20 May 2015
Holding their feet to a fire made of money
I got a begging letter from the President the other day. It was the first from him in a while and it surprised me since, as he writes, "I have no more campaigns to run." He boasts that "the GOP's grand predictions of doom and gloom haven't come true," and advises Republicans that if they hope to re-brand themselves as the party of the middle class, "They must walk the walk when it comes to addressing the issues most important to growing the middle class ... like raising the minimum wage and ensuring equal pay for women [ellipsis in original]." They must stop "ignoring the will of the people," though I suppose each Republican believes himself or herself to be obeying the will of their people. Such confusions help explain why Obama "can't force them to act on critical issues," but he suggests that the American people can. At least they can "hold [Republicans'] feet to the fire....They need to feel the heat from you and others across the country." That sounds like a call for a letter-writing, phone-calling and e-mailing campaign to swamp congressmen's inboxes with righteous demands for "policies that make life better for all." The President advises that we make clear to Republicans that we'll "hold them accountable at the ballot box if they don't" straighten out. So that's what we should tell them in our letters, calls, e-mails and tweets, right? Maybe, but what Obama really has in mind is that you donate money to the Democratic National Committee in sums beginning with the cute, timely figure of $20.16. This support "is critical to holding the Republicans' feet to the fire and demanding action to make the lives of all Americans better." Apparently this money is not going entirely into 2016 campaign funds but will be used, at least in part, to "rally Americans to demand action for all from the Republican-controlled Congress." I would have thought that the letter, presuming it reaches as many homes as I suspect, would have sufficed for that purpose, especially augmented by some Obama orations. This roundabout way of rallying opinion seems wasteful. The President is saying, in effect: I want you to hold Republicans' feet to the fire, so give us money so we can tell you to hold Republicans' feet to the fire. Moreover, I don't think it'll have the effect Obama hopes for. He may hope to build a bonfire of money to threaten the GOP, but those guys are firewalkers when it comes to this sort of thing. Hell, they'll walk through fire just to get money, so I doubt this late tough talk will intimidate them at all. But I suppose that if you're a full-time politician in our time this would make sense. What better way to have your constituents intimidate your foes than by having them give you money? Possibly we might think of something, but I doubt that Obama or his Republican begging counterparts want to hear it.