16 September, 2012

Why I Campaign for Barack Obama

There are people in my own house who wonder where my loyalties lie with regard to Barack Obama. Oh, so do you like him? they ask.

I remember, back in the day, feeling sick when I had to vote for John It-Could-Be-Worse Kerry over Bush. My candidate was Dean at the time. By contrast, I had no reservations about campaigning for Senator Obama, and unshakable faith that he would win. But I am not someone whose loyalty is blind. Indeed, despite my own euphoria over his win, the words I wrote on the eve of the inauguration were painful to articulate but I wrote them anyway because they needed to be said. The fact is that the president-elect on the eve of his inauguration foretold what he would do three years and nine months later at the United Nations, and once again I could not remainsilent.

As a global citizen, I can see the many ways in which this president disappointed and for more reasons than I can go into here, it is clear as daylight that Hillary Clinton’s management of the State Department has been disastrous. I would willingly place the blame at her feet except for that tiny business of someone else being her boss. And yet as an American citizen I have understood the significance of Barack Obama’s commitment to progress on issues that matter deeply to me: the repealing of DADT is just the tip of the iceberg in that regard. As a pragmatist I realize that an American public that is starving and sick and depleted of hope spells doom for the rest of the world of a magnitude we have not seen yet. And so I understand the focus the president has had on setting the affairs of his own house in order before trying to do much better for the world even as I grieve alongside that world for the continuation of the me-first policies of the United States.

People, friends, those not paying serious attention, are happy to trot out the monstrous lies of the right with regard to the president’s record on domestic policy. To those who only have a quick minute I simply say, check out What the Fuck Has Obama Done So Far? It is illuminating. Here are a few:

Health Care Reform Bill, preventing insurance companies from denying insurance because of a pre-existing condition,
Added 4.6 billion USD to the Veterans Administration budget to recruit and retain more mental health professionals
Significantly expanded Pell grants, which help low-income students pay for college
Extended Benefits to same-sex partners of federal employees
Reversed ‘global gag rule’, allowing US aid to go to organizations regardless of whether they provide abortions
Provided travel expenses to families of fallen soldiers to be on hand when the body arrives at Dover AFB

These are not small things. And they would never happen under a Republican administration. It is as simple as that. Barack Obama is no saviour of the world, certainly not yet. But he is also not the could-be-worse candidate. For those who have the time and the inclination to dig a little deeper, and are of the writerly bent, I ask that they check out McSweeney’s brilliant effort, begun 90 days out before the elections, and titled, 90 Days 90 Reasons. Here are are few:

#32 Edwidge Danticat – President Obama supports the Dream Act.
#30 Sherman Alexie – Because the Liberal Messiah doesn’t exist.
#03 – Andrew Sean Greer – Supreme Court, Supreme Court, Supreme Court

We have a damned long way to go before the United States – or the policies and focus of the United States, its culture and position viz-a-viz matters of justice for citizens both American and global – resembles anything close to what we might dream of for ourselves, and for the proverbial seven generations out. But if any president has moved in that direction, it has been Barack Obama. We may all be standing at the beginning of a long and uneasy road, but if he loses this election, we will be standing and searching not just for the road, but for the way to get to the place where we can begin to build that road with our bare hands.

We all heard Michelle Obama speak at the convention about being at a crossroads. She was right. I am off to canvass on this beautiful Fall day.

aprilbaird08-007_2

One Response to “Why I Campaign for Barack Obama”

  1. Perhaps the Democrats will take the mantle of being the progressive party and mean it, a party that will see the children and grandchildren of the world as worthy of better than what we’ve given them so far. If our country gets past silly slapfights using the words “socialism” and “Obamacare” as if they’re important, we can get the wheels moving forward again instead of staying mired in one party’s pettiness versus the other. I genuinely believe Obama wants the wheels to move, but there are a billion gears that have to be oiled before the first inch is gained. Romney, on the other hand, continues the shell game perfected by the Conservative Messiah, Ronald Reagan, of promising manna from heaven as long as heaven is kept happy and fat.

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