For football fans, and people who join fantasy leagues to make friends, this fall is going to be characterized by disappointments. And while I don't look kindly upon people who "roster dump" or turn their backs on Alex Smith after one bad week even though he has been a model of consistency, I'm more worried about another kind of fair-weather fan: The one-time Obama voter.
I want to address those that might be distracted by the glow of Mitt Romney's hologram, or those that believe that Obama's posture during the first debate indicated that somehow he's lost whatever zeal that was so attractive about him in '08. Those who are tempted by the idealism of Green Party candidates or the hipster allure of the Modern Whig Party, and have turned away from the president.
I want to talk to you cynical people, you Siskels to my Ebert, you Jean-Paul Sartre to my Jean-Paul Gaultier, you Schiller Mit Heppners to my Lady Gaga. I take issue with those of you who are withdrawing their support for the president, based on the fact that he hasn't changed America as much as they'd hoped he would.
It's true that Obama's first term has not been a perfect one. I understand the frustration of people hoping the economy would have recovered faster, disappointed that energy policy hasn't been more progressive, and a host of other things you can read more about on the cynical and critical blogosphere.
There are those who might unfavorably compare Obama's record to the perfect, ideal administration they envisioned in the campaign. And it's not that their criticism isn't valid or important. Sometimes it's neither!
But, I want to ask people who've changed their minds about Obama in the last four years something: Well, what have you been up to?
Since when is democracy in the hands of a single Obamacrat? In other words, did these people whose easy critique of the President is that he didn't get enough done, did they raise their hands to move Congress toward a more reasonable majority? Did they put pressure on their congressperson to represent their interests? Funny, I didn't see any of them wearing U.S. PIRG t-shirts and soliciting money and signatures on the Promenade last weekend.
My point is, voting is not the only responsibility you have to affect the kind of change you want in your country.
In 2008, I voted for Obama. I voted for him because he made me believe politics was not a spectator sport and that I had a responsibility to my fellow citizens. That government wasn't about securing my individual welfare so much as it was about creating a better world for all. Over the course of the 2008 campaign, I traveled out of state and knocked on doors where I met and engaged with people whose lives were so different from my own. I found out what a caucus was. For me, it was an introduction to my country, and to civic responsibility.
And then, I washed my hands, more or less, of politics and activism. I felt I'd done my part. It was now up to Obama to tackle the largest problems in our nation's recent history. I was too busy celebrating and imbibing to really listen to what Obama was saying that night in Grant Park:
"This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change.... It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice."
Four years later, I feel like I've disappointed the president more than he's disappointed me. I've turned off the news and ignored countless emails from Joe, Michelle, David Plouffe, somebody named Susan at the DNC. Instead of continuing to phonebank and organize for the causes I believed in, the real initiatives that would make this country better -- for everyone -- I started a blog about my personal angst.*
But I'd like another chance to add my voice to the important discussions about the direction of this country. I'm not giving up on the promise of Obama. Because more important than what he pledged to achieve with legislation, is what he inspired all of us to do, and continue to work for.
The last four years, if anything, have proved that Obama remains committed to the idea that our democracy is beholden to and dependent upon the participation of every citizen. In the last four years, I've been emailed and invited to dinner. I've been encouraged to phonebank and organize on behalf of landmark health care reform. I've been invited to youtube addresses and encouraged to act on behalf of the unemployed, the uninsured, the undocumented.
It's not just a difference in policy that separates these candidates; it's a difference in their ideas about what a working democracy involves, and who is allowed to take part. Obama remains the candidate with the most invested in normal non-billionaire people like me, and our ability to make a difference.
And I don't want to disappoint him.