I know I do. I remember when I first saw this picture circulating the internet during the worst financial crisis in living memory. Credit for businesses was freezing, the value of pension funds and government bonds were tanking, and the US auto industry was about to close its doors for good. Our newly elected President, a constitutional scholar and former community organizer, had just won a convincing victory and stepped into office in one of the most crisis-frought transition periods for any American administration.
It’s been two years (only TWO years, can you believe it?) and our image of that confident and deft new leader has been worn down by months and months of right-wing recalcitrance, left-wing hand-wringing, and the general pressures that come from having to be God-Of-All-Things. The tough electoral ass-kicking received by the Congressional Democrats seems to underscore the feeling that Obama has mishandled his job as fixer-of-America, if, of course, you believe in the American voter’s understanding of his progress, and whether their will is-equal-to what’s best for the country.
The fact is that voters are not the best judges of policy. As Glenn Beck would likely acknowledge, the Founders (praise be to their infallible wisdom) knew this, and that’s why they didn’t write direct democracy into the Constitution. They established a government where we trust others to decide on policy for us, and if we don’t like them, we can choose someone else. That’s called ‘representation,’ and it comes from the fact that most of us don’t have time to read the new health care law, or study the effects of the Afghanistan War on our structural long-term deficit, or to plan the response to major environmental disasters. They acknowledged that a central, federal government would have the power to make those decisions for us, and that when their job was done they could either run for reelection or go home.
I’m not saying that the facts stand 100% for Obama, or that I think he’s made the right decision every time. I do think he’s gone against the ‘will of the people’ to do things that had to be done, and changed course even when it seemed counter-intuitive or self-destructive. He may not even succeed (gasp!).
So why did we elect Obama in the first place? Was it because he promised us every liberal policy wish we could ever want? No. He is personally against gay marriage, he promised to escalate a land war in Asia, he wanted to cut taxes, and raise military spending. Once in office, he pushed against populist calls to lynch the banking industry instead of (wisely) working with them to repair a broken system. He made tough choices that have worked out, and others that will almost certainly work out down the line. He went after the biggest prize of all, Health Care reform, even when it could have proved disastrous for his and his party’s chances to keep their jobs in 2010 and 2012. Now, he is making deals with Republicans on taxes and unemployment bennies, much to the left’s chagrin. And even as they chide him for going against the voter’s will on so many issues, Obama and his peeps continue to reach out to his enemies because he knows its better for things to get done than to win elections.
This is why I changed my vote from Clinton to Obama before the California primary. I saw more in Barack Obama than a set of policies and a swing to left, I saw a leader I could trust to make tough calls for the good of the entire country. I saw a guy who would blow off the hard-liners in his own party and give the Republicans a small victory because it meant keeping the economy in order for another few months. The picture at the top of this blog does not resonate with me because I thought Obama would transform us into a modern social democracy overnight. I believe that silly caption because I know that my boy Barry will do what he knows is the right thing, regardless of what it means for his popularity or how it makes him ‘look’ or what it means for the idiot Democrats that question everything he does, just to get on CNN once in a while.
I know there are people that hate when leaders are loved on their own, apart from their acts. It’s almost un-American to admire your President, regardless of his party. We hate kings, unless they’re sports-stars, CEOs, movie stars, talk show hosts, radio hosts, magazine entrepreneurs, inventors, writers, singers, celebrities or guys who quit their jobs in awesome ways. But faith in a truly powerful politician to make the right decision, against his own best interests? Impossible! Faith in a man to actually abandon partisan brokerism to compromise and move the country forward on critical economic and military issues? HERESY! Don’t you know that cults of personality lead to fascism, holocaust and war???!!
I hate that Obama isn’t doing everything I could ever want. But damned if I’d rather have someone else in his chair. He’s the smartest guy we’ve had to look up to for a very long time. He knows that you have to hire the best people for a job even if it’s distasteful. And he knows that running the country well is better than tanking it and waiting to win a landslide just because you know you can. I obviously hope that the unemployment rate drops and we’re on a way to a budget surplus by the time Sarah Palin starts sniffing asses in Iowa, but even if it doesn’t, I know Obama did what he could with the levers of government that still work. I didn’t elect a shrewd politicker who knows how to win the week and stick it to the Newt Gingriches of this world. I elected a leader. I trust the guy, and I know that if it can be got, then he’s gunna get it.