Barack Obama keeps calling to ask me for money, and I can't bring myself to pick up the phone. And the phone won't stop ringing.
You tell me: What should I do?
There's a strange irony to this. In Seattle, the other side of the country from where I sit, Hollywood director Stephen Gyllenhaal has been using the entertaining film he adapted from my book about grassroots politics -- called Grassroots, starring Jason Biggs -- to energize people about the issues of the day. After some screenings he's been introducing audiences to local candidates and urging them to get involved. When Grassroots first came to Seattle in June, I went for its film festival premiere. Once there, a number of people asked me for my thoughts on politics and the average citizen's role in it, and without really thinking about it I talked about how important it was for everyone to get involved.
Meanwhile, my damn phone keeps ringing, demanding my attention. If it weren't for caller ID I would have picked up by now and actually talked to Obama (I'm sure it's him making all the calls, right?). Talk about an awkward conversation.
It's a real dilemma. I've written about politics before, back when I was an alternative-weekly journalist. My first book was about politics and idealism, and the novel I just completed contains a political subplot. And I stay on top of the local issues of the day, of course, on this site and a dozen others.
But none of this means I'm a terribly political person. I tend to walk away from activists at parties, especially when they seem incapable of talking about anything other than their pet topic. I fill my spam folder with emails from the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the Wisconsin Democratic Party -- I may have given money to these groups, but those were during spastic fits of pique. As soon as the latest crisis affecting that group left the news cycle, my fists closed tightly around my wallet.
Seriously, I only gave to Obama in 2008 because one of Jon Stewart's fake reporters said something so acerbically about Dubya's deceptions about Iraq and subsequent failure to get Osama bin Laden that I really had no choice but to pick up the phone and give to the Democrat in the race.
Not a lot is on the line here, folks, 50 or 75 bucks tops. That's about all I can afford. But I get the feeling that I'm like a lot of people out there this year, wavering about getting involved in any way at all, especially after the Citizens United ruling rendered small donations like mine as an atom in the ocean. Before, I'm pretty sure, at least I would have qualified as a drop of water.
And then there's Obama's record. Where to start? His civil liberties record is good only when compared to Dubya's, which isn't saying much. He got a health care bill passed, but by the time this gets posted that may be completely undone, and in any case he has failed so utterly in framing that debate that most Americans are opposed to it even as they support many of its details. The wealthy still have Bush's tax cuts and, moreover, I'm with Paul Krugman on how to fix this economy: Government needs to spend more so that people have jobs, and thus are spending money; if anything Obama has been gung-ho for austerity by cutting government spending.
And isn't there a little thing called global-warming going on? Shouldn't we be concerned about that? Why haven't we heard anything from our president about that?
So go ahead, take a minute and tell me what to do, and please be sure to vote on the other comments you see. The question before us is plain: Why should I pick up the phone and give Barack Obama money this year?
I'll post the most popular comment, no matter what it is, with a brief response, as well as my favorite comment on my website and in my next Huffington Post blog post. If the winners are in New York, or can get to New York in mid-July, I'll extend to them a personal invitation to come with me to the New York Grassroots theatrical release, where I've been told Jason Biggs and the director are sure to show up.
Talk to you next week.