An article in the New York Times this weekend detailed how a number of big Obama supporters in 2008 are not wholeheartedly supporting the 2012 campaign. These grassroots supporters of the president were the people whose record amount of small donations and volunteer time helped propel the president to victory. The Obama candidacy propelled many who had never been involved in politics before to get active. It was their belief and passion for the candidate that helped him upset Hillary Clinton for the nomination and then beat John McCain. It was momentum that I have never seen in a lifetime of involvement in campaigns.
As someone long involved in politics, I get involved in a number of political discussions with friends many of whom express feelings like the people expressed to the Times. In some ways they feel let down by the president. I have thought about why this is and believe to fully understand it you have to look at the Obama 2008 message, why people invested so much in this candidate, and why they feel let down.
The mantra of the Obama 2008 campaign was "Change we can believe in." It was a perfect theme. The country was hungry for change and people could adopt change to make it the change they wanted. The president's charisma brought people along by the millions and they invested their hopes and passions with his campaign. His campaign was their campaign and his victory would shape the country in their image. But what did Obama's change really mean?
The main change the Obama campaign promise was to end politics as usual in Washington along with partisan gridlock. He wanted to cross the aisle to work with Democrats and Republicans to get things done. While he has a very progressive viewpoint, his administration was not going to put forth an agenda that was a wishlist for the left. With this agenda and his natural inclination as conciliator it should have come as no surprise that he began making early concessions in areas like health care nor should have been a surprise that some of the idealists who took up his cause early felt a deep sense of personal disappointment.
It did not take long for reality to hit. The president's attempts to work across the aisle were fruitless. The agenda of the Republicans to scuttle all his initiatives and make him a one term president became crystal clear. Once he realized this, the president worked to get important legislation passed even though even if he could not get a bipartisan consensus. The list of accomplishments is impressive: health care reform, financial reform, repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell, the Stimulus Package which helped revive the American economy, and many others. Together this legislation has provided health care and jobs to millions, made big banks accountable and helped restore civil rights.
At stake in this election is continuing this progress or taking giant steps backwards. The Republicans already have stalled the president's comprehensive jobs package, they want to repeal health care reform, cut meaningful programs to preserve the Bush tax cuts for the 1%, and gut many protections for women. The president wants to restore tax equity by repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy and instituting the Buffett Rule to ensure that the Mitt Romneys of this world pay a minimum tax of 30 percent, fully implement health care reform so millions more people are protected, and continue a program of investment in growth industries that will provide the jobs of the future. This is a forward looking agenda for progressives to get behind.
So to my fellow progressives I say, take off the rose-colored glasses. President Obama may not have provided the exact change you wanted, but where would our country be without his accomplishments? Millions of Americans would be without health care, the unemployment rate would likely still be in double digits and we'd likely still be fighting in Iraq. The upcoming campaign will be very close so it is important that progressives come out in strong numbers to support the president. We cannot afford four years of Mitt Romney and Tea Party Republicans, taking our country backwards when we need to move forward. So forgive the president if you had some disappointments, look at all the good he has done, volunteer to help the campaign and come out strong to vote in November. The president needs his base and we are it!!!