Wednesday, November 05, 2008

An Open Letter to Mr McCain

Dear John,

When I arrived home last night from an election party, I had to check my phone to make sure it wasn't Friday. You see, although it was indeed Tuesday, the streets were filled with the sound of music. Well, excitement and happiness, anyway. It seems that people - many of them young - were and remain quite excited by the recent election results, which were as much a rebuke of our current President as they were about the campaigns you and Mr Obama have only now finished. I must say, in both regards, the right man won.

I am an unaffiliated voter. I did not make a final, fill-in-the-oval-next-to-the-name decision until late Sunday night in order that I might deliver my mail-in ballot Monday before work. I liked you a lot in 2000. If that version of you had run this year, you may have received my vote. I also liked your stances on such things as immigration, crime and (eek) taxes; no one debates your credentials as a man who loves his country and has served her for over 50 years. Your consolation speech last night was gracious, your manor admirable.

So let me tell you where you - in my eyes - went wrong. For the previous three months, I've heard nary a positive campaign commercial from your camp. While Mr Obama is certainly no saint, I distinctly remember watching at least a few of his adds that didn't mention you; that is, they spoke of what he would do if elected instead of trashing the credibility of his opponent. Your demeanor during the debates, which I tried hard not to watch, was often condescending, especially considering your close ties with Mr Biden. You avoided questions, often answering with statements clearly designed to change the subject, and continued ad naseum trying to paint Mr Obama as a radical who regularly communed with terrorists. Had you instead advanced your own platform - or at least stuck to the facts about Mr Obama's distinct lack of experience in national government (especially relative to yours) - you may have fared better.

And let's talk Veep. Mr Obama made a qualified decision to select a vice-Presidential running mate who excelled where he did not, most notably in foreign policy. You, on the other hand, burned the remainder of your credibility at the stake, selecting a running mate who's service to her country makes Obama's limited credentials look something like Cal Ripken, Jr's continuous-games-started streak. Mrs Palin's appeal ends where it begins - with her looks. Her experience as mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, is comparable to that of the head of a PTA in a local school district, and let's be honest, Alaska isn't that contentious a place to govern. Let's not get into the allegations of misuse of power during her short term there, or her inability to answer direct questions when prompted, or the frightening thought that if you (God forbid) should die in office, she would be the leader of the free world.

Just what segment of the American people where you trying to woo with Mrs. Palin, anyway? You're a moderate Republican with a legitimate record of bi-partisan behavior. You're certainly right, but you're much closer to the "center" than Mr Obama. You've spoken against your party on numerous issues, including torture, the environment, and campaign finance. These issues did not go unnoticed by me. However, your record as a moderate was damaged when you picked a candidate farther right that Mr Obama is left. Were you worried about losing the ultra-conservative vote? Who else would they support? They'd have to jump over you to vote for Mr Obama, and that would never happen. They may have been cranky, but you were still their man! Instead, you passed up the man I believe may very well have won you the election, the man who is running as an Independent but is a registered Democrat, the same man who ran with AL GORE for Veep in 2000 on the Democratic ticket!!!! Are you nuts? Joe Lieberman would have only helped your image as a man capable of crossing party lines, but instead - by your own misjudgment or from capitulating to your party - you chose poorly, and I - as an unaffiliated voter - felt insulted by your selection.

Finally, and mostly because this is already too long, I must comment on a few last subjects that also influenced my vote. They were not abortion, your "faith," gun control, gay marriage or any other of the host of hot-button issues that likely aren't going to change regardless of who's President. Your admission that your knowledge of economics and the economy was misguided. When men such as Warren Buffet back your opponent, you're doing something wrong. He has much less to lose with your tax policy, and yet he backed your opponent. Many different panels of economists said your economic policy was inferior to Mr Obama's. This is unacceptable at a time like this. Although no one factor (or person) can be blamed for today's economic situation, very few people "in the know" liked your plan. And that's a big, big deal.

In January, Mr Obama will become the first black man to be President of the United States. Many people have said that we're overdue for such an event. I don't necessarily believe that to be the case. Instead, I believe the best candidate in this election won, and he happens to be black. This is indeed historic for our nation, and the significance of this event must not be underplayed. Internationally, we have sent a message that the American Dream lives on. Nationally, we've reiterated the message that racism is not only wrong, but unfounded, and that anyone from any background can ascend to the highest position in - arguably - the world. White, black and brown, all Americans should be proud of Mr Obama today.

Mr Obama energized the young demographic, and in many ways, you insulted it. His message of hope and optimism captivated our country, and like any good grassroots movement, it only built on its own momentum. You tried to play catch-up, and it showed. What seemed effortless to him seemed pained to you, and we noticed.

While I don't believe any one person can solve all of our problems - especially in this day and age and in this country (we're not in a dictatorship or monarchy) - Mr Obama will gain a favorable Congress and will likely advance many of his causes. I wish you the best in the future, and hope you will strive to fulfill the claims you made last night in your speech conceding the election to our President-elect.

Here's to the future,

Jack

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