Fleshing it Out

Snapshots of Our Political Pathology

A Side-By-Side Comparison: Part of My “Job Application”

Summary: I provide a running account of what President Obama was doing and saying in relation to the Republicans with what I was exhorting him to say at the time. And I conclude: “Would it not have served us far better for the voice of Liberal America to have spoken as I did, back then? And if so, is that not true now as well?”


This series has two purposes.

First, and most urgently and visibly, it is to show the nature of what we are up against in America today. With its essentially unprecedented (see here, here, and here) destructiveness, this force that’s hijacked the Republican Party is one that .

Seeing it for what it is, we should then respond to it appropriately. That is, we should rise up with courage and determination — like the heroes of our mythic films (like Sully in Avatar, Luke in Star Wars, and Frodo in The Lord of the Rings) — to fight and defeat this force in order to protect what we hold sacred.

In a society like ours — a democracy (still) where power comes from the people — the way to fight and defeat such a force is to call it out for what it is. For this force gains power only by deceiving enough of the people about its true nature, either by mistaking the evil for the good, as in the Republican based, or by complacency of those who (as in too much of Liberal America), though they oppose it, do so without “passionate intensity.”

But the leaders of Liberal America have not risen to this urgent challenge. As I tried to show in Calling out the Republicans, Obama Hasn’t So We Must. this has been especially true, for the past five and a half years, of the one person in the best position to deliver the essential truth of our crisis– our President.

Which leads to the second purpose of this series.

America urgently needs someone to call out this evil force for what it is [NOTE: Not just on a case-by-case basis, as some of our fine journalists are doing (which I will discuss later in this series), but in a way that shows things whole, and shows what this whole amounts to].

And I am applying for that job. This series is part of my job application.

I am trying to demonstrate that I can make the case against this unprecedentedly destructive and dishonest Republican Party, and I can make it stick.

Just as a candidate for elective office seeks to persuade voters to make him or her their representative on the public stage, I am presenting myself to you as a candidate to be your voice in the national conversation. I am hoping that you will decide that I can make the case you want made in the national conversation, and will choose to help me to deliver this message widely enough to get the national conversation to focus on it. I am hoping to persuade you that getting my message into the national conversation is the this is the best way available to you to strike a meaningful blow to drain this destructive (evil) force of its power.

If I did not believe all that myself, I wouldn’t be doing this.


As part of my job application, I would like to demonstrate my record of making the right call. I would like to show that it is not just with the advantages of hindsight that I make the critiques of president Obama I articulated here earlier. I was making this case in real time, from near the beginning of his presidency.

Already in April of 2009, just three months after Mr. Obama’s inauguration, I wrote about why ”Obama needs to address the craziness” then being inflamed on the right. It was dangerous, I said, to leave such “toxic thought-forms festering in parts of the American body politic.” Though (at that point) only a small fringe was truly “possessed” by that craziness, I wrote:

There’s another, larger group of people –perhaps on the order of 20 percent– that is being moved in that direction [of craziness] by the voices of their leaders, i.e. by political figures and by propagandizing broadcasters. Those 20 percent are the people whom Obama needs to address. It is not safe for America to leave so large a segment of our countrymen to the dark seductions of the likes of Limbaugh, FOX, Hannity, among the broadcasters, or of demagoguing politicians like Gingrich, Bachman and Perry.

Later that same year, still less than a year into Obama’s presidency, I published an open letter to the president as an op/ed in the Baltimore Sun. It was “a major strategic mistake,” I wrote, “not to confront that …force of darkness so relentlessly assaulting you now on issues ranging from whether you were born in the U.S. to whether you’re coming to take people’s guns away to whether you’re dismantling American capitalism.”

I called upon President Obama not to let the Republicans always set the terms of the battle:

Yes, you’ve denied some of their lies, but you’ve not called out the lying. When Sarah Palin and her ilk accuse you of supporting “death panels,” and you respond by saying, “That’s not true, there are no death panels,” the national conversation centers on the question: “Are there death panels?” But if you say, “It’s unpatriotic for Republicans to degrade our national discourse with fear-mongering lies,” then the media will focus on the question: “Are the Republican peddling lies?” The first question undermines you; the second discredits your opposition.

In sum, I argued:

It is because of your failure to fight back that the Republican Party – behaving more scandalously than any political opposition in memory – has grown stronger, while you have grown weaker…Your opponents are relentless, single-minded and ruthless in their efforts to weaken and destroy you. This is a continuation of the same struggle for which Americans chose you to be their champion. It’s your job not to ignore the battle but to fight and win it.

Then in 2011, when I was already the Democratic candidate for Congress in Virginia I wrote about the “Bullied Pulpit.” In an article that appeared on the website of the organization Democrat Unity — around the time when for the third time the president caved to Republican extortion, when they were refusing to raise the debt-ceiling — I wrote:

It is from the man who has the bully pulpit that American most needs to be hearing these truths about what the Republicans are doing. These days, however, it seems more like the bullied pulpit. From the outset he should have denounced –as the scandal it is– the use of the debt ceiling for political purposes, and in that way made the political costs of any extortion prohibitive. He should have insisted that our national attention be directed toward meeting our real challenges, and not let the Republicans dictate this misguided focus of our national discourse.

Barack Obama will be president until January of 2017. I wish him all the best in moving the nation forward in most all the ways he seeks. But his success will doubtless be limited to the extent that the Republicans have power, which is to say, the extent to which the American people do not see clearly what an atrocity that party has become.

Showing that picture is a job best done by the man with the bully pulpit. But the record shows that President Obama is not the man who can use that powerful pulpit effectively for this urgent purpose. We can’t afford to wait three more years for some credible voice to say loudly what needs to be said.

From the history I’ve just reviewed, please ask yourself: Would it not have served us far better for the voice of Liberal America to have spoken as I did, back then? And if so, is that not true now as well?

If you will help me bring my message out more widely into Liberal America, we have a chance to light a fire that rouses the power of Liberal America.


Not an Ego Trip

The first case I must make is one that persuades you that this campaign may be your best chance to strike a meaningful blow in the battle America needs for us to win.

It’s an uncomfortable case for me to make because it requires me to sell not only my message, but myself. I’ve spent decades writing books and op/eds that can just sit there on the page and let the ideas sell themselves. Then I spent two years as a candidate for Congress where a major part of the job is selling oneself: “You should make me your representative,” is what the candidate is continually selling.

This “campaign” — to change the national conversation — is a combination of those two. The message is what it’s all about, but it cannot carry itself out into the country. By the nature of things, I need to sell, “You should make me your spokesman.” In other words, I need a lot of people not just to read what I’m presenting, but to choose to join a campaign to get the message out powerfully into the country.

Being a candidate for political office takes boldness enough, but our political culture has established rules and roles that give people permission to stand up and sell themselves.

But a “campaign” like “Press the Battle” has no such conventions to draw upon. Instead of having established roads for the candidates to travel, it’s all bushwhacking. And instead of their being a socially accepted way to put oneself forward as a “candidate,” I have to put myself forward in ways that will doubtless make people wonder, “Is this guy on an ego trip?”

Ten years ago, I tried to persuade two more prominent Americans to be that spokesman, with me offering myself as support on a full-time, anonymous basis. It wasn’t about me then, and it’s not about me now.

But with the ten years of work I’ve done on this message since them, I now feel I’m the person best equipped — if not best placed — to take it to the center of our national conversation.

I experience myself, in this, as the servant of the message. I am driven, well outside of my comfort zone, by these three beliefs:

1) That I see something that is profoundly important about our present national crisis;

2) That getting enough Americans to see what I see could have a significant positive impact on our present dangerous national crisis; and

3) That, given the right platform, I might be able to have that impact.

It would be a historically rarity for a person as marginal as I to get to deliver a deep message that challenges the narrative his society is telling itself. Which means that I have to sell the idea that the unusual is possible.

That means selling myself in ways that run the risk of putting people off.

What would you do?

What would you do if you saw a way your message could help the country but only if you put yourself forward making claims you believed to be true, but that might strike others as unseemly in their boldness?: Wouldn’t you do whatever it took, even at the risk of people thinking you’re on an ego trip?|

I would. Feeling morally obligated to do whatever it takes (so long as it’s honest), that’s what I’m doing in this series.

And as I ask people — to most of whom I am a stranger — to make me their spokesman (in calling out the Republicans, in lighting a fire in Liberal America), I feel it incumbent on me to tell you who I am and who I am not, and to make myself as transparent as possible.

That seems to me the best way for you to know you can trust where I am coming from.

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