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Why I support Barack Obama
by Ron Fullwood
In electing Barack Obama, America advanced an authentic leader to the White House.
Although he's an accomplished academic - a former president of the Harvard Law Review; though he's served in the Illinois State Legislature and in the Senate; Mr. Obama's most productive and important qualification is his skill in inspiring and organizing which began with the choice he made after college to go into the communities and work to bring people together to help make a positive difference in their surroundings and in their lives.
Hope is the mantra he's chosen as his organizing point. Throughout his previous campaign and election, and the present one, Mr. Obama has been ridiculed and even scorned for promoting that one motivating principle, as if that represented the totality of his platform and initiatives. Hope can't feed the hungry, care for the sick and injured, end wars . . . but Mr. Obama wants us to believe in our ability to come to solutions and remedies for these issues and concerns by facing them together without the obstructing veils of cynicism and corrupting self-interest.
As his inauguration unfolded alongside the celebration of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr., Mr. Obama's message of hope reminded us of the nation's reaction to the 'dream' that King expressed in his address at the Lincoln Memorial at the end of the March on Washington.
Martin Luther King, Jr. will always own that moment where he inspired the nation to move past the personal and institutional bigotry, racism, and discrimination which had marked centuries of oppression for people of color in America. Likewise, it is reasonable to argue that the moment and the challenges we face are no less perilous or consequential to the citizens of our country and abroad than the ones we faced in the '60's.
In as inclusive a manner as our nation is capable of, Barack Obama offered his echo of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream in his national campaign - rallying a nation to join him in pulling the levers of political action and reform; rallying us to believe and to have hope for the future. Pulling the nation completely out of the mess we're in will be a remarkable achievement, if he's ultimately successful in his leadership.
There had been so many feelings of despair among those of us who worked to change the direction and make-up of our government and the White House through the Bush years, so much hopelessness. There was an overwhelming feeling of accomplishment when Barack Obama was elected which each and every supporter of Mr. Obama's candidacy could revel in - not the least of which had been his candidacy's ability to make Americans believe in their ability to change the direction of our country through our political action and votes.
Baynard Rustin, a key organizer of the 1963 March on Washington, argued in his book, 'Strategies for Freedom', that for a movement to have a permanent and transforming imprint, it should have a legislative goal attached which will transcend the whims of the emotions of the moment. Describing a different struggle that America faced with the advancement of civil rights, he wrote that:
"Moral fervor can't maintain your movement, nor can the act of participation itself. There must be a genuine commitment to the advancement of the people. To have such a commitment is also to have a militant sense of responsibility, a recognition that actions have consequences which have a very real effect on the individual lives of those one seeks to advance."
"Far too many movements lack both a (legislative) perspective and a sense of responsibility, and they fail because of it," Ruskin wrote.
Barack Obama has managed to advance himself to the presidency with that legislative goal in front of his appeal to hope. Achieving legislative solutions which will adequately confront the republican minority will certainly take more time. That effort will also, more than likely, take even more protesting and advocacy, but, as long as we keep our legislative goals at the head of our protests, and form the necessary coalitions of support to advance those legislative efforts within the system, we can assume the necessary responsibility for the consequences of our government and transform the direction of our movements from agitation to action.
Barack Obama's election was the realization by voters that our nation's problems will not be solved by academics, experts and technicians, economists, military tacticians, or legislators alone. It was an acknowledgment that we're all going to need to commit ourselves to stay engaged in working to develop and implement solutions.
As we work for the reelection of our 44th President, we also celebrate our own victory over cynicism and our determination to come together to drive home our stake in the future of our nation. We've elected someone who insists on that inclusive future. We've elected an authentic leader.
I can't help but look at President Obama with wonder at the pace and scope of change in my lifetime
I looked at his relaxed, confident face as he signed what may well turn out to be the most important piece of social legislation in my lifetime, his signature 'Affordable Care Act' and I marveled at the very visual affirmation of the progress our society has made in my lifetime; all at the behest and determination of Democrats and the Democratic party.
I was born into a society in which government was just beginning to respond to the demands of my parent's generation to treat us as equals and to defend that equal treatment behind the force and authority of the Federal government. My own life has been largely void of the most pernicious of barriers to opportunity, self-determination, and justice that they fought for, and I'm constantly aware of how our party's responsiveness to those rights and needs of my community have grown right along with my own advancements through adulthood.
I look at our President and I'm humbled by the wisdom and progressiveness of Americans in electing this man. I'm further humbled by the fact that it is, once again, our Democratic party which broke the barrier of race which had vexed many in the black community in their aspirations for that high office.
It was Democratic President John F Kennedy who introduced the Civil Rights Act in 1963 in his civil rights speech advocating "giving all Americans the right to be served in facilities which are open to the public—hotels, restaurants, theaters, retail stores, and similar establishments," as well as "greater protection for the right to vote."
The civil rights bill got bottled up in committee, yet, the assassination of the President; the March on Washington; and President Lyndon Johnson's leadership got the chocked wheels of Congress rolling toward eventual passage. Interestingly enough, the maneuvers that Democratic legislators employed to circumvent members of our own party who were blocking passage mirrors the engineering of the advancement of his 'historic' health bill.
Now, no one could argue that the civil rights legislation was perfect, or the process without taint. However, the barrier was crossed and future generations were forever bound to the idea of Federal protection of equal rights and equal access. Years later, our Democratic party is still leading the way in making the promise of that legislation a reality by enhancing and expanding those protections.
That's what I saw through the blur of water in my eyes, as I watched the president sign yet another major advance in federal protection and defense of rights for Americans in obtaining access to health insurance and keeping it on behalf of our Democratic party. That's what I see when I watch this Democratic president working on our behalf.
In my lifetime, I've NEVER seen a government or party which completely represented me.
I thought, when I first began to pay attention to government, and I'm certain now, that it's not designed to just represent me, but is responsible for a myriad of needs and concerns - some of which I may not share. *The only thing I've ever felt I was due was to have my ideas compete alongside the others. I've always understood that I'd have to generate as much enthusiasm for a candidate from my district or state to carry those ideas to the statehouse or Congress.
I understand that there will be opposition to my ideas, sometimes overwhelming opposition. But, I'm comfortable to have my ideas in consideration along with more popular or accepted ones. I see our political system as a mechanism to reconcile the many different and diverse ideas and concerns into action. I recognize that it's not always easy or possible. I'm not discouraged by that; I'm challenged to work harder.
In my lifetime, the Democratic Party has been outstanding in carrying and advancing those ideas I support and believe in. Those ideas haven't always prevailed, even among Democrats, but I have lived long enough to see some of those ideas revived, presented, and advanced after all, despite an earlier rejection or defeat. I fully intend to keep pressing my ideas and concerns until they can generate the support needed to advance them legislatively or otherwise.
I never expected to get my way with 100 senators and 500 representatives, but I'm gratified for the progress we've made in achieving the numbers needed to gain the majority. There is obvious value in holding the majority, including the important ability to keep republicans from setting the agenda on the floor and in committees.
In all, the Democratic party remains the most effective and representative vehicle for my ideas and concerns, despite the disagreements I may have with the actions of this Congress or any other I've witnessed. Most of our Democratic senators and representatives work hard to represent us as we continue pressing them for recognition and advancement of those ideas and concerns. I've personally had more than that opportunity. That's all I've ever expected.
This election year has been much like our unusual, unpredictable weather these days. There's so much unprecedented in the atmosphere and landscape of our party's upcoming defense of our Democratic presidency. There's the obvious historic nature of this current president who's race is being deliberately (if not mindlessly) highlighted and framed by many of his bigoted, republican opponents and their supporters; so far, mostly to the advantageous effect of mobilizing and energizing our Democratic base to his heightened defense and support.
I'm mindful that it was just a year, or so, ago that both the economy and President Obama's appeal was teetering on a precipice of indifference in his re-election to an outright wave of opposition from his own base of supporters. A combination of a populist appeal and some executive action has attracted enough of an early buzz regarding the president's re-election from his party regulars and others that he has effectively placed himself firmly into the vital role of our party's political champion.
It's a welcome end of term of a operationally defensive presidency caught up worrying about smoothing out every republican-induced bump in the legislative roadway. Free from any significant or noticeable primary challenge -- and advantaged by a prevaricating and flawed republican nominee -- President Obama has been able to appeal to both the traditional factions of our party, and to many more progressive interests, as well, and position his supporters to rally against the extremes coming from his republican opponents.
It's been a perfect storm of opposition which has inspired many passionate defenses of this presidency from potential Democratic voters; of its agenda; and of its legislative accomplishments. The opposition party has muddied up what had just recently augured to be a dry referendum from them on the struggling, incumbent President.
I am a giddy fool in my unquestioned, enthusiastic, energetic support for the re-election of Barack Obama; basking in the glow of his excellent character, his steady and progressive logic, and in his warm and embracing appeal to our core Democratic principles; reveling in the bold contrast he offers against the bleak and caustic republican opposition. I am a dedicated and loyal toiler against his demagogic attackers.
My natural aversion to the reflexive moderation and unnerving compromises which marked much of his first term is undone (almost) by the warmth, strength, and beauty of this Democratic President's substantive and inspiring campaign and grace in office.
Let me say from the outset that, in comparison to most politicians of any stripe or position, Barack Obama is a very dynamic and compelling figure.
Fact is, his persona, character, and interests reflect more of America than any president in my lifetime. Much is made about Bill Clinton playing sax on Arsenio as candidate, but this president has displayed contemporary cool in office with his embrace of electronic and social media; his public embrace of contemporary music and musicians; as well as his interest in sports from the major leagues to his frequent games of one-on-one b-ball.
More importantly, though, President Obama has embraced many of the progressive issues of our time and presented their resolution or disposition as imperatives for the immediate future. That's a marked difference from the traditional caution of our political establishment. To be certain, many politicians are now challenged to come forth with positions and action on issues they thought they could slow-walk through the political process until they were dead or forgotten.
Even in the midst of our present financial disaster/recovery-- maybe even because of it all -- this president is pressing for action and accomplishment to counter the typical, deliberate cynicism many in our national legislature have worked to engender in our expectations of the government we've made them responsible for.
'Cool' for this president isn't just an attitude; it's a persona derived from his sincerity and commitment to those things which Americans feel characterize the best of what we are and what we aspire to become. Folks recognize that commitment to our national, social, and political advancement and want to identify with that sentiment and effort. Barack Obama inspires Americans on a real level; on a plane where Americans actually live and exist.
I know I can sometimes appear to be an optimist, but I'm often deeply cynical about politicians and government. Don't mistake my confidence and positive persona for optimism, or for some kind of naivete. Hell will freeze over, I believe, before I see all of the changes I want enacted by government realized in my lifetime.
There are, however, transformational moments in our history which usher in progress which can't be reversed or erased. I believe that President Obama's announcement, in his calculated interview, that he now fully supports marriage equality, is one of those earth-moving political decisions which will usher in a new generation of civil rights for those individuals in the LGBT community who have been deliberately denied basic citizenship rights because of who they love; who they choose to have sexual relationships with; and, who they choose to marry.
We don't need to dwell too long on the utter immorality and political timidity of the president's earlier position which he had said was 'evolving' over time. There is no justification to be had for his insistence on sticking to his position against marriage equality and rights for gay Americans. There isn't any mitigation of those views to be had in his welcome and correct support of many other precepts of our LGBT agenda. There isn't any justification for waiting so long to express this change of heart -- no letting the powder dry; or waiting for the next election; or defending his reelection can justify maintaining such a selfish and hurtful stance.
Yet, there isn't any more need to dwell on those transgressions of Barack Obama now that he's made a decision to move forward to change attitudes and the law. There's no more need than there was to dwell on the faults of President Lyndon Johnson -- a man who ushered in a new era of civil rights for black Americans and others; yet, couldn't keep himself from calling blacks 'nigras.' -- after he had his own epiphany and embraced the civil rights fight; enlisting every instigation of democracy he could manage to further the historic progress he ultimately achieved in making the federal government responsible and accountable for the defense of those rights.
What the President has done with his statement -- just a couple of paragraphs; a few sentences -- is to make himself the primary target for those who would oppose these rights he's advocating. In this election year, President Obama will be forced; challenged to defend his position on marriage equality as integral to the defense of his entire candidacy for reelection. I don't know if that's the fight folks were expecting, but that's the one we've got right now.
Fortunately, this President has already demonstrated his capacity and ability to express empathy, compassion, and understanding on many issues in ways which welcome all Americans to join in and participate. Indeed, President Obama has used this issue as a measure of our commitment to each other; employing his defense in a way which ultimately unites us.
It's hard to understate the importance of this sitting president's embrace of these basic, but denied, rights. History has shown that it takes leadership at the level of the presidency to initiate and carry through important changes in our society. It has been said by Edmund Burke that, "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Or, perhaps, more accurately, ""When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle."
So, united we now stand. Forward to the fight for equality for all!
Watching President Obama's campaign kickoff speech in Ohio, just one more time, I got a bit more of an idea of what he's angling to achieve in this campaign beyond his reelection. I'm looking at Barack Obama in the context of the history of our nations leadership --within and without government -- and I'm struck by the degree that this president has managed to inflect his political rhetoric with elements of a progressive agenda which have previously been the elements of activism and advocacy from outside of government; rhetoric not normally associated with a sitting president.
One of the very first thoughts expressed in his speech was a profound statement of our political party's purpose and identity:
"We came together because we believe that in America, your success shouldn’t be determined by the circumstances of your birth," President Obama said. "If you’re willing to work hard, you should be able to find a good job. If you’re willing to meet your responsibilities, you should be able to own a home, maybe start a business, give your kids the chance to do even better -- no matter who you are, no matter where you come from, no matter what you look like, no matter what your last name is."
Right out of the gate, this president is embracing the struggle that the majority of Americans are facing in trying to earn a living and to provide for their families and their future.
"It was tough . . . It was tough all across the country," he said, "But the American people are tougher. All across America, people like you dug in. Folks like you fought back."
Most importantly, the President Obama defined where we came from in this economy, and in the other affairs which make up the state of our union, and declared that we are going forward -- not backward to the policies and politics which let us down in the first place.
'Forward' is more than just a motto; it's a defining stand against those who would have us reverse and take away the elements of progress that we've achieved so far. Forward is a declaration that we intend to build on the initiatives and actions which are already taking root for Americans around the nation.
In an earlier response to a thread of mine, DUer, grantcart, perfectly summed up President Obama's appeal in this election:
"He's not running to win the election," he said, "He's running to win the agenda. Rather than pivoting to the center he is trying to get the country to sign on to going forward on a progressive tact."
"We’ve got to move forward to that future where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same rules," President Obama said.
Posted by bigtree | Sat Sep 29, 2012, 08:31 AM (44 replies)
from David Roberts at Grist: http://grist.org/politics/in-an-era-of-post-truth-politics-credibility-is-like-a-rainbow/
Sullivan has the cover story in the latest issue of Newsweek, called “The Democrats Reagan,” about the enormous potential of a second Obama term. One of his main arguments is that a decisive defeat for Republicans in 2012 could interrupt their rightward drift. Defeat would cause soul-searching, cooler heads would once again prevail, and the party would tack to the center. Color me skeptical.
Mostly I was struck by this line, which comes in the context of a discussion about immigration:
Under Obama, deportations of illegal aliens are double what they were under his predecessor; and the number of border agents is at a record high. Both give him conservative credibility on the issue, if only the right would acknowledge it.
. . . In post-truth politics, the basic mistake to see things like “credibility” as objective phenomena in the world. Put high heat to water, you get steam. Put conservative immigration policies to Obama, you get conservative credibility.
Credibility is not like that. It’s what you might call a relational phenomenon; it exists in the relationship between object and subject. Think about a rainbow. (Always good advice.) For a rainbow to exist, you need sunlight and water vapor in the air, but also a subject positioned at a particular angle to the sun and water vapor. A rainbow is just “how the light bouncing off the vapor appears to the subject.” Without the subject, there’s no appearing, and thus no rainbow.
Credibility is like a rainbow. It is relational. “Conservative credibility” is not something that simply happens when conservative policies are enacted or conservative rhetoric echoed. It requires a subject — in this case a conservative subject — to witness and acknowledge it. One must be credible to someone, and to have “conservative credibility” one must be credible to conservatives.
. . . there are no referees any more, no members of the elite who transcend the partisan war and are respected by both sides. Or at least very few. Any more, there are only the sides and their respective worlds. Conservative credibility can only come from the conservative side, and if conservatives refuse to grant it, it doesn’t exist, any more than a rainbow exists when no one’s looking at it.
read more: http://grist.org/politics/in-an-era-of-post-truth-politics-credibility-is-like-a-rainbow/
Posted by bigtree | Thu Sep 27, 2012, 12:21 PM (3 replies)
Posted by bigtree | Thu Sep 27, 2012, 10:35 AM (1 replies)
WHILE it's undeniable that the worst instincts and ambitions of the republican party are in full view these days, and amplified by the media promotion (and some voter identification) of their most extreme whack-jobs, I can't remember this fantastical time in history when republicans and their policies were devoid of the bigotry, racism, xenophobia, corporate love, and greed that's front and center today; prominent in this presidential election.
Without arguing individual motives and efforts of folks like D. Frum, A. Sullivan - and others, like A .Fleisher and J. Goldberg, who've criticized their party's ineptness or tone to some extent - it's transparent from their clinging to their party identification and support for republican candidates that the only thing they actually decry about their party is that they seem to be losing ground and losing elections with every unapologetic, divisive appeal - with every divisive, elitist policy they promote.
What gives the most rabid among republicans hope that someone outside of the mob of paranoid, frightened rabble that makes up their base is listening to their drivel this time around is their success in the last midterm freak-out where they managed to turn out their sour-grapes supporters to stick it to President Obama and take over the mouthpiece of the House.
However, the polling this election which shows very little traction gained by republicans off of a chronically ill economy is a clear repudiation of whatever message Americans are taking from the latest conservative agenda. It's as if the old bugaboos and whistles have lost their luster and din for voters outside of the narrow republican margin of support looking forward to November.
No matter to the Romney team, though (and the congressional campaign managers, as well) . . . Like conservatives pined for more bombs to drop on Vietnam in a vain attempt to steal victory out of the mouth of certain defeat, today's republicans - save for the recalcitrant ones embarrassed by the audacity of Mitt's and Ryan's mendacity - are angling to empty their arsenal of demagoguery onto the already slippery floor of their faltering presidential campaign to rescue Romney from a crushing November.
But, don't let the timid ones fool you. All they really wish for is that all of the blatant and open racism, bigotry, homophobia, sexism, xenophobia, corporate love, and greed that has always under-girded republican victories was, somehow, put back undercover - out of public perception - and that their party would get back to devising and employing those clever codes and whistles that masked their most fervent motivations to divide and conquer.
Posted by bigtree | Mon Sep 17, 2012, 12:50 PM (5 replies)
MICHELLE OBAMA'S speech last night before the Democratic convention was a clarion call for a new Democratic era. It was due notice that generations of Americans are poised to move forward -- from the promises and opportunities of our nation, to their struggles and challenges to redeem those; -- and, to the hoped-for realization of those dreams and aspirations.
Moreover, as our First Lady affirmed the struggles and challenges that she and her husband, Barack Obama, have faced on the road to the highest responsibility in the land, she gave voice and light to the struggles and challenges that her husband has dedicated most of his life to resolving and triumphing over for countless Americans from all stations of life.
If I close my eyes and listen to her testimonial and short history of their lives together, I can see generations standing before her; proud of her inspiring words, but anxious to get to the actual realization of those dreams and aspirations Mrs. Obama so lovingly and convincingly conveyed. I can also see generation after generation standing behind her; energized by her enthusiasm and optimism, but anxious, as well, to move past the cynicism and deliberate obstruction from those without vision or concern for the future to their promised successes.
In the hall filled with Democrats and others, I could see countless men and women who have pulled themselves up from the hard and firm roots of our nation to bask in the energy and sustaining light of our party's ambitions for their ultimate growth and blossoming.
There isn't the same sense of just a handful of fortunate ones having arrived at the gate; there's been a bumper crop of minority youth, women, physically-challenged Americans, and others who have little memory or expectation of some deliberate oppression or some organized epidemic of discrimination sanctioned by our government and encouraged from the highest levels of our government. This is a generation of Americans who have come to expect that there will be opportunities and successes in their lives; and, who have come to expect that they can effectively defend against interference and noise which threatens to deny them those opportunities and successes.
Cynicism is now a luxury, as Bill Clinton used to say. Cynicism is mostly an imposture, used opportunistically by those opposing and resisting transformational change in America as a lure away from the path and from the realization of that defining progress we seek. It's no coincidence or accident that those in our party who have taken up the banner of opportunity and progress regard cynicism as an anathema to those efforts.
It's also no coincidence or accident that those who would stand in the way of progress are fully invested in cultivating doubts and suspicion of our collective efforts in government. That contrast between the aspirations of our two major political parties couldn't be clearer. Democrats are invested in hope; republicans are invested in denigrating, belittling, and squashing those hopes.
Yet, generations and generations are now at the gate and ready to step into whatever opportunities for responsibility we can offer; more Americans than ever before in our history have taken advantage of the gifts generations in the past have placed before them and are poised for personal greatness; poised to take that next step to assuming responsibility for generations to follow.
Those who have invested themselves in blocking these classes of Americans from opportunity have little but avarice, antipathy, and acrimony to keep them company. If they can knock down those in the lead -- the folks opening the doors ahead of us -- they can forestall progress and change. They are a desperate and threatened cabal of obstinacy. The American dream, for many of them, is just a political prop and justification of their own excess; perverted into a defense of their own sweet selves and their fading preeminence.
In this election, we are privileged to have a pragmatic optimist to champion our Democratic causes into the next presidential term; into the future. Barack Obama has remained incredibly focused on our futures; even as he defends his political one. It's remarkable just how many of the issues, initiatives, and ideals that he's represented since his first presidential run are still at the forefront of his political efforts -- even in his campaign for reelection. His rhetoric and his mindset is firmly focused on us; the American people who he represents in office. He's determined to capture and deliver that American dream for as many of us as he's able; for republicans and Democrats alike.
Michelle spoke to that last night. For those who've witnessed this lady in action, it should be clear that she has been one of Barack Obama's toughest critics. It should mean a great deal to us, therefore, that she believes our President is the best suited to lead us to those things we aspire to.
Indulge me a bit, read through, and let this passage from Michelle Obama's convention speech resonate against what I've said here . . .
Barack knows the American Dream because he's lived it . and he wants everyone in this country to have that same opportunity, no matter who we are, or where we're from, or what we look like, or who we love.
Posted by bigtree | Wed Sep 5, 2012, 07:27 AM (7 replies)
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