11/07/2008

So, we did it. Now what? Obviously, some celebration. But, what's next as far as political priorities?

Obama seems to be on his game already - he's already got an impressive web site up called change.gov, soliciting opinions and input, explaining positions and giving transition news. Here's my contribution:

President-elect Obama:

First off, congratulations, and thank you for working tirelessly for this.

Here's my input as far as what I'd like to see you prioritize. Aside from the main things I know you'll obviously be working on diligently (the Iraq war, the economic crisis and expanded health care), I see three main priorities I'd love to have you tackle head-on:

1. Teacher pay. You talk about it in every rally, so make it happen. A small symbolic increase to start, with a plan to get teachers up to real world salaries within 4 years. It'll cost money, but if you pair it with more useful evaluations (to weed out poor teachers) and rewards for high performing teachers that inspire kids, it'll be easier to swallow.

2. Government transparency and citizen input via the internet. You're obviously already doing it, which rules, but please - recruit the best minds from the progressive technology community (guys like Bill Joy and Bruce Schneier) to help you figure out how to do it right, so that we can actually do things like vote and give meaningful (auditable, authenticated, secure) feedback on issues from big to small (using open software). And cast some sunlight on the congressional process (that you know so well) so citizens can help combat pork spending and have the budget better reflect our priorities. You KNOW that, given the chance, the tech community (bloggers on both sides of the partisan divide) will jump on that and vet bills way more efficiently and comprehensively than senators and congresspeople can (no offense - there's just way more folks with way more time on their hands). They just need the tools and the transparency.

3. Healing the divide. 40-something percent of the country is disappointed and maybe angry right now, and I know how they feel, because it's how I felt in 2000/2004. Ask them what is irking them and commit to compromises. Reach out right away. Go on Rush Limbaugh's show, talk to Hannity and that bunch, and ask them with an open mind: "What can I do to earn your respect?" It might be just a symbolic gesture (i.e. in some of those cases, their industry is built on stirring up hatred, and respecting you would be tantamount to giving up their livelihood). But I think it would take the wind out of a lot of haters' sails, and send a message to heart-felt conservatives that your rhetoric about bridge-building wasn't just talk. You've convinced 52 percent of us, but please, use some of the next two months to reach out to the other half. Ask how we can bridge the gap about abortion (all commit to a detailed program of reducing unwanted pregnancies), spending (commit to how you're going to cut pork and be very transparent about it all), and other hot-button issues. You'll never win 'em all over, but please listen to them. That is exactly what Bush did NOT do (and couldn't ever have done), and I know at least a few conservatives who would really look at you differently for that.

And, moreover, please continue to communicate. A lot. Write up detailed, wonky explanations of what you're doing, and why. And then have legions of smart writers and educators summarize things and make them clear enough for the rest of us to understand, too. We may still disagree or second-guess you, but we'll all be better off operating in a high-information environment. If you're doing things wrong, or for the wrong reasons, you seem like the kind of guy who will take our advice and change course.

Mr. Obama, we are psyched that you have been elected, but now we're counting on you to step up and do things that aren't just the will of corporations or powerful people, but will move us forward. You can do it.


So, my conservative friends and readers, on that note: what do YOU want now? To reduce wasteful government spending? To focus on ending abortion? To bring more fairness to the tax code? Lay 'em on me (or go tell the Obama administration yourself). When Bush entered office, he (and, to a lesser degree, the conservative half of America) basically said "F$@% you, liberals - you lost, and we're going to do whatever we want". I don't want to make that mistake this time.

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