Thursday, November 6, 2008

Open Letter To Barack Obama

President Barack Hussein Obama.

Congratulations sir. As someone who saw your speech in 2004, and instantly heard your call to transcend the red-versus blue to create United States as one of the most genuine calls to unity in our time, you've had this coming, sir. I had initial doubts about your readiness in 2004, and you answered them--not through stunts, or through loudly insisting that you were ready, you were ready, you were ready, but simply by being ready. You've earned the "historic" label that has been foisted upon you; you've earned a 64% turnout.

Now, it is government time.

There are incredible opportunities across the world, and you've got to act quickly to make sure you're taking full advantage of them. The strange world of the "President-Elect" is odd to navigate, and it may not be fully proper to be starting until the transition period is over, but you need to keep these things in mind.

The Democratic Party is yours. We in the party (I have never conceived of myself as being in the party until today) are looking to you for guidance. And while the past eight years have been an indictment on the failed policies of the neoconservative movement, they're also an indictment on the failed leadership of Nancy Pelosi; especially in the last two years, where as Speaker of House she failed to use her position to significantly advance a progressive agenda past the first 100 days. Our inability to create a useful opposition to Bush is our collective burden. But our partisanship, our tendency to cast blame and not provide solutions, that is part of what created the huge rally to your side.

The Democratic Party will look to you for leadership, and you must be willing to take on those in the party who "fight" Republicans, who "fight" conservatism, who take your Presidency or their ideals as dogmas which cannot be questioned. If Nancy Pelosi squelches debate the way Dennis Hastert did when he Spoke for the House, if she drives out those Republicans who are still in congress, you may still be able to win votes, but the bipartisanship that you have staked your claim to the presidency on will be ruined.

Turning our attention abroad, there is another even more incredible opportunity overseas. Unnoticed by the media, a great excitement has built up in the moderate Muslim and Arab worlds; the idea that someone of your unique heritage and background can succeed in "The Great Satan" is a repudiation of the fundamentalist view of the United States, which sees the very worst in us. Tentative optimism has been heard from all quarters, expecting solid talks. Syria is optimistic. Muqtata al Sadr is optimistic. You will have an important moment to leverage in the Middle East. You need to use it. It will be difficult, because the financial crisis at home will want to take a lot of attention. And yet, as a President (as you said yourself), you need to multitask. You need to be exploiting that goodwill before it goes away.

A new, young generation has come out for you; you and us are taking the baton of American leadership from an older generation, one that served in Vietnam and ended the Cold War. But in the Middle East, a new, young generation is coming of age as well. There is a danger that this new, young generation will come of age in a broken world, with warlike leaders and inspirations, thinking that America is all that is bad in the world. My professor Jan Urban quoted Gallup polls that indicated that 80% of these young Arabs hate the West; but 56% hope to live there one day. Many are fanatic, but they may not be as unreachable as older fanatics like Osama Bin Laden. The hope that you brought to the young in America needs to be hope you bring to the young all over the world. A young man who has just reached voting age in Iraq needs to be just as exuberant over his voice making a difference as the young man in North Carolina who helped turn that state Blue for the first time in decades, as all of the young men and women who proved that they can turn the country if only they get out there, organize the community, and make a difference.

These are the two big opportunities in front of you. There are many more. One of them is that you may, interestingly, have an influence over the face of conservatism for the next generation, as a broken and injured Republican Party looks for a new message. You'll have the opportunity to extend them a hand, to invite their fiscal sensibilities to the table. The libertarian movement, underrepresented by both candidacies, is looking for a seat at the table; Ron Paul proved that the promises of libertarianism can get people as excited as your own progressive agenda. In engagement, you can shape the form they take in the same way that your engagement with China, with Syria, with Iran, and with Cuba will help shape their futures.

I draw this letter to a close with my own intentions. If you stand for what you believe in, if you take advantage of these situations, if your presidency tolerates the dissent that I and many others may sometimes voice; if you turn our hope into a definite agenda that reaches to all of America, not just those who agreed with you in this past election, then you will have my resources to put them into action. There are a lot of IF's attached to that, and I make no apologies for putting strings attached to my support. You have an incredible opportunity, and an incredible responsibility.

Your humble servant
(another gawky kid with a funny name)
Guy Yedwab

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