The important question Republicans want Americans to ask themselves this November is "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?" It's a rather simple question, but not really imaginative or original since it's already been used by a former republican presidential candidate, but I'll play the game.
Four years ago, I held a dream job that allowed me to fully exercise the skills gained from my liberal arts master's degree and International education; I was making a comfortable yet modest middle-class salary and living in the greatest city in America (Chicago), in the condo I purchased just two years prior on exactly my 30th birthday. Talk about living the American Dream!
Four years ago, the economy was also tanking; it was in complete free fall, actually -- we would later learn that Q4 of 2008 saw an 8.9 percent drop in GDP -- and I happened to be in Washington D.C. the very weekend in late 2008 when Congress was in special session to discuss and vote on the stimulus package put forth by the Bush Administration. Fortunately, I was able to catch our government in action and sit in on both House and Senate sessions.
Was this tragic foreshadowing for my future? It didn't take long for that tanking economy on Wall Street to trickle down to Main Street. Three days after Inauguration Day 2009, I lost my job.
Initially, I was confident that my experience and education would land me another position quickly. But ultimately, I endured three years(!) of unemployment, drained all of my savings trying to stay in my condo, which I lost, along with my 800+ credit score, my dignity and much more. After two of those three years, I landed a great position, but lost it six months later due to the economic health of that company.
Another year would pass and I finally landed a job three months ago. This time, I'm starting back at square one. I have an entry-level job, performing duties I mastered in my first position out of college 11 years ago and earning that same salary, nearly 50 percent less than my previously modest middle-class income.
Am I whining? No. I'm hoping this experience will make me stronger. I'm hoping my skills and depth of experience will set me apart and move me through the ranks faster this time. But, "Am I better off?" is the question.
This question has forced me to reflect on the past four years differently than I might normally. As a Progressive and former political junkie, I have given up on both the Democratic and Republican parties; frankly I see them as one in the same. The last four years have taken a toll on my passion for anything outside of my own personal survival. In fact, I was determined to vote third party this year as a protest vote. And, as the "go to" person for many of my friends when it comes to politics, I was determined to convince them all to do the same.
Watching the conventions have brought something back to life inside of me.
Tampa was frankly more of the same. It was like watching an episode of the NYC housewives in St. Bart. Each speaker kept jabbing and poking with made up facts and insinuations that just ring with phony. There was also the usual Republican 'bravado' that gets some people riled up, but makes me just roll my eyes in disbelief that they are taken seriously by such a great number in the country.
Contrast that to North Carolina, which was more like being somewhere between a college football game and a political science course, both on the same campus and with the same friends in both the class and game. A harmonic balance between having fun and getting to learning. And who couldn't love the amazing political lesson given by former President Bill Clinton? Even some of the staunchest Republicans in my Facebook friend list couldn't help but praise his "awesomeness."
The Democrats won me over again.
I decided that it's ridiculous to blame Obama for not getting anything done because of Republican opposition. It's further ridiculous to argue "well, he didn't compromise enough" as Republicans often blamed during many of the legislative debates over the previous four years.
It all boils down to governing. During the Bush years, Democrats - -the minority -- compromised with Bush and the Republicans to give them their legislative wins on the president's agenda. Any hint of opposition by Democrats was met with loud screams of "We won so we get what we want. Now quit whining and give us votes!" Republicans now seem to have forgotten that while the minority indeed has rights, it still needs to actually work WITH the majority. The majority won the right to set the agenda and pass much of what it wants and will, in turn, allow certain concessions to the minority in an effort to save face and allow everyone to be happy. THAT is governing and NOT capitulation of the minority.
I remember the frustrating first months of Obama's Administration when, as a Progressive, I was so aggravated by how much Obama was willing to compromise with Republicans. But compromise wasn't enough. Republicans wanted to dictate and when Obama wasn't willing to let them run the show, they blamed him and opposed everything he did.
That is NOT governing.
I've decided to abandon my third party vote campaign. I'm voting Democratic across the board in November. I'm voting Democratic as a punishment to Republicans who not only created this mess under the Bush administration, but who also stalled any hope of recovery with their opposition and temper-tantrum mentality to everything Obama put forward.
Millions of people lost jobs, homes, savings, retirement, personal health and their lives (yes, suicide rates rise during tough economic times) because of this economic crisis. Barack Obama came to Washington with ideas and he was ready to work, but no matter how hard he tried, he hit a wall. That wall was the Republican Party, and shame on Republicans for making the last four years worse for millions of Americans!
So thank you for asking, GOP, if I'm better off today than I was four years ago. Here's my final answer: No, I'm not better off than I was four years ago. And no, you won't get my vote because of that. I blame your party for your complete and unfettered opposition to everything brought forth by the majority; for your refusal to understand your role as the minority party to compromise (not completely capitulate) with the majority's agenda; for your complete disregard for the American People and their well-being and the American Institutions.