Reprinted with permission from the Fall 2013 issue of The Prairie Progressive, Iowa’s oldest progressive newsletter, available only in hard copy for $12/yr.!! Send check to PP, Box 1945, Iowa City 52244.
An Open Letter to Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich
You are one of the best columnists around. And I suspect you’re an equally good professor of public policy at Cal. But you need to think bigger… as in running for the US presidency in 2016.
I’m convinced — and I think many other Iowa Democrats could also be persuaded — that you are that rare Democrat with a progressive vision which fits the specific times we live in. On the campaign trail, you would have a good life story to share (and being from Pennsylvania doesn’t hurt!) You’ve already published the obligatory pre-campaign book, Beyond Outrage, which exhorts citizens to go beyond mere outrage about the nation’s increasingly concentrated wealth and corrupt politics and mobilize to reclaim our democracy and rebuild the middle class.
You have a successful record as one of the Top 10 Cabinet Members in US history, and you want to strengthen organized labor, increase the minimum wage, protect Social Security, cap the deductibility of corporate salaries, and the list goes on. It all adds up to a winning coalition of minorities, labor folks, anti-Wall Street populists and a growing group of younger, libertarian-leaning voters due to your commitment to individual privacy rights.
But what about Hillary? Do not – I repeat – DO NOT be afraid. In 2005-06 Clinton dominated all the national polls, as she does now. After having casual conversations with several feminist friends it was clear the 2008 caucuses were not going to be a slam dunk for Hillary, and a long-shot named Barack Obama made a few calls and came to the same conclusion.
On caucus night 2008 two out of every three Iowa Demos voted for someone other than Hillary Clinton, and no more than 29% of Iowa Demos have ever voted for her. The bottom line: I and many other Iowa Demos don’t want the head of our party to be a status quo economic and military policy centrist, when these times cry out for so much more.
Writing your occasional columns for the NY Times,impressing smart undergrads at Berkeley, and posting regular missives on your website are nice, but “Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically by definition be disqualified from ever doing so. “ — Gore Vidal
As a presidential candidate you would literally have the opportunity to shape the public policy debate for the entire country.
Yes, it would be an uphill climb and probably a bit uncomfortable for you personally because of your past relationship with the Clintons. But really, which is more important? A small amount of personal discomfort, or the future of the Democratic Party and our nation? Our party and our nation needs you at this time. So which will it be, the ivory tower or the grassroots movement for change you desire? Iowa will welcome you with open arms, I promise!
PS: If you come out and test the waters, I guarantee 40+ Democratic caucus attenders in my back yard will give you a listen. That’s how it starts. Real, down-to-earth campaigning.