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Trust the Velma Harts of America

“I’m exhausted of defending you, defending your administration, defending the mantle of change that I voted for. I’ve been told that I voted for a man who was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class and I’m waiting sir, I’m waiting. I still don’t feel it yet.”

That was the first thing President Barack Obama heard as he started his “Investing In America” town hall on CNBC last night.

He needed to hear that — and he needed to hear it from the woman, Velma Hart, who said it to him. She is a middle-class African-American woman, a chief financial officer, a military veteran, and a mother. That’s part of his core demographic right there. If he loses too many people like her in 2012 to frustration and apathy, he loses America and the White House.

She was not alone in her very tough criticism. Filming the program could not have been easy for the president, but it was good for the country and it was good for him, too.

For the country it was good to demonstrate that yet again this is not a monarchy. When we have concerns about the way our government is being run, we get to ask those we have chosen for governmental leadership pointed questions. And those being asked the questions have no choice but to answer them. That is America.

For him, particularly, it was good to get away from White House advisers who seem to be misreading, or perhaps mischaracterizing, the pulse of the public. It was important for Obama actually to look into the eyes of American unease. The people have sensed his disconnect from their core concerns over these past 20 months. It hasn’t seemed that he instinctually picked up on that or was informed of such.

Last night that changed. It came at him with a wallop.

Hart had a fundamental question she wanted the president to answer: Are these uncertain times the “new reality”? Of course the answer should be, “no.” But you have to know what the problem is before you prescribe a fix.

My advice to the president is to continue going out to meet Americans like Hart. The people can tell you what’s wrong and how to fix it better than advisers who are closeted and cut-off from the heartland. These advisers around the president have prevented him from hearing the folks on the ground.

President Obama: Trust the Velma Harts of America.

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