When Barack Obama won the presidency and Democrats took firm holds of both Houses for the first time in a decade, my obsessive interest in politics began to ebb. The endless hours of MSNBC, New York Times editorials, Huffington Post refreshes, C-Span and article upon article and blog upon blog seemed to gradually dip as election day began to fade. I wasn't disillusioned; quite the opposite. That Tuesday in early November of 2008 marked the pinnacle. My political dream had arrived. Not only did we have a young and seemingly idealistic new president but we had the Congressional advantages to actually see this upstart see through his vision.
I've been as critical of the Democrats over the past two years as anyone, going so far as to leave the party and change my affiliation to Independent. Not only has my former party been timid, often forgetting that they won the 2008 elections in a landslide, but as Roger Cohen of The New York Times discussed
in his recent editorial, our president has lacked a narrative. And this lack of a big-picture message and vision likely played an enormous role in the dramatic shift that we witnessed as the midterm results came pouring in.
But this is just one part of the story. Although we're now swept up in an almost tiresome blame game, it's worth pausing to actually review the past two years. As we scrape through all of the cable-news nonsense, it's quite clear that there have been accomplishments, and some have been enormous. Bellow all you want about the lack of a public option (and trust me, I'll fall right in with the chorus), but health care reform was a monumental step forward. Scream to the heavens about overspending, but imagine where the economy would be without the stimulus package. Shout all you want about the delays in reversing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," but take note that President Obama has appointed more openly gay officials in just two years, than any other president has over the course of an entire administration.
These are the things we don't hear about. And that's because, whether justified or not, politicians rarely get credit for the good that they do. On a personal note, if not for our president and Democratic Congress, millions of Americans, myself included, would be in far more dire straits. In addition to extending unemployment benefits to 99 weeks, the government picked up two-thirds of the COBRA tab, allowing many Americans to maintain their health care coverage during hard times. Had Republicans been in power, in all likelihood, I would be writing this piece from my mother's basement in Baltimore, rather than the studio apartment I adore in San Francisco. Like millions of Americans, when I was down, our president and Congress came to my aid. And for that, I am forever grateful.
Today we took a beating. That's how this game of politics works. But as we welcome the Class of 2010, we shouldn't forget our accomplishments over the past two years. And perhaps more importantly, we shouldn't forget our government's ability to come to the aid of those truly in need. And in many respects, the Class of 2008 did just that. For many of us, without their help, our lives wouldn't be the same.