Open Letter to President Obama

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					   RON SIDER

 Open Letter to                               at its lowest point in decades. An impe-
                                              rialistic, unilateral foreign policy simply
                                                                                               gelicals (many of whom voted for you)
                                                                                               would feel betrayed. Millions of us would

President Obama                               will not work. Fortunately, your election
                                              has evoked almost everywhere astonish-
                                                                                               vigorously oppose such changes.You would
                                                                                               undermine your declared hope to reach
                                              ing levels of hope for change. Quickly           across partisan lines to build a strong cen-
                                              strengthen that hope by moving imme-             ter. And your hopes of building a bipar-
                                              diately and unequivocally to end torture.        tisan coalition that would enable you to
Congratulations. A brilliant campaign.             Other powerful interests will demand        make substantial, far-reaching changes in
A mandate for change.                         that you continue policies that protect and      areas like healthcare and energy policy
    And, oh, yes: a nearly impossible         preserve America’s military dominance and        would be seriously undermined.
cluster of horrendous problems.We don’t       economic self-interest. Many Christians,              There is a better option. In your evalu-
ask for miracles. And you have our            I believe, join me in urging you to              ation of the whole faith-based initiative,
prayers. But we do expect you to keep         embrace a genuinely multilateral foreign         listen to the grassroots faith-based orga-
your promises.                                policy. Global economic structures must          nizations working among the poor.They
    Let’s start with poor Americans.About     be redesigned both to incorporate the            will tell you that policies preventing
36 million Americans already fall below       reality of growing economic power-               them from hiring on the basis of their
the poverty line.The recession may push       houses like China, India, and Brazil and         religious beliefs would fundamentally
another 6 to 8 million Americans into         also to give the poorest nations a larger        undermine their successful programs to
poverty. During the campaign, you             voice.The patterns of international trade        empower broken people.Then improve
publicly embraced the goal of cutting         should be slanted, not to benefit the            the program, correct mistakes of the pre-
domestic poverty in half in 10 years.         richest nations, but the poorest.                vious administration, increase the fund-
    You know from your work in South               Please don’t wait until your last year in   ing, and make sure that you protect the
Chicago that poverty devastates tens of       office to work seriously at resolving the        identity of faith-based organizations that
millions of Americans. You know as a          Israeli/Palestinian conflict. Early in your      are often succeeding in difficult circum-
Christian that God measures societies by      first year, signal unequivocally that you        stances where almost nothing else works.
what they do to the people at the bot-        intend to use the full weight of American             On abortion, why not be genuinely
tom. Measure proposals for economic           influence to lean on both sides to nego-         pro-choice? That would mean retaining,
recovery by what they do to the poorest.      tiate a permanent two-state solution that        not abandoning, policies that allow doc-
Emphasize programs that empower the           provides peace, security, and justice for        tors and hospitals to follow their con-
poorest 40 percent. And, early in the first   both Israelis and Palestinians.                  science and choose whether they want
year, spell out concretely how you plan            Mr. President, seize this historic oppor-   to perform abortions. It would mean not
to cut poverty in half in 10 years.           tunity to lead the world in building a new       building compulsory payment for abor-
    Morally, it is simply unacceptable for    global political/economic order that is more     tion into your healthcare policies. Instead
the richest nation in history to have 47      just, free, democratic, and cooperative.         of trying to force millions of Americans
million uninsured people with no guar-             Finally, the messy issues of abortion       to violate their conscience with allegedly
antee of adequate health care.We cannot       and faith-based organizations.You have           “pro-choice” policies that actually deny
wait another four years for dramatic          a fundamental choice to make. There is           choice to tens of millions, form a strong
changes. It would be immoral to solve Wall    a large, secular, radical segment of the         center of people (both “pro-choice” and
Street’s problems by postponing health        Democratic Party that is demanding that          “pro-life” folk) who can agree on a num-
care coverage for poor working families.      you end the hiring rights of faith-based         ber of concrete programs that will actu-
Within the first six months, unveil your      organizations when they receive govern-          ally reduce the number of abortions.
proposals to get us to universal coverage.    ment funds and sign a “Freedom of Choice         Let’s work together to form a strong
    Nor dare we delay the major chang-        Act” which would end the freedom of              majority that figures out how to make
es needed to fundamentally reduce and         doctors and hospitals that oppose abor-          abortion far less frequent.
change American energy consumption.           tion to act according to their conscience.            That’s my advice, Mr. President. I
    In international affairs, you have an     You might even have enough votes in the          know that giving advice is easy for me
historic opportunity, perhaps unparalleled    House and Senate to pass such partisan           since I am sort of … well, a kind of
since the end of World War II, to reshape     measures.                                        “community organizer with no respon-
international relations. All around the            But the result would be disastrous.         sibilities.” But I do promise to pray for
world, respect for and trust in the US is     Large numbers of Catholics and evan-             you regularly. n