I just finished watching “The Road We’ve Traveled.” It’s a 20-minute documentary produced by the Obama campaign and it’s an intelligent, rational look back at an intelligent and rational president, making intelligent, rational and extremely tough decisions to get this country back on track after its near collapse. I watch it and I can’t help but be amazed that any sane person would want to replace this man’s measured, thoughtful, compassionate approach to governing, his penchant for putting country before politics, his extraordinary grace under fire and his thorough grasp of domestic and foreign policy with one of the pathetic excuses for a contender that’s currently vying for the Republican nomination. It literally boggles my mind.
In my opinion there are only four reasons why anyone would want to do anything but thank Obama for what he’s managed to accomplish so far and re-elect him. By acclamation. The first reason is power. Whichever political party isn’t in power wants to be, even if it means electing someone they dislike. (That’s certainly evident this year, especially among the “I’ll hold my nose and vote for Romney” crowd). The second reason is upbringing. There are people who vote Republican just because it’s what their father and grandfather told them to do. (I asked a college student the other day why she was a Republican and she said, “Ummmm. I don’t know. Because my father is?”) The third reason is to defeat socialism. They believe that Obama is a socialist because that’s what’s been drummed into them by the right-wing media and they’re too ignorant to know what socialism really is; they just know it’s very very bad and has to be defeated. And the fourth reason, of course, is racism. The crazy, Obama is a Muslim born in Kenya-type to the good old-fashioned southern-fried type. If you insist on believing that doesn’t exist then you don’t live in Texas.
None of the above-mentioned groups of people will ever watch “The Road We’ve Traveled.” Which means it’s for the faithful, hopefully to raise a whole lot of money. It’s also for those who need a little reminder of how desperate things were and how much worse things could have been had it not been for the Recovery Act or the bailout of the auto industry, to name just a couple of things Obama fought for. I’'s for the independents, and for those who might be trying to make up their minds because they’ve only remembered all the hope and change they believed in, the elation they felt in 2008, and how let down they feel that all the promises weren’t kept and the goals not yet met.
It’s really because of those people that I want to give the Obama campaign a few words of advice. You can’t gloss over the bad parts. That group is not like the lemmings in the Republican party; they won’t believe it just because you tell it to them. If you’re an unemployed schoolteacher and you hear about how the Recovery Act put teachers back in school, you still want to know why you don’t have a job. Same goes for construction workers and all the others who remain unemployed. My advice? Temper the good news and the positive graphs of things going in the right direction. It looks great in the film, but people still need to hear that you get it. Make sure you keep telling them that you know we’re a long way from there yet . . . you know there’s much more do be done . . . but let’s not go backwards! Be real. Be honest. Don’t be like the Republicans. Let them make the ridiculous promises of gas for $2.50 a gallon. You just level with the voters.
One good thing is that you really don’t have to go negative. Let the rwnjs continue with their off-the-wall lies and distortions and just keep running unedited snippets from their debates as your campaign ads; they’ve made themselves look less caring and more stupid than you ever could. Do what Jon Stewart does so well; show clips of Romney contradicting himself from one issue to another (or, God forbid, Santorum being consistently anti-woman, anti-sex, anti-science, anti-education) and let their unbelievable hypocrisies and regressive positions on issues speak for themselves. Stay above the fray and focus on jobs, education, innovation, infrastructure, the complex global economy and this country’s need to remain competitive.
Be careful about relying too much on the improved economic and employment numbers we’ve been seeing recently. Anything could happen and they could change overnight. If you take too much credit for them, you’ll have to take the blame if matters beyond your control momentarily cause them to go down. And they will go down as more and more people who’d completely given up hope try to re-enter the job market. Of course, that’s because you’ve given them that opportunity, but that won’t stop Fox from trying to destroy you with bad numbers. Heck, they do it with good ones!
Definitely don’t pay a lot of attention to the polls. You know a poll question can be phrased in so many different ways that the data can be manipulated to say almost anything, even things it doesn’t really mean. In the end, you need to count on the fact that although they might not admit it, there are millions of people out there who are scared to death of the direction the right wing of the Republican party wants to lead us. They might not tell their friends, but in the privacy of the voting booth they’ll vote to protect their health care, their right to use contraception, their kid’s education, their social security.
Mostly, though, just address the tough policy issues and sound like the intelligent, rational person you are. Like the adult in the room, flick off the annoying guy on the right and focus on the American people and what they still need. Admit that it isn’t even close to being all rosy and that the only way to achieve that is to get the majority to care passionately about what’s good for this country and its future rather than sitting on their hands while the lunatic fringe takes over.
You’ve been a good president under the most unimaginably difficult and challenging times. If you play this smart – and I know you’re smart -- next term you’ll be a great president.