A T-Shirt for Your Troubles, Sir

I recently received an email from the new Executive Director of the Democratic Party, Jen O'Malley Dillon, offering me a free T-Shirt if I came up with a catchy billboard slogan to use against Rush Limbaugh, the conservative talk show blowhard who has become the self-appointed voice of the Republican Party, and who is publicly calling for President Obama to fail in his attempts to revive the country's flagging economic fortunes (I'm so glad Rush is showing his true patriotic colors).

It was addressed to me personally by my first name, in the style popularized by the new president during his election campaign. It's very touching to be so intimately contacted by such a political heavyweight, so I thought I had the right to respond just as intimately….

Dear Jen

Forget the pointless maneuvering against The Republican nut cases. It's what they want–to drag you down to their level. We are all sick of this kind of petty, confrontational politics. It has brought this country to its knees. People like Limbaugh will bring themselves down with their own anger without any need for help from us. Let's focus on the real issues. We have a failed system economic and political system. Let's stop trying to make temporary fixes and wake up to the fact that the whole thing is broken and as a result the people of this country are hurting. No one cares about scoring political points when they are struggling to keep their house or buy food for their children. Stop throwing money at failed banks, stop appointing the same people who caused the problems to fix the problems, focus on innovative ways to provide people with basic needs such as universal healthcare, honest work, and a decent infrastructure for transport and utilities; and take the money and the corruption out of politics. As President Obama said, bold steps are needed to solve the problems we face. Now he needs to take those steps and the Democratic Party needs to support him 100% of the way.

People are angry and upset with Washington and Wall Street. Mindless Beltway politics will not soothe their hearts. And, for sure, a free t-shirt is not going to help me pay my bills.

Respectfully yours,

Tony Ellis

OK. It was strongly worded. I admit, I fired it off in a rush. I probably shouldn't have called Rush a nut case (although he shows every sign of being one). Also, I have nothing against Ms. O'Malley. I don't actually know her. From what I gather, she is young, newly appointed and, I am sure, keen to do good things for the country. But if she wants to send me personal notes asking for my help in such a pointless exercise, I reserve the right to reply in fairly straight language, as I would to a friend.

Jen–I think we need more than this. Has our politic animus become so defunct that this is all it has to offer–T-shirts traded for cheap shots at the opposition? The situation we are dealing with will not be solved by catchy political jibes. What we are facing is a fundamental shift in the consciousness of the people, a crisis of national spirit as much as a collapse in the markets. And it is far from over. Dealing with this new reality will require extraordinary thinking from everyone, especially our leaders. New values are needed to replace worn out ideas. At a minimum, compassion and generosity have to take the place of crabby self-interest. We won't get this by putting up billboards making fun of Rush.

A wise man once suggested the center of government needed to be moved out of Washington in order for the country to progress. Having been built on a swamp, he offered, it is now hopelessly mired in it. He may well be right.