Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 5, 2008

Chicago Sun-Times, Nov. 5, 2008

Like a lot of other people, I voted for you, although you weren’t my first choice. Actually you were my third. But as the campaign progressed I began to see how revolutionarily hopeful your candidacy was, and how wrong I had been ever to prefer anyone else.

The first thing was your brilliant style of fund-raising. American candidates normally put the arm on the biggest and richest bankrolls they can for the fattest checks, with the result that every candidate achieving election does so owing a large debt to individual persons and institutions, including such powerful entities as the National Rifle Association and (forgive me, dear wife the college professor) the teachers’ unions. All of which take care to see those debts get handsomely repaid in the currency of government favors.

But, President Obama, you didn’t do that. You raised your campaign funds primarily from individuals and in relatively small amounts. So you owe a debt too, but in so universal and diffused form that it can best be described as a debt to the American people in general.

Which is actually what every elected official is sworn to honor anyway, by the terms of his inaugural oath. So at one blow you have weakened one of the two great wickednesses in American politics, the favoritism given the rich and powerful.

Of course that is only one of the sins that besmirch our democracy. What about that other one, the power of the single-issue voter? Why, you’ve done something about that, too.

You said you wanted to be the president of all Americans, not just the ones who voted for you. That’s a pretty sentiment. It has been adopted — at least rhetorically — by just about every elected official in America since the Dutch ruled New Amsterdam, and if there is one of them that ever has put that principle into practice once elected, his name escapes me.

But look what you did, President Obama. The pastor of your church made some repellently unpatriotic remarks about the American treatment of African Americans. Others you have chosen to honor were gays or gay-bashers, liberals or conservatives, and a storm of disapproval rose against each one of them.

I am not privy to your thoughts, President Obama, but I think I see what you are doing. You are putting into practice that famous, and famously neglected, Golden Rule, “You and I disagree on some issues, but let’s work together on the others anyway, so we can jointly keep making the world a better place.” So there you have struck heavy — I hope mortal — blows against two of the most crippling evils in American polity. Don’t stop.


Even after I had come to the conclusion that you would make the best president of all the people in the field, I had some lingering doubts. You were, after all, visibly a person of color. Was it possible that the American voter could elect an African American to the highest office in the nation?

About that I kept my fingers crossed. Indeed, I think you might well have been defeated at the polls, except for two wholly unexpected factors. One was the surprisingly feckless campaign waged by John McCain (along with the appallingly snide one of his vice-presidential pick, Sarah Palin). The other was the catastrophic self-immolation of the world’s financial structures. It is these things that put you so triumphantly over the top, and if I were a religious man, I would thank God for these healing scourges.

So carry on, President Barack Hussein Obama. There is a huge job ahead of you. I don’t know how you are going to heal the festering sores of recession and corruption that are all around us — but I know you will try your very good best. And whatever tiny bit I can do to help, I pledge to undertake.


  1. Geri Sullivan says:

    On January 21, 2008, Barack Obama spoke at Ebenezer Baptist Church, Dr. Martin Luther King’s church in Atlanta. Normally, I have a hair-trigger response to politicians using religious terminology — I believe separation of church and state is vitally important to America’s well-being. But this…this was okay. He was in a church. His words fit the setting and the occasion. And I recognized that Barack Obama was a rarity indeed: he was a politician I wanted to listen to.

    His phenomenal speech on race came a little less than two months later. Utterly brilliant. He said what needed saying. He pointed out in the examples of his grandmother and Rev. Wright the kinds of contradictions present in every human being I know. He spoke clearly about where we were, and he pointed to the path forward. With his election, the American people demonstrated our willingness — our ability — to walk the path toward the more perfect union Obama described. We’re not there yet, we may well not get there in what remains of my lifetime. But we’re considerably further along than we were 10 months ago, and even that progress matches my dreams far closer than it ever matched my expectations.

    Like you, I celebrate this day and I, too, pledge to help in whatever ways I can to help heal this nation.

  2. Jeff says:

    I honestly never thought the powers that be would let this happen. I dind’t think there would be a peaceful transfer of power. I believed their crimes were too great to ever allow anyone an opportunity to investigate them.

    So, in my enduring cynicism, I must conclude that either they believe they have successfully covered up the crimes, leaving no evidence, or they believe they will be beyond the reach of any law.

  3. Philip says:

    Cautiously optimistic. Having a president that can speak English is refreshing. It is amazing that through all the rage engendered by the past eight years I still have hope and good wishes for Mr. Obama. I may be a weary cynic but I am laughing on this day.

    Mr Pohl thank you for the gift of sharing yourself with us in this forum.

  4. steve says:

    Mr. Pohl: great to see you blogging. Quantum Cats is a great book.

  5. Stefan Jones says:

    In a blog post today, David Brin noted that Obama’s inauguration speech contained a word that didn’t have to be there. It wasn’t a word found in many political speeches, and certainly not any from the Bush administration.


  6. Debt to the American people | Michael Grafl says:

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  7. The Way the Future Blogs » Blog Archive » Reality-Testing Response from Fred’s Wife, the Aforementioned College Professor says:

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  8. ∂| Blog |uno Strano Attrattore » Blog Archive » 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: prospettiva Obama says:

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  9. coffee says:

    Happy Inauguration Day! Obama’s election is truly a reason to be hopeful, and proud

  10. Emily says:

    Hi G-dad!

    Great to see you blogging (Betty-Anne, too). The Canadian Pohls are pretty happy he’s been instated, too.

    Hugs, Em

  11. Stefan Jones says:

    Hey, this is just a thought, but would you consider putting Practical Politics on the web? Set it free for others to use and update in Web 2.0 fashion.

  12. Julia says:

    Hi Grandpa Fred!

    I’m gonna echo what em said, but yeah. Good to see you and the internet are finally friends. We are pretty excited for Obama, hoping we get ourselves one of those really inspirational leaders one of these days. Hope to see more of you online soon!



  13. Frederik Pohl Has a Blog at Hal Wilson says:

    […] his blog Pohl has an insightful posting about Obama.  I’m glad to see a favorite author likes my president.   (This one is my president.  […]

  14. Anton Sherwood says:

    When the NRA can consistently stir up many thousands of members to oppose whatever scheme appeals to those who don’t trust themselves near a gun, it’s natural that the latter are frustrated. But I don’t get why the NRA is so often mentioned as the outstanding example of how *money* poisons the political process.