I wish that more Americans wanted genuine equality and bodily autonomy for their fellow citizens. I wish that more Americans understood the implications of the enormous inequities of our economy. I wish that more Americans respected scientific inquiry and I wish that more Americans showed compassion, for each other and for strangers around the world. I likewise wish that global politics were straightforward, and that the people who should be on the right side of history consistently volunteered to get on, and stay on, that side.
But I live in the current world, in America-as-it-is. Even though American support for such civil rights issues as marriage equality and a woman’s right to choose is on the rise, somewhere around half of us still don’t support either. Nearly half of us believe in Creationism, and 41% of us still view Muslims unfavorably. Over 60% of us support drone strikes in foreign lands (which, given that many believe that the alternative is actual invasion, might actually be a good sign), and we’re about evenly divided as to who we trust more to deal with the economy – the guy who thinks it’s ok to write off 47% of Americans, or the guy who managed, however imperfectly, to save this country from a second Great Depression.
Do the President and I always agree? Of course not. I’ve always been to the left of him politically, and just last night I found myself in knots over the Israel/Palestine issue. I rarely agree all the time with anyone, frankly.
But here’s the thing: You don’t need to always agree with someone to respect him.
The President of the United States has to be President of everyone, not just me and my fondest dreams, and I believe that this President has done a remarkable job in finding a space that is a little bit left of center on most issues, a space from which he has acted to advance our country toward a place in which more people enjoy greater freedoms and more dignity. He has gone to bat for women and the LGBTQ community, American consumers and college students; he has improved services for veterans and provided health care for millions of people who didn’t have it (including 4 million children); he has acted in both legislation and by example in support of science and education.
All this while facing an opposition that has been openly dedicated to his political destruction, often for reasons that have more to do with his skin than his policies. Indeed, it should be noted (and noted again and again) that Obama only enjoyed a Democratic majority in Congress for a grand total of five months in the course of his Presidency, in mid-2009 – so even if we presume (and I do) that his personal opinions are sometimes to the left of his public positions — when exactly was he supposed to work his progressive magic on the legislative branch? “Quick, we can break a filibuster! PASS ALL THE BILLS.”
Moreover (and not incidentally for me), President Obama’s respect for intelligent inquiry, for individuals and peoples; his gentle humor and backbone of steel; the willingness he’s shown to take bold action and also to admit error; and his constant, consistent refusal to get involved in the mind games that literally millions of people are trying to play with him — these all reflect a manner that I not only want to see in my President, but am hoping to teach my children.
All of which is lovely, of course, but I live in Illinois. Barack Obama does not actually need my vote.
But — first and foremost — this is how American democracy works. My vote will only be counted if I actually cast it. Will it make a difference at the Electoral College level? No. But if I want people like me to be visible anywhere else, then I have to participate in the process (and it’s inevitable that people who choose not to cast a ballot for President often wind up not voting at all, and there are frankly plenty of Democrats down ticket who need all the support they can get).
And then there’s the fact that people have been fighting — and dying — all over the world lately to gain access to this right that we take so for granted.
But as luck would have it, I’m happy to participate. I’m pleased and proud to vote for an imperfect man who I believe to have made real mistakes along the way, because I have watched him struggle mightily for four years to forge the right path forward and to do the absolute best he can for the American people. I believe the country I live in to be a more perfect union because of the Obama Presidency, and I believe that four more years (notably without the threat of a re-election campaign hanging over him) will only serve to deepen and strengthen that slow, endless process of perfection. And I will be spending several days over the next two weeks doing everything a peon can to see to it that President Obama gets his chance.
Is Barack Obama the answer to all my dreams? No. Am I proud he’s my President? To borrow a phrase: You betcha.
And by voting for him, I get to help make my world a little bit better.
PS Wondering WTF Obama has done so far? Clicking here is a good place to find a few choice answers.