Mile-High Democrats

To: Delegates, Democratic National Convention, Denver, Colorado.

Dear Delegates:


Since at least 1968, the outcomes of the Democratic National Conventions have not been in doubt as they were convened. National conventions do not exist to select candidates for the office of president or vice president; those individuals are chosen months before and determined far away from the convention floor.

Nor do national conventions exist to establish a meaningful party platform. In fact, I know one party chair who quietly quit publishing the party platform in a certain state because it cost too much and might alienate some voter somewhere. No one noticed and no one complained. But the political-celebrity watching and attendant parties and receptions are purportedly good. I am writing you to urge a different kind of national convention.

I believe the national convention should be built around a common theme of personal responsibility. You are about to ratify the nomination of a candidate for president, Barack Obama, whose biography is a remarkable story of personal responsibility. With no government handout, and with an emphasis on academic achievement, your candidate achieved a stellar higher education and put it to good use in his community. There were obstacles of racial prejudice, lack of financial resources, and his own misgivings to overcome. His nomination is a testament to personal responsibility and personal achievement.

It could be a lesson for us all.

In days gone by—but for almost 200 years of this country’s history—we celebrated middle-class values. The value of thrift, harkening back to Ben Franklin, was the touchstone of those values, and built the most affluent and progressive country in the world.

We have strayed disastrously from those middle-class values. The Democratic Party often claims to represent middle-class values. This is your opportunity to show that you mean it.

Personal savings rates are now in negative territory for the first time since the Great Depression. Credit-card debt is three times higher than it was 10 years ago. The mortgage meltdown and attendant recession is due in large part to people buying more house on easier credit than ever before. This isn’t the result of a small group of greedy malefactors who can be whipped into line by amending our criminal code. It’s a failure of personal responsibility and you should say so.

In a society where people who make socially relevant innovations earn a great deal less money than hedge-fund managers do, there’s a failure of personal responsibility. (In this case, that of shareholders’ representatives.)

Our fatal addiction to oil has bankrupted the nation, both financially and internationally (see Iraq and Saudi Arabia). Oil prices will not be brought down by investigating price gouging, taxing excess profits, or suing foreign oil companies. Oil prices are the result of supply and demand. Personal responsibility requires less oil gluttony and smart long-term infrastructure investments. You should say so in Denver.

There are many causes of healthcare cost increases, but the epidemic of obesity is a major contributor. Overeating, poor nutrition, and lack of exercise are all matters of personal responsibility. Health-care reform should start there and you should say so. Jay Leno’s constant refrain of “How fat are we?” should become a thing of the past. You have a candidate who can exemplify solutions to such challenges.

We look forward to your ratification of Obama’s choice for vice president. Obviously, it will not be Hillary Clinton—it would be physically impossible for Obama to look over both shoulders at the same time. Nor will it be Al Gore, who has moved to a higher and better place than his previous position of vice president. My guess is the candidate will come from Nebraska or Georgia.

And one final thought: You would’ve had a better time in the Twin Cities.


Yours for Personal Responsibility,

Vance K. Opperman

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