improbably by some measures, the man who opposes cap and trade on greenhouse emissions, has a 100% rating from the NRA, opposes amnesty for illegal immigration and never met a waterboard he didn't like, beat a liberal Democrat in a liberal state with the legacy of health care legislation on the line once supported by the late Lion of the Democratic Party of Massachusetts--oh, it's too much to bear!

Unless you look reality in the eye and see an enormous amount of anger in the country about economic dislocation and a clear perception that Democrats have too quickly fallen into the trap that they themselves fought against for the last two years: that leadership in Washington, DC was out of touch with common working people.

I say over and over to those who will listen: David Axelrod was a genius at electing President Obama and Rahm Emanuel has constructed a fragile but earth-shatteringly profound coalition to pass major health-care legislation but THAT'S IT. Without getting out of the bubble once a week, every week, for the past six months, this disaster in Massachusetts was their own making. President Obama SHOULD have been in a different city in a different state with a different group of troubled and struggling Americans EVERY WEEK, demonstrating that he cared, that he felt people's pain and that he was willing to "bash heads" in the dysfunctional halls of Congress to get legislation passed that would help people.

Instead, he hung back in DC, traveled to Oslo to get a prize for world peace, and successfully alienated more and more people who had fleeting faith that something powerful was happening in this country to set it on track.

That Ted Kennedy's seat went to the Tea Party should humble all of us not to any compelling message of the Tea Party but to the incredible amount of anger and discontent that is in the land and if not met head on, in a deeply meaningful way NOW, will gave way to a one-term President and Sarah Palin, or worse, in 2012.

One wonders what's in store for Senator Gillibrand's special election seat. Don't roll your eyes. NO ONE anticipated losing a Kennedy seat in the U.S. Senate. Why is New York state immune?

NOW, MR. PRESIDENT! NOW! A new city once a week. Where the poor are poor; where the middle class are scared; where the jobs are scarce; where the people are angry. You wanted to be President. That's what you wrote those books for. Now is the time for a re-kindling of your "audacity of hope" and the "dreams of your fathers (and mothers and brothers and sisters and aunts and uncles and cousins and friends and neighbors and enemies and, and, and..." To hell with the Oval Office philosophizing! Ride the wave that put you into office in 2008. The Republic is hungry for a leader with vision and a backbone to articulate a powerful response to the mess we've made for ourselves.

And one more thing, speaking respectfully as a peer. Stop surrounding yourself with sycophants. This whole cult of personality thing has only gotten you so far. If you were a Jew I'd wrap you in the language of the tefilin and remind you daily that we are bound to serve precisely because we were once not free. Which means our work is never done which I know you understand but you are not living that understanding in the way you are leading.

So get out there and show it! Before another seat is lost! Ted Kennedy's seat went to the Tea Party! On your watch!

Which means that time starts over.

So I ask: if you were running a campaign for President TODAY--what would you do to win? SO DO IT!


David S. said...


I agree pretty much with everything you said here. This is depressing.

I don't know much about politics, but the cult of personality really was what turned me off to Obama in the beginning, and he hasn't seemed to rise beyond that.

In the bigger scheme of things - and to get simplistic as per my engineer dad - I wish gasoline would go to ten bucks a gallon. It seems like the only way everyone - including the politicos in Washington - will truly hurt. And then all this endless back and forth nonsense, global warming denial, etc. will stop, and the country won't have a choice but to change.

Amanda said...

Well said.

Paul Francis said...

You are right on the money...........

Old First said...

Amen, brother. And you know, you just go right ahead and write that op-ed piece. You've got it.