(a slightly amended version of a letter that I published, before last night's debate, on The Huffington Post. I believe that most of it is still relevant.)
...I’m writing to ask that you return to your senses, and to the conscience that I truly believe you have. You have a wealth of well-deserved admiration out here in voter country—for your military service, and for your subsequent long service in government. You have an immense depth of sympathy and recognition for those years you spent as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. You have proved yourself, at times, the maverick you now claim to be at every opportunity—but, alas, no longer seem to be. You have been well-loved and well respected. I believe Senator Biden means it from his heart when he tells us how much he values your friendship.
But in recent weeks you have lost track of that admirable person—at least insofar as I can determine from what I read and hear. You sacrificed a great deal in the tooth-and-nail scramble for the Republican nomination. Once there, it would have been the moment to pause, to have taken a good look about you, and to have read the mood of the American public—all of us, not just your “base.” Your convention would have been an excellent moment to call for a unity of vision for America. Instead, you played to the lowest common denominator with your divisive appeal to “Country First”—with its strong implication that the slogan excluded all those of us who did not happen to agree with you. You played on false patriotism at the cost of honesty and inclusiveness.
Worse, you selected as your running mate a woman whom you must have known to be the embodiment of that lowest common denominator. You did this, I can only presume, because she was a woman, because you thought she would attract the votes of women from both parties, along with those of the already-converted, and because her sassy cheerleader presence would distract our attention from the pressing issues that we face. Predictably, she has ignited—and continues to ignite—fires under the faithful with rhetoric that appeals to the basest instincts of those who lack the discrimination to see how they are being led by the nose toward their own destruction. You have dignified her words with your grinning approval, even as your poll numbers continue to drop. Your words and actions have confirmed that you have abandoned the need to address the serious issues that confront us as a nation in favor of a strategy of attack.
Senator, I cannot believe that you do not understand the gravity of the situation that we face. As the direct result of decades of free market excess and deregulatory policies, our economy is in tatters, and the world is rapidly descending with us into the abyss. Americans need work. They need desperately to be able to support their families. They despise the wars into which we have been dragged by the present administration, and want nothing more than to enjoy the collaboration and respect of the rest of the world once again. They want a future for their children and grandchildren, without the shackles of debt that already threaten to cast its shadow over their well-being. They want a healthy planet for those children and grandchildren to inherit.
Granted that gravity, I appeal to you to call a halt to the shameful partisan bickering you have embraced as your primary campaign tactic, and for which you have brought in the otherwise clearly unqualified Governor Palin to serve as your surrogate. I will not buy the oft-repeated argument that the poison comes from both sides. It comes primarily, loudly, repeatedly and unashamedly from yours. I hold you responsible for this.
There is still time to come to your senses. Last night’s debate offered you the chance to shun those opportunities to project your animus and your evident frustration out upon your opponent, as you have been doing, and instead to join in a real debate about the grave issues that confront us. Though we were not subjected to the anticipated attacks--you do not have the stomach for them, and more credit to you; but shame on you for delegating the responsibility to others, including the by now odious (sorry!) Governor Palin--I heard few clear statements from you regarding policy. No matter how much you may claim to the contrary, Senator Obama has in fact made a point of addressing those issues, and did so again last night. He has put forward plans and policies, some of which you undoubtedly disagree with. Let us hear the reasons for those disagreements, along with whatever counter-proposals you may have to offer. I, for one, am willing to listen to anything you have to say of substance. But my ears will close, as will those of millions upon millions of voters like myself, if you continue to rely upon sarcasm, mockery, empty sound bites, vapid talking points, and denial.
I am a serious person. I take our national predicament seriously. I am capable of critical thought and discrimination between conflicting policies and opinions. I wish to be treated as an intelligent adult, not as an idiot who is seduced by meaningless generalities, or by nods and winks and silly, meaningless barbs. I expect and demand better of you and your surrogates, Senator. This is not a game.
An American Voter