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The Illusion of Change: An Open Letter to President-Elect Obama

Dear Mr. Soon-To-Be President:

I know you have gotten a lot of these "open letters" already—from just about everyone whether famous, influential, or ordinary like me who thinks he can somehow influence you with a bunch of heartfelt words you will never read. But I am asking you to put this letter at the top of the heap and to at least give it a glance before you recycle it in true eco-presidential fashion.

I am proud of you—and not in the same way that McCain is "proud" of his disastrous running mate who helped secure your victory—I am proud of you for being more than lipstick on a (somewhat attractive) pig and giving hope to so many millions of Americans, whether they be black, white, poor, gay, straight, or deathly sick of Republican rule. The fact that you can put a sentence together in proper English and without resorting to fear-mongering already puts you miles ahead of the Bush-McCain-Palin triplex.

The past eight years of infamy have given you the power to say almost nothing substantial throughout the campaign season and to agree with Bush/McCain on most policy matters and yet suffer no serious backlash. You should take consolation in that no matter how awful your administration could turn out to be, it will never compete with the previous administration in any category where "awfulness" is evaluated. You could even do everything Mr. Bush has done—maintain the unitary executive, continue to torture "enemy combatants," fight more resource wars, operate secret prisons, use illegal signing statements, fill government positions with corporate cronies, deregulate risky investment—so long as your rhetoric for justifying these abuses came without the blank stare of George Bush and the evil smirk of Dick Cheney. None of the liberals would take to the streets to stop you, and if they did, you could mow them down with mounted police and let the media ignore it, or reframe it, like they always do. You have a strong mandate indeed.

When you met Bush at the White House this week, did he thank you for helping to keep impeachment off the table? Did you thank him for keeping dictatorial executive privilege on the table?

You really are a genius. The misgivings I always hear from your critics are as insulting as they are preposterous—that you somehow do not represent change at all but are "business as usual" in a different form, that you are funded by and indebted to the same private interests you have vowed to face down, that you are not even to the left of John F. Kennedy, that you are a wolf in sheep's clothing. I hear them all the time from the margins of our great society. How did you manage to fool them all?

Your dissenters just don't get it. I get it. I understand that you had to say certain things and appeal to the center in order to get elected. I realize that naming Rahm Israel Emanuel your chief of staff may not have been what your heart of hearts wanted, but it was a necessary compromise to appease more conservative Democrats. Your economic advisers may be derided by the left, but those whiners don't see the brilliance in getting as close to Wall Street as possible before making a sudden, hair-pin turn onto Main Street—just when the fat cats thought they were getting billions in taxpayer dollars for executive bonuses and exotic hunting trips. They don't know that you are considering a man with the middle name "Palestine" for Undersecretary of State.

They don't see the master plan, but I do. I applaud you on your recent victory and await the day when your presidency restores democracy, freedom, and unity to this great nation and to the world.

Your number one supporter,

Matt Johnson

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This story was published on November 14, 2008.