Given my religious right background I'm one of the president's most unlikely fans. Maybe that's because I know the alternative-- from the inside. I fear the alternative to the president -- far right loons of the Tea Party/evangelical religious right ilk -- and have never felt I had the luxury of being an armchair lefty critic demoralizing Obama's supporters because he's the only person who stands between the village idiots and us.
Before he'd served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 60-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of Francis Schaeffer a famous evangelical leader described in my book Crazy For God) this most unlikely Obama supporter -- stuck with our president.
Why? Because he is succeeding against the tallest odds ever maliciously and stupidly stuck in the way of any American president by the most vicious and unpatriotic crew of malcontents, racists, snobs and fools to ever try and take a president down.
Obama's steady supporters will be proved right. His second term will be glorious. Then Obama's critics on the left and right will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged fools at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.
The Context of the Obama Presidency
Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition -- from both the right and left.
As Ryan Lizza writes in the New Yorker:
"Obama didn't remake Washington. But his first two years stand as one of the most successful legislative periods in modern history. Among other achievements, he has saved the economy from depression, passed universal health care, and reformed Wall Street."
Here is what President Obama faced when he took office:
- An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries
- Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral
- The worst economic crisis since the Depression
- America's standing in the world at the lowest point in history
- A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war
- A health care system in free fall
- An educational system in free fall
- A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing) and that today's Republicans have lied about as they serve their oil/coal company masters
- An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left
- A Republican Party bet on obstructing him even when it cost the country
- A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration...
- And those were only some of the problems sitting on the president's desk!
What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked Tea Party racist conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time President Obama took office -- do to "help" our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn't a real American, didn't have an American birth certificate, wasn't born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist", was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (no kidding!) and wanted "death panels" to kill the elderly.
They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized "tea parties" to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) "commentators" from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh and billionaire agitators like the Koch brothers who literally tried to buy the government.
"Help" from the left?
The left's lack of faith became a self-fulfilling "prophecy" in lost voter enthusiasm -- snipe at the president and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn't have anything to do with it.
What did the left do to help our newly elected president? Within weeks some of them excoriated the president because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he'd inherited from the worst president in modern history. They pissed and moaned on MSNBC, Alternet, Huffington Post et al because the president didn't do everything he wanted to do soon enough. People like Paul Krugman second guessed everything President Obama did, until -- belatedly -- a few folks like Krugman backtracked after President Obama's list of huge accomplishments became hard to argue with.
Others on the cranky left (like Bob Woodward who said President Obama was "Arrogant, aloof, and unprepared" in his book The Price of Politics) stood up and bravely proclaimed that the president's economic policies had "failed" before the President even instituted them. Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the president taking office, they'd been "betrayed"!
Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night in 2008 turned into an angry "disappointed" leftist mob saying how discouraged they were that they'd not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House. Where was the "change"? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!
"Governing"?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?"
The president's critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history. Then of course there were the white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren't as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn't consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!
Meanwhile back in the reality-based community among other things President Obama had as listed by the Daily Kos:
1. 3,680,000 private sector jobs created since the end of the Bush Great Recession ref ref
2. Expanded government's fight against fraud in Financial ref, Federal Contractor ref and Health Care areas ref
3. $2,000,000,000,000 in deficit reduction ref
4. He saved the economy from ruin (until the Tea Party took over Congress) with a stimulus that was as large as possible given the political realities ref
5. Saved the US Auto Industry ref, ref
6. Health Care Reform ref
7. Reduced military spending by $500,000,000,000 ref
8. Wall Street Reform ref ref ref
9. Leaned on the banks to recover almost all "bailout money" with interest ref ref
11. Killed Osama Bin Laden ref
12. Killed a whole generation of al Qaeda leaders ref
13. Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act; Instituted equal pay for women. ref, ref, ref
14. Expanded funding for the Violence Against Women Act. ref
15. Support's states' right on medical marijuana ref
16. Repealed "Don't ask don't tell" refref
17. Appointed more openly gay officials than anyone in history. ref
18. Extended benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees. ref
19. Changed HUD rules to prohibit gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination in housing ref
20. Publicly expressed support for the right to enter into a same-sex marriage. ref
21. Ended the war in Iraq ref
22. Toppled Gadhafi without an American casualty ref
23. Invested in college students: 1) by repeatedly increased funding for student financial aid, and at the same time cut the banks completely out of the process. ref ref ref 2) by reforming student loan program, to make it possible for students to refinance at a lower rate. ref and 3) by overseeing an expansion of the Pell Grants program, to expand opportunity for low income students to go to college. ref
24. Fast-tracked regulations to dramatically increase fuel efficiency standards ref ref
25. Strengthened the bond between clean energy and commerce by overseeing establishment of an Energy Partnership for the Americas, to create more markets for American-made biofuels and green energy technologies. ref Oversaw the creation of an initiative that converts old factories and manufacturing centers into new clean technology centers. ref
26. Pushed through a tax credit to help people buy plug-in hybrid cars. ref
27. Turned America toward native sources of renewal energy Ordered energy plants to prepare to produce at least 15% of all energy through renewable resources like wind and solar, by 2021. ref (As you can see, Republicans are trying hard to kill it.)
Who actually has failed?
The Americans that can't see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth are the failures. It's right under our jaded noses!
Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this president to fail so that they could be proved correct in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned "news" into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.
The future looks good
After Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.
So when are President Obama's critics, people like Paul Krugman (from the left) and Mitt Romney (from the right), going to offer President Obama an apology?
Both have often loudly predicted that he made the economy "worse" and was putting America on the wrong economic path. Both are being proved wrong by the economic comeback we are in. I mention them not to pick on Krugman, who I respect, or even on Romney (who I regard as vapid and bought and paid for by corporate interests) but to make a point: President Obama is going to have the last laugh on his critics, no matter what ideological spectrum they hail from.
President Obama is succeeding in spite of the fact that he's been up against a Republican Party willing to destroy the economy in order to destroy him.
As the New Yorker notes:
"Two well-known Washington political analysts, Thomas Mann, of the bipartisan Brookings Institution, and Norman Ornstein, of the conservative American Enterprise Institute, agree. In a forthcoming book about Washington dysfunction, 'It's Even Worse Than It Looks,' they write, 'One of our two major parties, the Republicans, has become an insurgent outlier--ideologically extreme, contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime, scornful of compromise, unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science, and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.'"
The president keeps proving himself smarter than his detractors
President Obama will win a second term 2012. And four years later all that will be remembered about his critics is that they were impatient, deluded and wrong.
Given what was on his plate when he took office and the fact that we're successfully struggling out of both recession and the aftermath of two wars -- and succeeding -- President Obama is one of the best of the American presidents already. His second term will consolidate that verdict and bodes true greatness and national recovery as his legacy.