I Have Questions for Barack Obama

Responding to the SOTU address, Senator Obama concluded his remarks with the following:

Each year, as we watch the State of the Union, we see half the chamber rise to applaud the President and half the chamber stay in their seats. We see half the country tune in to watch, but know that much of the country has stopped even listening. Imagine if next year was different. Imagine if next year, the entire nation had a president they could believe in. A president who rallied all Americans around a common purpose. That's the kind of President we need in this country. And with your help in the coming days and weeks, that's the kind of President I will be.
That sounds awesome—truly, it does. But I've got a few questions.

1. Why will the Republican members of Congress rise to applaud you, and the conservative half of the nation tune in to support you, unless you pursue an agenda that appeals to them? How do you pursue an agenda that appeals to conservatives, but is also progressive?

2. What is the common purpose around which you envision the country rallying? Do you regard "transcending partisanship" an end in itself, and do you foresee the GOP rallying around this goal? If so, how and why do you imagine that will happen?

3. Assume for a moment that you are nominated and subsequently elected, and, despite being "the kind of president" in whom Americans can believe, the profound partisan rancor that currently plagues the nation doesn't evaporate, that Americans fail to rally around a common purpose. What is Plan B? Do you move ever rightward trying to find support among those who refuse to rally, or do you say "Screw 'em," and go leftward to honor those who voted for you?

4. Noting that the most bitter partisan divides on domestic policy regard issues of basic rights, such as reproductive rights and marriage rights, and noting further that the two sides of these issues are unlikely to come to spontaneous agreement, those subjects are likely to continue to play a divisive role in American politics. How do you plan to prevent such bedrock divisions from undermining the national unity you imagine? Do those of us on the progressive side of these issues have reason to worry that you will not be a vociferous advocate for any controversial or ideologically discordant issues?

5. This last question regards not your possible presidency itself, but the general election campaign for the presidency, should you get the Democratic nomination and run in the general election against the GOP nominee: In 2004, John Kerry tried to stay above the fray and combat conservatives' scorched-earth campaign policy by refusing to dignify the Swiftboaters with a response. In 2000, Al Gore largely did the same, as conservatives and the media promulgated a cavalcade of half-truths and lies against him. They both lost. Their respective refusals to engage partisan attacks, rooted in the erroneous belief that ignoring mudslinging means you don't get covered in mud, has been oft-cited as contributing to their losses. In what way does your philosophy of a new politics accommodate those lessons?

Thank you for your time, Senator. I know you're busy, so if you'd like to shorthand all my questions down to "Can you please assure me that, as both the Democratic candidate and as president, you would be more interested in pursuing a progressive agenda than the pipe dream of post-partisanship?" that would be just fine. I look forward to hearing from you.

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