I’ll be honest: Four years ago, he wasn’t my first choice. Instead, my primary vote went to Dennis Kucinich.
Obama wasn’t even my second choice. Had Kucinich not run, my vote would have gone to Hillary Clinton.
Still, in November 2008 I voted for Barack Obama for one reason, and one reason only: He wasn’t John McCain.
Since then, I’ve been feeling pretty blasé about the last four years. Like many progressives, I often found myself saying things like, “I wish he had done more.”
And, in fairness, that’s still partially true. I wish he had closed Guantanamo Bay and the numerous other secretive black sites scattered throughout the world. I wish he had pulled troops out of Afghanistan. I wish he had come out earlier in support of gay marriage (also known as: basic civil liberties).
Sadly, he didn’t do (or hasn’t yet done) any of these things.
A few weeks ago, I really started thinking about the upcoming election. Of course, if you know me at all you know that politics are always on the tip of my brain, but the reality of November 6th really came crashing in when KB and I recently requested our absentee ballots. We’ll be out of the country on Election Day, but, of course, we still want to have a say in what happens in just seven short weeks.
It’s like my Grandma Hi-Guy used to say: “You can’t bitch and complain about how things are going in the world if you don’t vote.”
I like bitching and complaining, so I vote.
In the end I knew I would be casting my vote once again for Obama, but I didn’t feel great about it. It was similar to how I felt voting for John Kerry in 2004.
Ugh. 2004. I just got shivers.
But here’s the thing: I wanted to feel good about my vote. So, in an effort to try and do just that, I decided to look at some of the things Obama has done in the last four years.
I pulled out a pen and started to write into my notebook.
Five minutes later, I had this list:
1. The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act: Think men and women should make the same salary for doing the same job? Yeah. Me, too.
2. The Dodd–Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act: Sweeping fiscal reform that kept the financial crisis of 2007-2010 from turning into The Great Depression: The Sequel.
3. The DREAM (Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors) Act: Sure, it’s being torn apart by the GOP now, but the truth is this act (which essentially protects kids from becoming innocent victims in the ongoing immigration war) was first proposed by Dick Durbin and Orrin Hatch, two Republicans, back in 2001.
4. The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Repeal Act: Finally, after nearly two decades, the stupidity of this policy (which was introduced by Bill Clinton back in 1993) has forever been killed.
5. The Credit CARD (Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure) Act: Have you ever gotten screwed over by a credit card company with astronomical fines, fees that have been charged to your account for no apparent reason, ridiculously high interest rates, and/or “contracts” that are written in a language that even scholars can’t decipher? This puts a dent into some of that.
6. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: For nearly half a century now, candidates have run for the presidency with the promise of reforming the nation’s totally awful health care system once in office. Obama actually did it. And sure, it’s not perfect. But it’s a start.
7. The Automotive Industry Bailout: I admit, I was on the wrong side of this when it was first proposed. I thought bailing the car companies out was a horrible idea, mostly because I was convinced no amount of money would ever save them, and that they’d never be able to pay it back. But it did save them, and they did pay it back. It worked. I was wrong, and I’m glad I was.
8. The Withdrawal of Troops from Iraq: War over. Simple. Next topic.
9. The Killing of bin Laden: I know people on the Right say things like, “Obama didn’t kill bin Laden. The Navy SEALs killed bin Laden.” To which I say: “No kidding.” But the fact is, Obama was able to do in two years what George W. Bush couldn’t do in seven. And, like it or not, it happened on Obama’s watch, so he gets the credit. I’m sure if it had happened under Bush the GOP would have canonized him as an American saint, so give me a break.
10. The Support of Gay Marriage: Like I said, I wish Obama would have come out in support of this sooner (and, granted, he was kind of forced into saying something by crazy ol’ Joe Biden), but I no longer care about the when of it all. He now says he supports it, and he’s the first U.S. president ever to do so. Baby steps are better than no steps.
11. The Jobs Increase: Yep, the economy still sucks and unemployment is still high. But I’ll take 30 consecutive months of private sector job gains over the 12 consecutive months of private sector job losses that Obama inherited from the previous administration. True, the 103,000 jobs that were added last month isn’t great news, but when you put it next to the 797,000 jobs that were lost in November 2008 it looks pretty darn stellar.
And there you have it. Eleven fairly monumental (some bigger than others, obviously) accomplishments. Not bad for four years, especially considering the last two have been completely useless thanks to a majority-run GOP Congress that appears to only exist so they can scream “NO!” at everything Obama proposes.
So I realized that I’ve been wrong. And whether you agree with the decisions above or not, one thing you cannot say is that he hasn’t done anything in his first term.
As I said at the start of this post: In November 2008, I voted for Barack Obama because he wasn’t John McCain. But in November 2012, I will vote for Barack Obama because he is Barack Obama.
And I feel pretty damn good about that now.
Looking forward to the next four,
PS: I’m not going to comment on this post. I’m sure some folks will chime in with support (for Obama, not for me), just as I’m sure some anonymous commenting trolls will chime in with spite (as they always seem to do), but I said everything I needed/wanted to say above, so I won’t be continuing the dialogue below.
Truth be told, I primarily wrote this post for myself. I consider it political therapy.