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A Realist for Obama

I am writing this because one of my best friends has been haranguing me for many months about what a bad president Barack Obama is, and how sorry he is for working so hard to elect him. I have more or less patiently listened to these rants, BUT I CAN'T TAKE IT ANYMORE! And since I know there are many other liberal/progressive Democrats who feel the way he does, this is addressed to all of you.

The theme is always the same: We were so inspired by Obama. He promised us change. We were so excited. But now, time after time, he has let us down. Yes, he has done a few good things, but two and half years after he took office, look how much he has utterly failed to do. Even worse, he is bending over backwards to compromise with those damn Republicans. This is not what I trudged through Wisconsin for him to do. This is not what I opened my pocketbook for him to do. You won't see me ringing any doorbells or donating any money to this guy in 2012.

And why don't you add: It will be so great to see Mitt Romney (or whomever) running the country for the next four years?

I apologize if it sounds condescending, but did you really believe all that campaign rhetoric??? Haven't you been around long enough to be aware of the difference between politicking and governing?

Yes, we were all impressed by the things Obama said in 2008. It would have been nice to elect the first woman president, but Obama clearly matched our values much better than Hillary. So we all supported Barack, and we were so proud to have played a part in electing not only the first black president but someone who thought like us in so many ways.

Then he took office and he started doing some really good things. I have a list that a friend gave me of all those good things, but you know what they are and I'm not going to bother to clutter this piece with the list. I know that you have a list of all the bad things--of all the promises unkept and all the allegedly unnecessary compromises. And it may be as long as my list. Do I wish, in a perfect world, that he had kept all those promises in his first term in office? Yes. Do I wish somehow he had felt comfortable in standing up to the Republicans more and refusing to compromise? Sure. Has he made mistakes? Of course.

But we live in an imperfect world.

Let me make it clear that I applaud you for criticizing President Obama, for reminding him of his promises, for urging him to try his best to stand tall. I have done the same thing in letters to the White House urging the President to take the stands I believe in, and I hope he gets a whole lot of letters from people like us, and maybe it will encourage him to do some of those things. But in those same letters I have expressed my support and confidence in him, and my willingness to work hard to re-elect him.

The thing that most troubles me about the tenor of your public criticism of the President is how it can seriously harm his re-election chances. If people like you announce publicly your bitterness and your determination to sit on your hands in 2012, we will have a President Romney or worse.

I want to clarify that it is every citizen's private right to decide who to vote for and who to work for and support. If you don't feel in your heart that you can do in 2012 what you did in 2008, I can respect that. And if you want to express to the President your profound disappointment in his performance so far, that is certainly your right. What disturbs me is that so many of you are announcing publicly that you will sit it out--thereby encouraging others who may look up to you for advice and guidance to do the same.

So far I have not brought up the race issue, but I think it is central to the situation. The reality is that racism is alive and well in America. Obama is the most liberal president in a very long time, and even if he were white, the Right would be mighty upset with him. But the fact that he is both liberal and black has enabled the Right to attract every bigot in the country, and we saw the results in the congressional elections of 2010.

For this reason, I give Obama a lot of slack. He needs the independents to vote for him next year, and looking at it politically, he needs to act less liberal than he would be inclined to, and he needs to compromise more than he would rather, or he could lose many independents.

I have been involved in Democratic politics for 51 years, and although I was initially an idealist, I soon came to realize that the bottom line in politics is to get yourself re-elected. Obama could have been real liberal and he could have refused to compromise (although even that would have been very difficult because he had to rely on the not very reliable Democrats in Congress), but he would have been a one-term president.

In summary, the idealist in me agrees with you folks, but the realist in me wins out. I am proud to have Barack Obama in the White House. And I look for him to be terrific in his second term.  

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  1. Nothing was ever accomplished by reasonable people.

  2. Isn’t it true that Presidents who were elected for a second term had the best accomplishments in the second term? Considering how much President Obama achieved during his 2-1/2 years in the office, I am looking forward to another 4 years of this Administration. I may not like everything what I see and hear, but the prospect of another 4 years (without political re-election rhetoric) sounds good to me.

  3. Yup, you are right, I will not work for this President until I see him working for me… as I have stated ad auseum, ” I do not expect that he accomplishes the impossible, but that he educates the public to the risks we face…. and usesthe powers he has to make this a better country,

    Case in point if he did not allow the Bush Tax cuts to expire (well within his power) he would not have to be kissing the Republican’s asses, genuflecting… in the words of Howard Fine to get an agreement that raises no revenue and cuts programs…. I personallly would prefer a one term President who fails to win a second term for doing the right thing than one who does not stand firm against evil and loses his supporters, and alienates his enemies.

    I am not naive, I have been around about as long as you have and have been involved in politics for a long time. Obama simply does not deserve my support if he fails to stand by the MAJOR moral issues he espoused while campaigning.

    I look forward with dread to his speech tonight. and I equally look forward with dread when people make excuses for his allowing himself to get into the predicament he finds himself. He may get the debt ceiling raised and next time we have a crisis, he will give up more, perhaps a woman’s right to choose. freedom of speech….or whateverl.

    The color of his skin may make it difficult for him to govern, but if you felt it was going to make him an ineffective president then you made a terrible decision to vote for him…. we can’t afford an ineffective President.


    • Like Matt, I am also disappointed in what President Obama has been able to achieve. I had hoped for far more. But like Ed, I am also a realist. I imagine what I might have felt as an ardent abolitionist who chafed at Abraham Lincoln’s procrastination in freeing the slaves, or as a democratic socialist who belittled Franklin Roosevelt’s actions to rescue us from the Great Depression. I believe that Obama ranks with these two master political strategists and is not allowing the perfect to get in the way of the possible.

      What if Obama had insisted on Medicare for all (or even the public option)? And had immediately pulled our troops out of Iraq? And had refused to reauthorize the Bush tax cuts? And had closed Guantanamo? And had demanded a massive government jobs program? What if he had immediately moved to fulfill all his campaign promises? The answer, as he and any political realist knows is that, blocked by the Republicans and a few blue-dog Democrats. he would have achieved little, and we, the American people, would have suffered even more.

      Obama is not the enemy—the Republicans are. He has been forced to compromise, even more so because of last year’s takeover of the House by the Republicans. But like Lincoln and Roosevelt, he is a master of the political game. His strategy today, in this so-called debt-limit brawl, is clearly to isolate the right-wing extremists. His appeals are addressed to mainstream America, who, confused by persisting racism, sexism, religious fundamentlism, and that all-American I-too-can-get-rich dream, nevertheless sympathize with his “balanced” approach. And if no compromise is reached and the economy worsens, it’s a risky crapshoot as to whom the public would blame. The strategic, mandatory aim is preparation for President Obama’s reelection and a retaking of the House by the Democrats next year.

      Questioning him? Criticizing him? Encouraging him? Helping to mobilize public support on crucial issues? Yes, of course. But frontal assaults on Obama? No, no! It might feel good for progressives to rail at Obama’s so-called betrayal and threaten to withhold our support and votes. But it would prove to be a failed suicide-bomber mission and possibly result in his defeat. And that would be a catastrophe.


  4. This is why I am not going to vote for Obama again.
    -The president is the head of his political party.
    -The system is broken, one person can’t fix it.
    -The parties have no interest in fixing the broken system because for them, it’s not broken.
    -If I vote for Obama I am in fact stating that I am OK with they system and how the democrats operate within it.
    -By voting a third party I am telling the Democrats that if they want my vote they will need to earn it.
    The system needs to change, not the person running it.

  5. that’s what the nader voters said in 2000.

    i have been in many conversations with people who argue for a third party, and i don’t disagree with their (your) argument. but it is again a question of whether you are an idealist or a realist. i suspect it’s in our genes, and it is unlikely any of us can be convinced to change from one to the other.

    i’m a realist.

  6. Alan,

    I think you all and I are all realists…. Evan sees the political system not working, Alan and Ed see Obama as a bright, principled man working against a united enemy and doing what he can, and agree with you all, but my focus is that Obama is a very poor negotiator and has broken some MAJOR promises… the promises that made me support him…. I will not vote for him in Illinois (if Illinois is sewed up for Obama), but if I lived in Wisconsin I would vote for him…. and I truly have no words to convince an undecided voter why he or she should vote for him other than” you can’t be ignorant enough to vote for a Republican.” I hope one day soon I change my mind and will again be delighted that I gave my bucks and time to elect this man.

  7. Alan,

    Alan, you have expressed it really well–especially the part about “it might feel good.” Matt, I know it makes you feel good to rant and rave. It has had no effect on me. But what scares me is that you boast that people are coming over to your side. Please, please, confine your venting to Mar and Viola and Alan and me, and leave those other people alone. (luv ya anyway, though)

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