About four years ago, Sue, some friends and I spent two to three nights a week at a local telephone bank making calls for Barack Obama. I’ll never forget election night when, after the last call had been made and the telephone center cleaned, a group of us walked to a nearby watering hole. And damn near couldn’t get in the door as wall-to-wall people boisterously cheered the countdown to his victory. Strangers hugged and kissed and there were more than a few wet eyes as hope became reality. We had our first Black president, and one who promised the next four years were going to be different than the previous eight. We believed we’d finally reached the end of the Reagan Revolution.
Not so. The war in Afghanistan continues; Iraq is still a mess; innocent until proven guilty doesn’t count for people who the government defines as potential terrorists; indeterminate detention has become part of our daily life. And all this and more with the president’s tacit (sometimes not so tacit) approval.
Not exactly the change I was hoping for. Not even close.
I understand the obstacles the president faced. Blue Dog Democrats who were stalwart against any significant reform. An opposition party that made it clear from the jump they had only one agenda item—anybody but Obama in 2012. And stuck to it no matter how many times the president played nicey-nicey.
I’m even aware of the positive changes Obama managed to press through despite opposition from both parties. He…
Overhauled the food safety system;
Approved the Lily Ledbetter “Equal Pay” for women rule;
Ended “Don’t Ask/Don’t Tell” discrimination in the military;
Passed the Hate Crimes bill in Congress;
Pushed through the Affordable Health Care Act, outlawing denial of coverage for pre-existing conditions, extending until age 26 health care coverage of children under their parents’ plans while adding coverage for around three million more people.(Though a really long spit from Medicare for All, it actually is better than what we had before.)
Expanded the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) health care for children;
Pushed through a $789 economic stimulus bill that saved or created 3 million jobs and began task of repairing the nation’s infrastructure; (Again, way, way too little money to really jump start the economy.)
Established the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and used a recess appointment to keep it on track in the face of GOP attempts to derail it;
Outmaneuvered GOP in naming two members of the National Labor Relations Board blocked by the Republicans in their attempt to shut down the NLRB;
Won two extensions of the debt ceiling and extensions of unemployment compensation in the face of Republican threats to shut down the U.S. government. (Ask the unemployed how they felt about that one.)
And, in my mind, most importantly, appointed two progressive women to the U.S. Supreme Court including the first Latina.
Sadly, despite the above and more, he hasn’t stopped, or even slowed, the Reagan vision of America. Nor has he sustained the enthusiasm and hope of his most ardent supporters–young people. Which leads to the one overriding emotion he has engendered in me.
Gore Vidal once said, “We live in a nation that has one political party with two right wings.” That rings incredibly true. But given our choices, it’s the Republican wing that scares the hell out of me.
I’ve watched the Supreme Court turn corporations into people, tear the Miranda decision to shreds, permit search and seizures without probable cause and, in general, turn back the clock as if the present and future just don’t matter. This is what we have now and, with two judges deep into their eighties, I don’t want Mitt Romney picking potential nominees. Not ever.
Still, I find myself unwilling to put the time and effort into Obama’s re-election and my friends feel the same. While I’m guessing most progressives will probably drag themselves to the polls and vote, it might not be enough to keep Republican hands off the driving wheels of all three branches.
More fear. It may all come down to our younger adults. Will they vote for Obama given their disappointments? Right now, I ain’t betting rent.
So what’s a progressive to do? Sit still, vote, and pray that we’re not looking at a Republican horror show at the end of the day? Drag our asses to the phone banks? Somehow I don’t think that idea is really gonna be enough this time. Which leaves progressives with the imperative to talk to those young adults. Without their willingness to vote for Obama (holding their noses, if need be) we’re gonna be catapulted back in time in ways that will annihilate what little progress we’ve made.
I don’t want corporations to be ”people.” I don’t want a larger net fishing for those who DWB (Drive While Black—and, now Brown as well) I don’t want Arizona to lead the nation into greater and more pervasive racism. I don’t want the rich to grow richer while the poor grow poorer and the middle class slides down the greased economic pole. I want to retain all that remains of our civil liberties and the First Amendment. I don’t want back-alley abortions.
So yeah, I’m gonna vote. And I’m gonna talk to every young adult I can about voting too.
As far as canvassing and calls, I’m not sure. Probably depends upon how much more frightened I am as we approach November.
And I’m plenty scared now.
“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.” Alice Walker