The following letter was sent to Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Shultz of the Democratic National Committee and submitted to the Boston Globe on August 24th.
Dear Representative Wasserman-Shultz and the Democratic National Committee,
I am a registered Democrat and was a generous contributor to the Obama campaign in 2008. Mr. Obama will have my vote again in November. However, I am writing today to explain why, in good conscience, I have not yet been able to contribute financially to this campaign.
Our political system seems to have become primarily about fundraising and criticizing the opposing candidate. Daily I get multiple appeals from various liberal-leaning organizations, including the Democratic party and the Obama campaign, telling me how much money the conservative side has raised and the grave dangers of being outspent. Each election cycle, the amounts of money spent to convince the American people about how bad it would be if the other side wins increases astronomically. If all of this money were being spent to advertise who the candidate is and what he or she stands for, a well-articulated clear vision for our future, clear strategies for leading us forward, and realistic proposals for the many significant challenges that both our country and the world faced, I would surely contribute. However, I cannot in good conscience contribute to any campaign whose primary public message is “we need more money to beat the other side” and “let me tell you just how bad the other guy is and all the awful things he has done.”
Yet this is really only a symptom of a larger issue. The huge amounts of money being raised and spent for political campaigns sends a very clear message that elections in this country are bought and sold – that if you can raise enough money and spend it in the most strategic ways to undermine your opponent, you can win. Not to mention that those with the deepest pockets can have the greatest influence. What does that say about our country? And what does it say about our priorities as a nation when we are willing to spend such vast sums of money on campaigns but can’t fund important programs to help those in need or to support things that enrich our culture like the arts, education, and research?
Our current system is not sustainable. Yes, in the short term one can make the argument that this is just the way the game is now and in order to have any hope of winning, you just have to play the game. I don’t doubt that this is true. AND how much longer are we going to only play for the short term? How much longer are we going to focus only on the next election cycle and not seriously consider the long term?
The founders of this country were great long-term visionaries. In all decisions around designing the governance structure of the United States, they considered not just what it would take to start a country – they were committed to building a structure that would sustain a country for hundreds of years to come.
There are enormous issues at stake for our country. Who our leaders are matters now perhaps more than ever before. But what matters is not which party they come from. What matters is how they think as well as what they think, their level of awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and their understanding of just how critical it is that we are creating a sustainable system in which everyone gets at least some of what they need.
I am optimistic enough to think that deep in the heart of their being, some politicians do yearn to come from this place. I actually believe that these are basic ideals that Mr. Obama subscribes to. Yet that is not the energy, intention, and message that comes through in this campaign.
We need candidates who are willing to be bold, to take risks, and to speak truth about where we are as a nation and as a world leader, and where we can go. Yes, the financial bottom line is important because if we are not economically healthy, then we can’t sustain anything. However, the quality and dignity of life for the people of the world is the true bottom line. Only when that human bottom line is met will we truly have a world that works.
When Mr. Obama and this campaign begin openly and boldly addressing these issues, when they step beyond desperate fund-raising and chart a new course forward that is actually about plans, policies, ideas, and visions as well as strategies for truly serving the greater good for America as well as for the world, I will gladly contribute generously again.
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