Mr. President, Please Do Not Run for Re-Election

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Dear Mr. President:

Please do not run for re-election.

If you drop your plans to run again, you would be free to be a president who stays above the fray and can really concentrate on trying to kick-start the economy, as opposed to someone who has to spend so much time and energy attending fundraisers and campaigning that he can’t possibly be focused enough on things like job creation.

Hillary Clinton, Ed Rendell, or some other Democratic nominee would have a much easier time than you in attracting the votes of white ethnics, the white working class and labor groups, and whites from the Appalachians, all of whom are key components to any nationwide Democratic election victory. This is not your fault, of course, but nevertheless it is reality.

Also, your vote totals among African Americans, Latinos and young people will be much lower than in 2008. All of these groups have a higher unemployment rate than when you took office, and they are disappointed in you for that. In addition, there hasn’t seemed to be the hope and change and transformation that these constituencies expected.

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African Americans wonder why you have seemingly ignored the community and taken it for granted, and why you have not put forward any initiatives to specifically target the depression-level unemployment rate within the community. Hispanics wonder why you have not put forward comprehensive immigration reform, as you promised to do. And it is possible young people are so disillusioned that they could abandon you altogether.

Talking about helping them with Pell Grants and college loans just doesn’t provide the kind of inspiration and idealism young people require. They long for vision and imagination from their president. They want to be challenged to achieve something greater than themselves and they want to have something to strive for.

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Many presidents operate with an understandable but mistaken assumption that they must seek and win re-election in order to validate their first terms. But no president since World War II has had a successful second term in office. Second terms have been plagued by such things as Watergate, the Iran-Contra scandal and the Lewinsky affair. Even before WW II, Franklin Roosevelt struggled the most in his second term, with issues like the Supreme Court packing scheme in 1937 and the depression within the Great Depression in 1938. Presidents need to realize that it is perfectly all right to voluntarily serve only one term. Perhaps you should have always operated under the notion that you would serve only one term and then let someone like Clinton carry the ball from there.

As for your job performance, that hasn’t been half bad. You have had some outstanding achievements. Foremost among those are finding and removing Osama bin Laden and bailing out and saving General Motors and Chrysler, thereby keeping thousands of people employed while those companies returned to profitability.

You also have restored the respect other countries have for America. And whereas almost every president since Teddy Roosevelt had tried to expand health care coverage, you were the one who actually got a bill passed and signed. However, the modest changes to the health insurance industry are probably not enough to put even a tiny dent in the cost curve and probably were not worth expending so much political capital over.

There have been great blunders and failures, too. The Shirley Sherrod incident comes to mind. People are troubled by your throwing a loyal friend under the bus just because extremists like Glenn Beck and Andrew Breitbart were barking at you. And if you weren’t responsible for asking for Ms. Sherrod’s resignation, but your secretary of agriculture was blameworthy, then why is he still a part of your cabinet?

It must be because he is from Iowa and Iowa is a must-win state for you in 2012. If you weren’t running for re-election, you could have accepted his resignation. After all, President Gerald Ford dismissed his agricultural secretary, Earl Butz, for far less an offense, one that had to do with words and not deeds. Another colossal mistake was your handling of the debt-ceiling crisis.

When Speaker John Boehner can justifiably claim he is satisfied because he got “ninety-eight” percent of what he wanted, then we know you went to Neville Chamberlain lengths of appeasement. You kept going halfway to meet the Republicans and they kept moving the goal posts back. Before we knew it you were all the way over to where they started and then beyond where they started. It was a complete cave-in and the base of your party and many moderates lost some respect for you.

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The U.S. credit rating was still downgraded, the stock market tanked and you surrendered to the Tea Party. To many folks, it seemed you had struck out. Americans admire strength, even when they disagree with someone. Americans welcome a president who shows some backbone and will not constantly give in to his opponents’ unfair and unbalanced demands. Maybe you should have taken a page from your cousin Harry Truman and shown more feistiness.

But your re-election prospects do not just depend on an objective assessment of your job performance. They also come down to something in the realm of subconscious motivation and involve the mystical chords and the subtle ties that bind people together.

Electing an African American president was a huge step for this nation, an exhausting and emotional step, a traumatic experience in a way. Therefore, you should have anticipated the inevitable backlash that produced a climate where even unreasonable, illogical and irrational people can find legitimacy and political advantage merely by criticizing you. In many ways your election was too big a jolt, and you have to allow people the space and time to adjust and catch their breath. You can’t ask America to stick with you for eight years. You need to understand the psychology of the American body politic. Many people have more or less tuned your voice out by now, and it will be almost impossible for you to reenergize them.

The political pendulum swings back and forth. The years 1932-1965 formed a naturally progressive era, with most of the issues lending themselves to Democratic solutions. The years 1966-2005 were a conservative era. Starting in 2006, a new progressive era kicked off. Yet you have created such a vacuum in leadership that the era is having trouble taking root. A leader needs to stand for something and fight for someone, not timidly embrace his opponents’ agenda. You are on course to take the entire Democratic Party down with you just when we most need the party to speak up for working people, to stop this inexorable march of the rich getting richer at the expense of the middle class and the poor, and to put the brakes on the unceasing influence of the Corporate Power on our politics and culture.

There simply are not enough votes or states out there to re-elect you. As things stand, it is unlikely you can win even five states in 2012, and even candidates like Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, who hold many bizarre and nutty positions, could handily defeat you. And that is why we humbly ask, for the sake of yourself, your beautiful wife and children, the Democratic Party, and the nation, that you please reconsider and step aside, and allow someone else to carry the Democratic banner in 2012.

Sincerely,

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