Perhaps some will be surprised by this post. After all, I have been and remain highly critical of the administration on a number of issue, most notably on education.
Some may remember my post in February, Dear Mr. President,, in which I raised some of my concerns as a teacher. Yet even in that post I noted
There are things your administration has done that we respect, at least most of us. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act meant large numbers of teachers and other public employees did not lose their jobs. Under ARRA, for the first time ever the Federal government for two years just about met its commitment to provide 40% of the average additional costs imposed by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. There was also the $10 billion in funds to support local government employment that also save some jobs. We acknowledge these things.
I have been a critic because I want this President to succeed. I approach things keeping in mind both a candidate who said that change comes from the bottom and that he wanted us to come to Washington with him to make that change, and a former President, FDR, who once told supporters: “I agree with you, I want to do it, now make me do it.”
This President HAS done a lot of good. This President HAS made a difference. This President HAS earned the right to continue in office.
And the alternative is too horrid to consider.
Please keep reading.
This election is critically important, both for the short term and for the long term future of this country.
Each of us, myself included, will have issues about which we care deeply on which no politician can ever hope to satisfy us all.
I have been involved in politics long enough, now in my mid 60s, to know that even were I the office holder I could never accomplish all of my goals, that there are tradeoffs and compromises. That is an inevitable part of governing.
This morning I read Focus, People!, a column by Charles Blow that I highly recommend.
Let me quote a section from the heart of that column, a column in which Blow reminds us of what is at stake:
This is about each of us being able to love, and marry, whomever we chose.
This is about women having unfettered and unfiltered access to a full range of reproductive options, which is most fundamentally about the physical and economic well-being of both them and their families.
This is about how we prioritize and provide direction and incentives for our educational system so that we produce citizens who are well equipped to compete in a tightening global job market.
This is about the judges the winner of the election would nominate, particularly to the Supreme Court, and how those nominations might balance or further skew the justice system.
We have already seen the legacy a President leaves behind long after his term is over, whether by completing two terms or being defeated for reelection. George H. W. Bush served only one term, yet we still, almost 12 years after he left office, have Clarence Thomas to deal with, not only now but for years to come. We are lucky that the 2nd President Bush got only two appointments, Alito and Roberts. We are still dealing with Reagan’s appointments of Scalia and the swing vote in Kennedy.
Contrast that with the four appointees of our two Democratic Presidents – Ginsburg, Breyer, Kagan and Sotomayor.
Remember that Ginsburg is a cancer survivor whose husband has passed, and that she was born in 1933.
If I might again quote from Charles Blow:
Social mores are changing. The global economy is changing. World security is changing. We need a president who understands and appreciates those changes and can articulate a core conviction about how to guide us forward through them.
That man simply isn’t Mitt Romney.
As he puts it later in the column, it is not that Romney is evil, because evil requires conviction,
But he is a dangerous man. Unprincipled ambition always is. Infinite malleability is its own vice because it’s infinitely corruptible by others of ignoble intentions.
I believe in an America that is moving forward. So does the President.
I believe in someone willing to speak out against those who would discriminate against those who are “different.” I might be more forceful on some issues, but this is a President who brought military along to get rid of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. This is a President who because he is so easily portrayed as “other” understands the importance of a vision of America that is inclusive, not exclusive – on religion, race, gender, national origina, and – yes – sexual orientation. While he personally has difficulties with full marriage equality, he and his campaign have nevertheless come out AGAINST the constitutional amendment on the ballot today in North Carolina, a state that he won only narrowly four years ago.
I view Barack Obama as a fundamentally decent man. I may disagree with some of the judgments he has made. I might make difference political calculations. I certainly would have made different choices for some key positions.
Yet despite that, yet despite the fact that I as someone NOT on the inside is often critical, might I remind people that I have often praised this President.
Consider where we might be had John McCain been elected. McCain is a man temperamentally unsuited to public office.
I might have my criticisms of Arne Duncan as Secretary of Education, having been a supporter of Linda Darling-Hammond for that position. But McCain might well have appointed Lisa Graham Keegan, and that possibility is absolutely scary and nauseating.
A McCain Presidency would have meant two far right appointees to the Supreme Court instead of the thoughtful women appointed by Obama.
But it is far more than the Court, and the possible openings in the next four years.
It is how militaristic we will be as a nation.
It is how much deference we will be willing to give to business and finance.
It is how willing the national leadership will be to speak on behalf of those who do not have billions to spend to influence policy and law and politics to benefit themselves further.
I am again reminded of the monk on Mount Athos who during World War II prayed that the less evil side might win. War even for good reasons always involves evil.
Yet that is not completely applicable to politics. Compromise, an inherent part of governing in a diverse society, is not inherently evil. It requires a certain amount of humility, a recognition that governance of and by imperfect human beings will of necessity itself be less than perfect.
That lack of perfection is why politics and governance require engagement. Any President we elect may well in the process of trying to preserve, protect and improve our democracy make mistakes, some serious. But he – or eventually she – needs to be willing to stay engaged, to try to make things better for America as a whole, for the hundreds of millions of ordinary people.
I do not have to agree with a politician on all issue to support him or her.
I disagreed with Jim Webb on some issues, but fought like hell to get him elected. After all, the alternative was George Allen. And since I am a Virginian, I will fight like hell for Tim Kaine, with whom I also disagree on some issues, because the thought of Allen returning to the Senate is – how can I say this – not something to which I would offer acquiescence: that prospect is horrifying.
Besides, I know Tim Kaine is a fundamentally decent and caring man, who is not motivated primarily by ego or ambition.
I do not know Barack Obama. I have been in the same room with him three times, twice at Vriginia Jefferson-Jackson Day dinners, along with several thousand others, once at a fundraiser for Creigh Deeds where there were perhaps 100-150 people in the room and my wife got to shake his hand. I have read his books, listened to his speeches, watched his leadership.
I am critical of some things.
I also think he has been a very good president in a very difficult situation.
I think he has done far more for this country than we had any right to expect, given the economic and military messes he inherited, and the open hostility to his success that the Republican leadership in Congress and on the air waves has made clear beginning even before he was inaugurated.
He would deserve reelection even were his Republican opponent someone worthy of the office.
His Republican opponent is not worthy of the office. To quote the end of the column by Charles Blow:
Romney’s willingness to shift so far right would set us too far back.
We need a president who understands the winds of change, not one who simply twists in them.
Barack Obama not only understands the winds of change, he is willing to place himself in the midst of the storm and try to help steer us through it to a positive destination.
Let me be clear:
so long as I am a private citizen, I will use my voice and my actions to try to move the country and its people in the directions I think are best, given the circumstances. As a private citizen, that means I will at times be critical of people I nevertheless support.
But I will not let my disappointment or even anger on some issues cloud my judgment.
We have two possibilities for leading this country.
It is not just that a Romney presidency is unacceptable. That by itself would be a sufficient reason to support the reelection of the President.
It is that this President, this man, Barack Hussein Obama, has done much good for this nation, and is committed to doing more.
I will not always agree with his choices.
I may express disappointment on some issues.
But have no doubt.
I support his reelection, and will do what I can to help him achieve it.