I have been absent much of the past year because I was working on a re-election campaign in a battleground state. The issues I have blogged about for the past couple of years were too important to me to just sit on the sidelines when I could do something to help. So I quit my job, put my things in storage and moved in with strangers in a strange state.
My gamble paid off—my candidate won and those strangers turned into lifelong friends—but it didn’t leave much time for hobbies. As I decompress and start thinking about the future, I will be sure to update more frequently and share my thoughts on campaign life.
Dan Savage at Savage Love has done a great job recently at tracking President Barack Obama’s stance on marriage equality. It recently made the news that as a candidate for Illinois state Senate in 1996, Obama told Outlines newspaper, in his own handwriting, he supported gay marriage. However, presidential candidate Obama in 2008 was clearly opposed to gay marriage. In the last few months he has suggested there might have been an “evolution” of his position and that he’s now leaning toward supporting gay marriage. But communications director Dan Pfeiffer and spokesman Jay Carney insist Obama up until this point has not supported marriage equality.
Confused? I don’t blame you. I have long suspected Obama’s stance on the issue is a political decision rather than an actual personal belief. I just couldn’t understand how someone who has appointed so many gay people to positions of power in the government, who has allowed hospital visitation rights to same-sex couples, who has worked to repeal don’t ask, don’t tell, and who has shown every other indication of supporting full equal rights for gay Americans could stop short at marriage.
I agree with Savage that it’s likely Obama changed his position in order to win the presidency, and yes, that disappoints me. But Savage asked some thought-provoking questions. If progressives push Obama to support marriage equality before the 2012 election, and he loses, that issue will be blamed for it. Are we willing to let a President Pawlenty or President Bachmann become a reality for the sake of our principles? By the same token, if Obama had supported same-sex marriage in 2008, and lost to John McCain/Sarah Palin on that issue, what would our country look like now? Would the trade-off have been worth it? I don’t know. I fully support marriage for heterosexual and homosexual couples, but the thought of Sarah Palin being vice president right now still makes my skin crawl.
In a perfect world, Obama could express his true beliefs and there would be no political consequences. No one would refuse to vote for Obama next year because of this one stance. However, we all know the world is far from perfect, and Republicans would be using his support for same-sex marriage to raise millions of dollars and drive their base into a frenzy. I’ve had enough of their idea of governing to last me a lifetime. I’d much prefer letting Obama have another four years to move this country forward.
At the OFA meeting I attended yesterday, one woman explained her support of President Obama by saying she doesn’t agree with everything he does or says, but she believes in his vision for the country. I do, too, but I am very concerned and disappointed by his decision to attack Libya. From the beginning I thought the invasion of Iraq was a big mistake, and as the war there and in Afghanistan has dragged out, my opposition has been justified. In general I think violence should be the last resort to solve anything, although I know reasoning with Gaddafi is useless. I don’t claim to understand the complexities of the situation, but I know our country can’t afford another entanglement over oil in that region of the world.
Andrew Sullivan at the Daily Dish is covering events with typical zealousness and has a good roundup of his thoughts as well as analysis from the experts.
I went to my first Organizing for America meeting this morning. OFA was created by President Obama as a grass-roots effort to support his agenda. There were around 20 of us, including organizers, and we talked about OFA’s mission and how we can get involved. One of the things I found very heartening was just knowing there are other people in my community who have the same views I do. My state is considered very red, and sometimes I feel like the only blue fish in a big red ocean. But people at the meeting talked about being angry at the Republicans’ agenda and afraid for the safety of the middle class. A teacher said she was concerned with the state of education, because teachers are educating less and less and instead teaching stadardized tests.
The leaders of the meeting talked about the power of personal stories in spreading President Obama’s message. Volunteer leader Stephanie said she had gotten involved over health care and the Iraq war. She grew up in a Mennonite area that was strongly pacifistic, and being without health insurance made her want to get involved. Two of the people I found most inspiring were a couple in their 80s who have been politically active all of their lives. They have nine children, including two adopted daughters. They routinely take two-week trips to do rescue work and had been to New Orleans three times. They have clearly led very full lives and I was very impressed that they are not letting anything slow them down or stop them from being involved.
One of the things we discussed at the meeting is OFA’s keywords of respect, empower and include. Volunteer leader Marilyn was so great at talking about what empowerment means to her that we all wished we had captured her on video. She talked about finding your voice and holding our representatives accountable for what they do. If you’re not happy with their votes, let them know and make your feelings heard at the ballot box. That really resonated with me. I was the youngest person in the room by several years, and I think a lot of young people don’t get involved with politics because they think it doesn’t affect them, or there’s nothing they can do. That couldn’t be further from the truth, and I think a problem of politics in general is engaging young voters and keeping them engaged. There was a strong youth turnout in the 2008 election but not so much in 2010. We need them back in 2012 if we want to keep President Obama in office.
What I took away from the meeting is that progressives are everywhere, even the reddest of red states; personal stories are highly effective at communicating messages; and everyone needs to step up and be involved. I look forward to working more with OFA in the future and helping them re-elect President Obama.
Unemployment is high and likely to remain that way for years. Soldiers keep dying in the Middle East. No one understands the new health care law. The deficit is soaring. The birth rate is down. The cleanup in the Gulf of Mexico will take years.
None of that is President Barack Obama’s fault. He inherited a mess of epic proportions from the preceding Bush administration.
Is it his responsibility to solve those problems? Absolutely. And I believe he is doing his best on all fronts.
The problem is, as Rick says, that Americans have a short attention span. They are hurting, and they want things fixed now. Yesterday. They won’t want to hear jobs won’t be coming back until next year, or the year after, or they might not come back at all.
I understand that, and I sympathize with it. I see people out begging on street corners with alarming regularity. There’s nothing more I’d like to do than to create jobs for them out of thin air.
What many people forget is that these are huge, systemic problems. No one can wave a magic wand and make them better overnight. If John McCain had been elected, there’s a good chance he would be facing the same mess Obama is. McCain and the rest of the Republicans don’t have a panacea up their sleeves. If they did, they would have shared it with the rest of us. They can talk all they want about cutting taxes and reducing spending, but they don’t have any actual concrete policy ideas.
This is not to say I agree with everything Obama does or says. I don’t. I disagree with his decision to appeal the recent ruling halting “don’t ask, don’t tell.” I disagree and am disappointed with his stance on same-sex marriage. I don’t like how condescending his administration often seems to the press and their genuine attempts to seek honest information. I’m angry about all the concessions he has given anti-abortion activists in their attempt to outlaw a legal medical procedure.
But knowing what I know now, would I make the same decision I did in 2008 to vote for Obama?
In a heartbeat. I don’t regret that choice and I would do it again in a nanosecond.