Hey there, Mr. President. Forgive the informality. In an earlier version of this letter, the honorifics left me with a sense that it wasn’t ok to speak my mind to you, and after all, you are the president and I am your constituent, and we should be able to talk candidly. Hello.
I come to you as a lifelong Democrat. I come from a family of lifelong Democrats, most of whom still live in deep purple Bucks County, Pennsylvania. My dad is one year older than you, and he and I talk politics all the time. As a straight white man, he advocated for gay marriages to be officiated at his church twenty years ago. He advocated for an AIDS hospice to be put on our street when our neighbors and friends were dying en masse in our hometown. He has been pro-choice my whole life.
I can talk to my dad. I can tell him how I feel. I hope that I can do that with you.
So here’s how I feel about the state of the nation right now, Joe: I’m enraged, and disappointed, and scared.
I need you to understand why.
I’ve been an activist my whole life. I have fought for as long as I can remember for the rights of everyone in this nation to be free, to live with dignity, to be safe and to have dominion over their own bodies. One of my earliest memories is standing with my mother at the supermarket as she boycotted grapes to support United Farm Workers and Cesar Chavez. I organized my first protest at 15, against South African apartheid. The first presidential campaign I volunteered for was that of Michael Dukakis, before I was old enough to vote.
Since then, through law school and fifteen years of law practice, through mountains of advocacy on Capitol Hill and a decade of work in women’s leadership, through a lifetime of political organizing, some things have never changed. One of them is my firm belief in the vision of democracy that this country has always claimed but has never actually lived into– a place where every voice matters, where we all have liberty, where all people are created equal.
Here I sit, at the age of 51, with a lifetime behind me already that has been dedicated to democracy and to the democratic process and to freedom. I am the single mother of two children now, including one who is out and proud LGBTQ+. I have fought my whole life for the betterment of this nation, and for kids like mine to have a safe and better future. I fought to get you elected, even though you were not my first choice.
Since 2016 particularly, through my leadership training work and through political advocacy, I’ve mobilized thousands upon thousands of women to get into the streets and to get active and to get with their neighbors and friends and to run for office and to become party precinct chairs and to mobilize for change. I’ve trained countless activists and organizers to propel their own communities around the nation to get out the vote. In 2020, I collaborated with so many women who worked themselves to the absolute bone, during a pandemic, as mothers and caregivers and advocates, to get you into the highest office in the land.
And I’ve done all this alongside and in solidarity with women who are the absolute backbone of the democratic party– Black and brown and indigenous women who have been fighting for their futures and for their children and for democracy for decades– heroines all, women who have changed me and taught me and held me accountable and made me a better person.
All of these people, all of these friends, we’re having a lot of conversations right now. We see you. We counted on you when we voted for you. We believed that you were on our side.
And we see very clearly what is happening in this country right now, and how dangerous is this moment. We are crystal clear on where we are.
We have seen the GOP and their base of white supremacists invade and destroy the Capitol in an attempt to steal the election days before your inauguration, and then we’ve sat here, for almost eighteen months so far, as the Department of Justice fails to indict a single primary organizer of those events despite the deepest, most incendiary actions tracking all the way into the Oval Office of your predecessor.
We have seen the GOP smash our voting rights state by state, gerrymandering districts beyond recognition and decimating one of our most important rights, while the Democratic party sits back and says, oh well, too bad so sad, Freedom to Vote Act, the filibuster is more important than you are.
We have seen the GOP target and persecute and torture trans and non-binary kids, LGBTQ+ kids like my own, state by state, while the Democratic party sits back and says, oh well, you better just vote for us again next time.
We have seen the GOP build a culture war out of American history, target white suburban moms with racist fearmongering about public education and library books, while the Democratic party– and you– ignore the absolutely amoral hate they’re slinging to win elections, choosing instead to tout jobs numbers and the economy.
We have seen the Democratic party drop the ball on additional Covid relief, and on the Women’s Health Protection Act, and on Build Back Better, and refuse to get it together and pull out all the stops to overcome a procedural rule that has its foundations in slaveowner power since the Civil War, but happily drop that same rule to protect corrupt Supreme Court justices from protests guaranteed by the First Amendment, or to raise the debt ceiling.
And now, we have read a draft opinion from one of those same justices, supported by four more of them who plainly lied during their confirmation hearings, that will destroy the bodily autonomy of more than half the people in this country, and we have watched in response as the Democratic party, and you, have engaged in performative gestures of support while doing nothing, literally nothing, to try to preserve our rights and save our lives, and while a member of our own party claims the filibuster as his protection and thereby sentences pregnant people in America to forced birth and preventable death.
Despite all this, you seem to think that we are the ones who will have to do more, yet again, come November.
You will ask us to vote for Democrats in November, but our access to the ballot box has been decimated.
You will ask us to think of the future for our kids, when the Child Tax Credit has expired.
You will claim a great economic recovery that so many of us have no part of and do not see in our own wallets, when we are exhausted at having to trade our labor for childcare, when baby formula is scarce, when billionaires pay no taxes, when our student loan payments exceed our housing costs, and when the minimum wage hasn’t moved in more than a decade.
Still worse is the fact that you have executive power at your fingertips that could, at the bare minimum, preserve abortion rights on federal property in every state, and yet you refuse to use it. You could save our lives with the stroke of a pen, but instead you are signing off on exorbitant supplies of weaponry for a war half a world away.
And then, as the icing on the cake, you continue to make noises about bipartisanship with a party that is now nothing less than a full-on fascist movement, right down to overt white supremacy, violent misogyny, and an attempted coup– a movement that seated no less than three unqualified justices on a Supreme Court that is stripping our rights away as we speak, a movement that has taken over the GOP and from which there will be no return– and yet you seem to think, for some reason that defies logic, that you can work with these people.
I have news for you: the hallowed halls of the Capitol which you traveled for so many years have been literally and figuratively disfigured by what remains of the GOP, and there is no going back, not ever.
Oh yes, I am angry. I am tired. I am fed up.
Out here in America, outside the Beltway Bubble, it is plainly obvious that American democracy is cratering. We all know it in our bones even as we keep fighting, because it is completely clear that if voter suppression costs us the House or the Senate in November, your agenda, such as it is, is dead in the water. We know that from there, 2024 will send the presidency back to the Trumpists.
And once they get it back, they will not let go. McConnell will end the filibuster, a nationwide abortion ban will pass, and our elections will never be free again.
We know the end is coming. We can see it as clear as day. We know that the chance to change the course of this nation is narrowing minute by minute.
Everywhere, vulnerable and marginalized Americans are under direct threat not only from the GOP, but from the Democratic party’s absolute recalcitrance to respond with any sort of backbone, presumably out of fear of losing a few white male votes. The rest of us, we who are the backbone of the party, we who are not white, rich, cisgender, straight, able-bodied, born in America and male— well, we are terrified.
We see what is coming in America like an oncoming train on tracks to which we are tied, and we see you and a substantial number of elected Democrats doing nothing to stop it.
How can you ask us to just get out and vote when you won’t do what we elected you to do in the first place? How can you continue to pretend that the cost to us, the cost of our very lives, isn’t real?
How are you going to explain your reluctance to use the power of your office to preserve abortion rights to the family of a person who dies of an ectopic pregnancy in Texas because their doctor couldn’t provide them with a medical abortion? Will you use the filibuster as an excuse?
How are you going to explain to a child the death of their mother who crosses the border into Mexico for an abortion and then loses her life when it is botched? Will you write it off as just the cost of politics?
How are you going to look an eleven year old incest victim in the eye and tell her that she has to bear the child of the father who raped her because you didn’t have the guts to do everything within your power to make sure that she can access an abortion? How can you sentence her to that experience, that trauma?
We are weeks from this reality in America. Mere weeks.
And I wonder, truly, how, in a few weeks, you will sleep at night.
Do you not understand what you are dooming us to, right now, by failing to act? Does the party not understand where we are?
Let me make it abundantly clear, Joe: we are out of time.
We are out of time.
And there are no excuses left.
You can’t continue to play footsie with people who want half of America to lose the ability to make decisions about their own bodies.
You can’t continue to make excuses for failing to use the power you have.
You can’t continue to tout the jobs numbers and expect us to be distracted from the fact that people will be persecuted and forced to give birth and die because the medical treatment that could save them has been snatched away by ideologues.
We. Are. Out. Of. Time.
If you were actually my dad, Joe, this would be the moment where I would say: Help me. Help us. We need your help.
We’re counting on you to keep us safe. We’re counting on you to help us live. We’re counting on you to understand that we can’t do it without you and without every other Democrat that we fought so hard to put in office– a fight we were gladly in because we thought that when the moment came, you would fight for us.
And despite all my frustration with the failings of this nation, all its racism and all its hate, all the blood of indigenous people that runs through the land we stand on and all the reparations that are due to their descendants and the descendants of enslaved people, all the horror at our foundations for which we have yet to account, I still believe in the possibility of our democracy. I still believe that we can be better than this.
I believe that we all deserve so much better than this.
But we will not have it, and we will have a lot worse, if you and the party don’t decide to fight.
This is the moment of our reckoning, Joe. Our moment of reckoning for American democracy has arrived.
We need you to choose, Joe. We need you to choose whether you’re going to stay wedded to a relic of American democracy and a two party system that is dead and gone, and thereby sentence all of us out here to the end of this nation, or whether you’re going to fight for actual Americans whose lives are on the line, today, and for a future where all of us are free.
Which will it be? Will it be the immolation of America because we can’t move past the fantasy of an American exceptionalism that never was, or will it be something better, braver, wiser, more dignified, and more honest than America has ever been? Will we finally, at long last, decide to be the land of the free, the home of the brave?
Find your courage, Joe. Find your bravery. For goodness sake, find the memory of how your son fought for this nation, and then fight for it yourself.
Stand up, Joe. Stand up and fight for all of us who have never had a voice, for all of us under threat, for all of us who are marginalized and discriminated against and dismissed and disposed of.
Do it before all is lost. Do it before the history books write your legacy as the final chance for the American experiment that was squandered on excuses and fear.
Refuse to capitulate to the idea that you are powerless to stop it.
Because you are not.
Use the power we gave you, and take a stand against all those who believe the power of this nation should belong to a tiny few to lord over others with violence and hate, rather than to all of us, as fully free people.
Fight back, in every way possible, even if it’s never been done before, even if it pushes the edges of every envelope, and do it now.
Do it, more than anything, because we all matter.
We matter, Joe.
Now is the time. Now is the last chance. This is a turning point in our shared history from which, one way or another, there will be no return.
Stand up, Joe.
In this darkest of hours, you have a chance to be the light that leads the way forward for all of us to a real and honest and better future.
I pray that you have the courage to take that chance.
Very Truly Yours,
I am so, so glad you took this back up at the end of your day. The president and every Democrat in leadership need to read this.
Wow Elizabeth, you deserve a Gold medal for this letter. Much love for pouring out your heart.