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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 7/1/08

Barack, You've Lost Your Way

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“In your campaign, while speaking of your willingness to speak honestly to the electorate about tough issues, you declared your “faith in the American people.”  Did you lose that faith?  Did you decide that while there might be enough people in America who care about truthfulness and integrity to carry you to the nomination, you couldn’t trust that there are enough such Americans to win in the general election?

“We Americans need for you to rekindle that trust.  We need for you to find again that faith you’ve evidently lost in the power of your message of hope and integrity.  America needs that new politics, for it will never be redeemed by the “old politics” you so eloquently denounced before, only to begin to embrace now.

“Or is it not that you’ve lost faith in the power of your new politics, but that the whole image of the man of principle that you sold during the nominating process was just a clever sales strategy for that stage in your quest for the presidency?

”I do not believe that.  I expect that, instead, you’ve been led astray by your willingness to listen to the advice of practitioners of the “old politics” who have no understanding of the nature of the spiritual force that you’ve quickened in America, that yearning of so many Americans for truthfulness and principle and genuine caring and integrity that enabled you to upset who the establishment assumed was the “inevitable” nominee.  My guess is that, being a newcomer, and now also with so much to lose, you decided that you would “play it safe” and play politics in the tried and true manner of opportunism and posturing.  I expect that you lost faith in the ability of truth and decency to win out, in today’s benighted America, over the lies of the swift-boaters and the fear-mongers.

“But even if you were only playing the part of the principled man, it would still be a blunder to change your act in this way now.  You have ridden a particular kind of force, whether through con job or (as I suspect) genuine character, making a most improbable ride from obscurity to the threshold of the Oval Office.  Changing the engines driving you forward at this point can only blunt your momentum.  Even if it is the opportunism that is real and not the principle, your compromising your image this way would be a blunder.

“Whatever incremental gains you may get from positioning yourself in opportunistic ways, they will surely be outweighed by what you lose by becoming just another opportunist seeking power.  John McCain has already shown how ambition can drive a man to surrender his integrity.  America hardly needs to go to the polls next November knowing that, no matter who wins, the power of that office will be wielded by someone for whom winning power outweighs his principles.

“You’ve damaged that channel by which you’ve ridden the yearnings of your countrymen, 80 percent of whom believe the country is heading in the wrong direction.  But it is not too late –whether you are a man of principle or just good at playing the part—to repair that channel.  

“You’ve shown creativity before in navigating difficult issues in ways that are both principled and politically adept.  (What would your position on FISA have looked like if you’d approached it with that same depth and creativity and adept touch that you displayed in your statement on race in the midst of the first Reverend Wright furor?)  Return to that path, and wave high the banners of hope, of a new and more principled politics, of partnership between the president and the people against the entrenched powers, of calling America back to the better angels of our nature and to our shared values.

“That’s the only kind of campaign that can sweep you into office with a powerful mandate to repair our damaged nation.

“Don’t forget that it is only the extraordinary nature of this moment in our history that has made possible your extraordinary rise to this position.  It was a big mistake to stop speaking to the special yearnings that have arisen in this especially dark time in our nation’s history, and start playing politics as usual.

“But it is not too late to return to the offer of a new kind of politics that, in this dark time, made you a channel of the aspirations of millions of your countrymen.”


The image of leadership that Barack Obama has presented in his remarkable campaign for the presidency has been one of partnership between himself and the American people.  I still believe that partnership is America's best hope.

And as we are discovering, that partnership should be a two-way street.  Obama is an exceptionally intelligent, able man.  But he will make mistakes.  Thus, though much of the time that partnership will work with the leader showing the way, there will inevitably also be times when it will be up to those who support that leadership to call our leader back to the true path.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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