The country’s in a bind – I think we can agree on that much.

So what are WE called on to do? (“Ask NOT . . .”)

How most effectively to focus our frustration?

We’re not called on to spend a shoeless winter at Valley Forge, but we are, I think, called on to do this much: TO BE RIGOROUS IN OUR THINKING AND THEN ACT IN THE BEST INTEREST OF OUR COUNTRY.

Don’t hate me for saying this, but I think the 97,488 idealistic Floridians who voted for Nader in 2000 (to take the most glaring example) failed that test. Their intentions could not possibly have been better, but – because they surely knew Nader could not win and Gore came closer to their ideal than Bush – they should have acted rationally and voted for Gore . . . even as they urged friends in NON-swing states to vote for Nader to make their point.

Imagine how different the world would be if they had.

Today, I have mainly two kinds of friends:

(1) Those who feel pride in all the President has accomplished and focus their angst on the opposition that has kept him from accomplishing more.

(2) Those who believe that if only he were smarter, or cared more, or worked harder – or were tougher – he COULD have accomplished so much more.

I am passionately in the first camp, but for the sake of argument, let’s stipulate that my friends in the second camp are right. What should they do?

Yes, they agree a McCain/Palin presidency would have been unthinkably worse. And, yes, they agree even a so-called “moderate” Republican would be all about appeasing the religious right with his judicial appointments – the last straw for a Court already tilted against us – and all about pledging never to raise taxes on anything, ever.

Yet my friends in this second camp are just so angry – with good reason but, I think, at the wrong people – that they say they will VOTE for Obama but won’t do more than that.

So here’s the rigorous thinking part:

You either want a huge turn-out that reelects the President (and holds the Senate, takes back the House, and flips state legislatures back from red to blue) – or you don’t.

(Some of you don’t. You think Bush took the country in the right direction; you think historic low taxes on the rich these last 10 years produced tremendous job creation; you don’t “believe in” evolution or man-made climate change; you think women should be submissive and gays denied equal rights; you like the gun show loophole – whatever. You are not alone!)

But if you do want a huge turn-out that reelects the President (and holds the Senate, etc.), then it’s nuts to withhold the resources – and enthusiasm – needed to produce that outcome. That only helps the OTHER side and risks an outcome we would regret for the rest of our lives – as many of us will regret Bush v. Gore.

I’m not proposing we become mindless cheerleaders or stop voicing our frustration and offering our suggestions — forcefully.

But the bottom line, if we really do want to win, is that we need to pump each other up, not demoralize each other.

The challenge of 2012 is significant – not least because in 27 states Republicans are doing their damnedest to make it hard to vote. (And they call us unAmerican?)

But here’s the good news:

☞ If we ARE rigorous in our thinking we WILL win.

☞ For all the obstacles, this Administration averted a depression, restored America’s standing in the world, launched an educational “race to the top,” doubled auto efficiency standards, killed Bin Laden, appointed two progressive Justices, extended health insurance to 30 million people, preserved the social safety net . . . and on and on and on. It’s a VERY long list.

☞ And for all the frustration, people ARE stepping up – in record numbers – to fund OBAMA VICTORY FUND 2012, and giving at record levels.

If that’s you – thanks.

If not, I’d ask you to sandwich your disappointment between these two frames – and to do so whenever the subject arises, as it always does. The first frame: We need to win! The world depends on it! The second frame: the REASON we didn’t get the public option or raise taxes on billionaire hedge fund managers or [name your top frustration] is that the Republicans stood in the way.

It would be a tragedy to let the other side win as they did in 2000. Success requires resources and a willingness to express enthusiasm. Which isn’t always easy – but neither was Valley Forge.

In case you agree, please help spread the word.


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