Dear Disillusioned Obama Supporter…
…I’ve been thinking about you.
And I admit it bums me out that — after such an intense and real togetherness that we all shared, hope and change, etc — you gave up on President Obama, and sometimes you stink-talk him publicly. I am not discounting your disappointment. Maybe there was a particular issue, dear to your heart, and you feel that the President reneged on a campaign promise. Or maybe you’re frustrated by his cautious pragmatism. Or his pie-in-the-sky ambition. Or his radical liberalism. Or his moderate centrism. Or his capitalism. Or his socialism. Maybe he is too black for you, or not black enough.
Maybe it’s much closer to home, i.e. you or someone you love is currently an unemployment statistic.
I am not discounting any of this. I can name a major issue or two that the President is not addressing the way I think he should; and my daily life is directly affected by the mortgage crisis, lack of access to credit, the cost of health care, and big-business exploitation of the environment.
But look: on what are you basing your conclusion that it’s all the President’s “fault”? On media bytes about how “the President clearly can’t run against the Republicans based on his record, because look at how terrible everything is”? I just ask that you look closely at the complexity and depth of the disaster(s) President Obama inherited. Do some more research on what he’s actually attempted to do (and why he failed), everything he’s succeeded in doing (and how he managed that), and what he plans to continue doing in order to achieve the most General Good possible. I myself, on a basic level, still trust that this President’s definition of the most General Good is both smart and noble — not perfectly so, but as comprehensively as anything we’ve seen in a long time.
Read Ryan Lizza’s profile in the New Yorker of Obama’s thorough, thoughtful, and disciplined decision-making process over the last two years for a sense of both the goodness and the imperfection of that process.
Obama’s first three years as President are the story of his realization of the limits of his office, his frustration with those constraints, and, ultimately, his education in how to successfully operate within them. A close look at the choices Obama made on domestic policy, based on a review of hundreds of pages of internal White House documents, reveals someone who is canny and tough—but who is not the President his most idealistic supporters thought they had elected.
I’m not sure why this assessment should/would make Obama supporters abandon him; and it disappoints me that it does. If Obama had not become supremely “canny and tough,” if he had not looked squarely at real obstacles to his most General Good agenda; if he had remained what many feared he was, i.e. all poetry and no prose, inspiring and appealing but unqualified to govern — it seems to me we’d be in much worse trouble now.
We elected him because he’s no dummy, and because he got into this with a genuine vision for productive politics. He is not a monarch; has 4 to 8 years to accomplish things (with half of that time really being sucked up by campaigning). We should grow up and stop acting like he is operating in a no-limitations political system with all the time and magical influence in the world. We should recognize that when faced many times a day with deciding between get-something-good-done-at-the-cost-of-something-else, vs get-nothing-done-in-order-to-appear-consistent-or-principled-in-a-simplistic-way, you do the best you can; you are making very difficult decisions, you hardly ever feel satisfied with them, and you need the support of your supporters. Keep him accountable, sure; but please, reconsider your easy dismissal and stink-talking.