|Change We Can Believe In
An Open Letter to Barack Obama
This article appeared in the August 18, 2008 edition of The Nation.
July 30, 2008
ADD YOUR name to this Open Letter calling on Barack Obama to stand firm on the principles he so compellingly articulated in the primary campaign.
Click on this URL in order to do that:
Dear Senator Obama,
We write to congratulate you on the tremendous achievements of your campaign for the presidency of the United States.
Your candidacy has inspired a wave of political enthusiasm like nothing seen in this country for decades. In your speeches, you have sketched out a vision of a better future--in which the United States sheds its warlike stance around the globe and focuses on diplomacy abroad and greater equality and freedom for its citizens at home--that has thrilled voters across the political spectrum. Hundreds of thousands of young people have entered the political process for the first time, African-American voters have rallied behind you, and many of those alienated from politics-as-usual have been re-engaged.
You stand today at the head of a movement that believes deeply in the change you have claimed as the mantle of your campaign. The millions who attend your rallies, donate to your campaign and visit your website are a powerful testament to this new movement's energy and passion.
This movement is vital for two reasons: First, it will help assure your victory against John McCain in November. The long night of greed and military adventurism under the Bush Administration, which a McCain administration would continue, cannot be brought to an end a day too soon. An enthusiastic corps of volunteers and organizers will ensure that voters turn out to close the book on the Bush era on election day. Second, having helped bring you the White House, the support of this movement will make possible the changes that have been the platform of your campaign. Only a grassroots base as broad and as energized as the one that is behind you can counteract the forces of money and established power that are a dead weight on those seeking real change in American politics.
We urge you, then, to listen to the voices of the people who can lift you to the presidency and beyond.
Since your historic victory in the primary, there have been troubling signs that you are moving away from the core commitments shared by many who have supported your campaign, toward a more cautious and centrist stance--including, most notably, your vote for the FISA legislation granting telecom companies immunity from prosecution for illegal wiretapping, which angered and dismayed so many of your supporters.
We recognize that compromise is necessary in any democracy. We understand that the pressures brought to bear on those seeking the highest office are intense. But retreating from the stands that have been the signature of your campaign will weaken the movement whose vigorous backing you need in order to win and then deliver the change you have promised.
Here are key positions you have embraced that we believe are essential to sustaining this movement:
§ Withdrawal from Iraq on a fixed timetable.
§ A response to the current economic crisis that reduces the gap between the rich and the rest of us through a more progressive financial and welfare system; public investment to create jobs and repair the country's collapsing infrastructure; fair trade policies; restoration of the freedom to organize unions; and meaningful government enforcement of labor laws and regulation of industry.
§ Universal healthcare.
§ An environmental policy that transforms the economy by shifting billions of dollars from the consumption of fossil fuels to alternative energy sources, creating millions of green jobs.
§ An end to the regime of torture, abuse of civil liberties and unchecked executive power that has flourished in the Bush era.
§ A commitment to the rights of women, including the right to choose abortion and improved access to abortion and reproductive health services.
§ A commitment to improving conditions in urban communities and ending racial inequality, including disparities in education through reform of the No Child Left Behind Act and other measures.
§ An immigration system that treats humanely those attempting to enter the country and provides a path to citizenship for those already here.
§ Reform of the drug laws that incarcerate hundreds of thousands who need help, not jail.
§ Reform of the political process that reduces the influence of money and corporate lobbyists and amplifies the voices of ordinary people.
These are the changes we can believe in. In other areas--such as the use of residual forces and mercenary troops in Iraq, the escalation of the US military presence in Afghanistan, the resolution of the Israel-Palestine conflict, and the death penalty--your stated positions have consistently varied from the positions held by many of us, the "friends on the left" you addressed in recent remarks. If you win in November, we will work to support your stands when we agree with you and to challenge them when we don't. We look forward to an ongoing and constructive dialogue with you when you are elected President.
Stand firm on the principles you have so compellingly articulated, and you may succeed in bringing this country the change you've encouraged us to believe is possible.
Here is a list of early signatories to this open letter:
Norman Birnbaum Professor Emeritus
Georgetown University Law Center
Progressive Democrats of America
John Cavanaugh, director
Institute for Policy Studies
Jodie Evans, co-f0under
CODEPINK: Women for Peace
Bill Fletcher Jr., executive editor,
Richard Parker, president
Americans for Democratic Action
Writer and activist
achangeiscoming.net and member of Get FISA Right
Author and Obama delegate to Democratic National Convention
Katrina vanden Heuvel
Affiliations have been added when requested by the signatory.