An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates

Dear President Obama & Governor Romney,

In the process of trying to articulate my sentiments to someone else, I realized last night how very disappointed I am. Put simply, I don’t believe your conduct is very presidential.

First of all, I think you both need to confess to being disingenuous. As you make claims about all the things you will do if you are elected, and as you boast about all the things you can do better or accomplish more quickly than your opponent, you fail to tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The truth is that ours is a tripartite federal government in which you–if elected–will have very little legislative power. Your only authority in matters of policy comes through exercising veto power or through issuing executive orders, neither of which carries the same weight with most Americans as “real” legislative authority or responsibility. Otherwise, your capacity to effect change depends upon your power of persuasion with congress.

Presumably, you will have a great deal of influence with the legislators of your own party, but the members of congress who belong to the opposite party will most assuredly try to stand in your way. I’ll be surprised if you can accomplish much of your agenda in this era of bipartisan hostility.

If you wanted to impress me, you would have risen above the bipartisan rhetoric, above the tired, worn out “party lines.” That’s a big problem with politics today–you “leaders” act as if your political parties and your donors are your constituencies.

I want to be your constituency! I don’t want a multi-billion dollar corporation or a wealthy donor buying your influence. Nor do I want you to seek first the approval of your party’s leadership. I want you to think first about what benefits the people of Marion and of thousands of other communities across the nation.

An effective President should unite us. Remember–e pluribus unum–“out of many, one?” A person with conviction who articulates a compelling vision unites us. A person who can only point out the flaws of the other candidate divides us, because your criticism of your opponent comes across as criticism of your opponent’s supporters. And, by the way, in this very closely contested campaign, your opponent’s supporters make up about half of the voters.

Do you get that? Do you understand that you alienate half of us by taking the low road? That seems a high price for motivating the other half of the electorate. Is it worth turning people against their friends over political ideology? Is it worth my eleven year old Grace trash talking the television because you’re trash talking each other?

No, it isn’t, and I fear that your unpresidential behavior in countless television ads, news soundbites, pieces of mail, and even phone calls has become so tiresome to us that many people won’t vote at all. Others will participate in the process dutifully, but joylessly. Our greatest opportunity to participate in this republic/democracy has become like a doctor visit to us–we feel like we need to endure it, but we’ll be so glad when it’s over!

You’ve brought out the worst in us during this campaign. And you won’t mend that with an acceptance speech in which you pay lip service to bringing us all together after a hard-fought campaign. Half of the nation will still feel the sting of your attacks on their ideology. Half the nation will still hear your voice saying, “I’m Mitt Romney/Barack Obama, and I approved this message.”

Come on! Ours is the greatest republic on earth! Ours is history’s greatest experiment in a democratic form of government! We should be a light to the nations! You should bring out the best in us!

I’m disappointed with my choice of candidates today, but I feel blessed. People in Syria will watch today’s election results on TV and will dream of the opportunity to vote for a less oppressive regime. Women in many nations will be amazed as they watch images of women in our nation casting ballots and having a voice in the political process. People throughout the world are amazed that you can say almost anything in a campaign speech and that I can write almost anything I want in this blog.

I’m disappointed because we can forget so easily what a great nation this is. We cheapen its greatness when we become petty and small, when civility and dignity give way to finger-pointing and childish squabbling.

President Obama, Governor Romney, if you are elected tonight, please act presidential. Lead us! Take the high road, so that our nation takes a higher road. Unite us with vision! Quit pointing fingers! Be part of the answer, rather than trying to deflect blame for the problem. I’ll be praying for you.

I’m Jonathan Jonas, and I approved this message.

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5 Comments

Filed under Social & Cultural Commentary

5 responses to “An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates

  1. Robin Harrell

    Fabulous !!! I am so impressed with your well crafted letter.
    Robin Harrell

  2. Missy

    Well said !!!

  3. El

    What an excellent letter!!! Thank you for saying what is in the hearts of so many!!!

  4. Sandra

    Fantastic! You have said so eloquently what I would have liked to have said.
    I just wish the President and our other leaders could read this.

  5. Jane

    Thank you for saying what so many of us wanted to say but couldn’t put it in words as eloquently. Now let’s hope that folks listen.

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