If you're serious about listening to those who disagree with you, try this
By Lucas Roebuck
Dear President-elect Obama: Let me join the chorus of well-wishers at your election, and recognize the symbolic and real significance of a black man being elected to America’s highest office. Even though I am a conservative, evangelical Christian (and a Republican to boot ), on Inauguration Day you will be my president. Rather than give the Obama administration the benefit of the doubt, I’d like to say you have my high hopes that your deeds in office will match your campaign rhetoric.
I am under no delusion that you will not act quickly with a Democratic Congress to bring about a new New Deal, pulling our country toward the economic left, an idea often described as socialism. Elections have consequences, and if Americans voted for you not understanding the probability of this outcome, their ignorance is hard to explain. I won’t like the fundamentals of your economic policy, but honestly, the minority party will have little power to slow your will in this matter.
In your acceptance speech on Tuesday night, you did say that you especially needed to listen to those who disagreed with you. If you really want to bridge the political divide, I believe you can (yes, we can !) by making some critical compromises as a show of good faith. So listen: Here are seven political steps you can make to help heal the divide.
Do not sign the Freedom of Choice Act. There are tens if not hundreds of millions of Americans who have serious moral reservations about unlimited, unchecked access to abortion. Many, like myself, feel abortion is the moral equivalent of murder. Obviously, Roe v. Wade will not be challenged by the Supreme Court justices you will appoint. This act will basically provide unlimited access to abortion on demand from coast to coast. Why pour salt in the wounds of pro-lifers if you can stack the court with pro-Roe judges ?
Do not re-enact the Fairness Doctrine, or anything like it. With your talk of a national civilian security force and clamping down on free speech via the so-called “ Fairness Doctrine, ” many conservatives are wondering if these tools could give you an almost fascist control of free speech. You have said that reviving the Fairness Doctrine was not on your radar during the campaign. Some of your allies, however, are already pushing it. The government should not regulate political speech — you know of the First Amendment. Prove the conspiracy theorists wrong and stay away from this falsely named attempt to control radio.
Keep Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense. Gates, who has enabled the successful surge in Iraq, understands winning strategies to success in the war on terror. He is not a neo-con, but a realist. He was approved by Democrats in Congress to replace the failed policies of Donald Rumsfeld. By keeping Gates, you are showing that while you want to emphasize diplomacy, you recognize the positive efforts of our armed forces, and are willing to use force if necessary.
Appoint a pro-Israel politician as ambassador to the United Nations. The background noise put out by some of your supporters and surrogates is that you will not continue America’s long friendship with Israel. Many suspect that you will be overly sympathetic to the anti-Israeli sentiment popular in the Arab world. On the campaign train, you said this was bunk. Prove it by sending a known friend of Israel to represent America in the United Nations. I’d recommend Joe Lieberman.
Don’t support homosexual marriage de facto. Don’t sign a repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act. In my heart, Mr. President-elect, I believe that you really do support gay marriage, even though on the campaign trail you said you didn’t; your opposition to Proposition 8 suggests otherwise. Prove me wrong. Many states, by direct vote — the purest form of the will of the people — have said no to gay marriage, including progressive California and Florida. If Congress sends you a repeal of DOMA, veto it. DOMA allows each state to have their own laws regarding gay marriage, and doesn’t force states to adopt the position of other states. Let each state decide.
Take on John McCain’s campaign to eliminate earmarks. You said that you wanted John McCain to help you lead Washington to positive change. McCain has been outstanding on the elimination of earmarks that tempt lawmakers into abuses of power and corruption. McCain said he would make legislators who introduce pork into the budget (in ) famous with his veto pen. I can’t think of any reason for you not to do the same.
Be gracious, and make sure your people are gracious, to President George W. Bush. You rose to power on the back of Bush-bashers, but that battle is over. While you may disagree with the polices of Bush and blame them for much of our troubles, there is plenty of blame to go around Washington, and some of it even falls on you. If polls are to be believed, around 20 percent of us believe Bush has done well for our country in trying times — a minority, yes, but that’s about 60 million people. You have won the prize now, so you can afford to be gracious — even generous — to Bush as he completes his service to our country.
Obviously, your major economic reform will not be derailed. But your goodwill in these other things can set a tone of unity and will bring along a lot of people like me to support your administration. You will diffuse partisan tension. If you adhere to lesser, partisan dictates in these areas by pressing your political advantage and bludgeoning us all to kowtow to every detail of your political will, you guarantee that the partisan ugliness will continue.
Then your promise of hope will ring hollow, and nothing will change.
Lucas Roebuck is a former managing editor of the Northwest Arkansas Times and Siloam Springs Herald-Leader.