Obama Will Triumph — So Will America

by on September 26, 2010 · 18 comments

in Civil Rights, Culture, Economy, Election, Environment, History, War and Peace

Obama with light sword

Editor: Despite the following being nine months old, we thought we’d share it.You tell us if any of this rings true today.

By Frank Schaeffer

Before he’d served even one year President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds — including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right wing agitator, now progressive writer and (given my background as the son of a famous evangelical leader) this unlikely Obama supporter — are sticking with our President.

Why?– because he is succeeding.

We faithful Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.  Obama’s steady supporters will be proved right. Obama’s critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and shriveled hate mongers at worst.

The Context of the Obama Presidency

Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe , the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a m ore consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition – from both the right and left.

As the President’s poll numbers have fallen so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election. The left’s lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling “prophecy”–snipe at the President and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn’t have anything to do with it!

Here is what Obama faced when he took office– none of which was his  fault:

  • An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries
  • Two wars; one that was mishandled from the start, the other that was unnecessary and immoral
  • The worst economic crisis since the depression
  • America ‘s standing in the world at the lowest point in history
  • A country that had been misled into accepting the use of torture of prisoners of war
  • A health care system in free fall
  • An educational system in free fall
  • A global environmental crisis of history-altering proportions (about which the Bush administration and the Republicans had done nothing)
  • An impasse between culture warriors from the right and left
  • A huge financial deficit inherited from the terminally irresponsible Bush administration.

And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President’s desk!

“Help” from the Right?

What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists — that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office — do to “help” our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn’t a real American, didn’t have an American birth certificate, wasn’t born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating “racist”, was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted “death panels” to kill the elderly!

They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized “tea parties” to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) “commentators” from  Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.

The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the  environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: “No!”

In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right,combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative war mongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bug, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent “bishops”, frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs!

“Help” from the Left?

What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the President because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he’d inherited from the worst president in modern history!

Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President’s economic policies had “failed” before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they’d been “betrayed”! (Never mind that Obama’s vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president’s has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!)

Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how “disappointed” they were that they’d not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the “change”? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!

And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond. “Governing”?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?” The President’s critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure.

Then of course there were the white, snide know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn’t imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren’t as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn’t consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong! The Obama critics’ ideological ideas defined their idea of reality rather than reality defining their ideas-say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the President had been dealt by fate, or to be exact by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office twice!

Meanwhile back in the reality-based community – in just 12 short months –President Obama:

  • Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights  (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Restored America ‘s image around the globe (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Banned torture of American prisoners (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Stopped the free fall of the American economy (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Stood up for educational reform (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Won a Nobel peace prize (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Stopped the free fall of job losses (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” needing to “water the tree of liberty”. (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)
  • Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly (But that wasn’t good enough for his critics)

Other than those “disappointing” accomplishments — IN ONE YEAR — President Obama “failed”! Other than that he didn’t “live up to expectations”!

Who actually has failed……are the Americans that can’t see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this President to fail so that they could be proved right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned “news” into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.

Here’s the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty “supporters” or hate-filled Republican detractors!

The Future Looks Good

After Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts — with a canny and calculating eye to the possible succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.

Just because we didn’t get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught year Obama was in office not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proved right.

PS. if you agree that Obama is shaping up to be a great president, please pass this on and hang in there! Pass it on anyway to ensure that his “report card” gets the attention it deserves.

Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of “Patience With God – Faith For People Who Don’t Like Religion (Or Atheism).”

{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Lynn G September 26, 2010 at 4:32 pm

Brilliant!

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avatar Scott Pearce September 26, 2010 at 6:49 pm

Mr. Shaeffer’s article is a long, fairly articulate hallucination.

Here’s a guy who thinks Obama has succeeded with the economy and who is making wise choices about war.

Mr. Obama has caved in on every issue he was elected on. His administration has failed already. It’s time to register Green because the Democrats have embraced necrophilia.

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avatar Danny Morales September 27, 2010 at 4:33 am

Scott-Your promotion and rationale explains why it forever will remain the “Green Tea” party! The Democratic Party having embraced necrophilia? Or did I hear you say “Democrat” party.

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avatar Scott Pearce September 27, 2010 at 5:55 pm

Hi Danny,

How can you support a President who kept all of W’s defense team in place? You can insult me all you like, but you’d be more useful if you cared a little more about ideas, and about basic human morality.

How many millions do we have to kill and displace before you have a problem with it?

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avatar Danny Morales September 27, 2010 at 7:17 pm

Scott, I don’t have to say a damn thing to insult you. Your previous comments will suffice!- Love Danny

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avatar Shane Finneran September 27, 2010 at 8:11 am

I drives me nuts when Obama-bots like the author of this article act like liberals shouldn’t be upset with Obama. Obama himself would tell you he’s embraced a middle-of-the-aisle approach to governing. Naturally, left-of-the-aisle folks OUGHT to be at least somewhat disappointed.

Rebuttals:
* Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq (continuing Bush-era policies in Iraq don’t do it for me)
* Thoughtfully and decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in Afghanistan (choices like Stanley McChrystal?)
* Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay rights (speeches sound good, but why hasn’t Obama issued an executive order to end Don’t Ask Don’t Tell? Legal experts agree he could)
* Restored America ’s image around the globe (by not being George W Bush)
* Banned torture of American prisoners (but continues “renditioning” people to other countries to be tortured)
* Stopped the free fall of the American economy (with supply-side policies that have left many desperate people in the cold)
* Put the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community (Have we turned over Iraq and Afghanistan to the UN or something?)
* Put the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt global warming (I guess this is like how we’re in the middle of the Israel-Palestine peace process)
* Stood up for educational reform (while enrolling the girls in Sidwell Friends)
* Won a Nobel peace prize (a wee bit ironic given he’s the President of the Predator Drone)
* Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial system of checks and balances (still depriving dozens of suspects of due process)
* Did what had to be done to start the slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that 7 presidents had failed to even begin (a industry-designed reform so ugly that Democrats now distance themselves from it)
* Responded to hatred from the right and left with measured good humor and patience (will the guy ever flash some backbone?)
* Stopped the free fall of job losses (on Wall Street)
* Showed immense personal courage in the face of an armed and dangerous far right opposition that included the sort of disgusting people that show up at public meetings carrying loaded weapons and carrying Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” needing to “water the tree of liberty” (and is also ballsy enough to suggest that 1% of Americans might be able to afford more taxes)
* Showed that he could not only make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly (sorry, but his explanation and defense of Afghanistan, for instance, strike me as far less than brilliant)

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avatar Seth September 27, 2010 at 10:05 am

Personal thoughts on Obama and national politics as I stay home sick today. Many of these thoughts are per discussions I have had with my more liberal friends in Cambridge and SF over the past 5 years or so, so forgive me if it occasionally sounds like I am talking to someone else beyond this forum, as I probably am.

Three underlying points of how I see it to start out:

1. Obama is not, and has never really been, a liberal.

2. In terms of national politics, political liberalism essentially died in this country in the mid-to-late 1970s.

3. The 2006 and 2008 elections were not some massive shift back to Great Society liberalism, but rather a repudiation of a failed President and Republican leadership that failed entirely and across the board during the 2000s.

As a left-leaning moderate who voted for Hillary in the primaries, I have never been comfortable with how many liberals claimed ownership of the “revolution” simply because Obama ran the table in small purple states. But politically, both Hillary and Obama were practically carbon copies of one another. Past the vague rhetoric about change, Obama never once even thought of taking an actual liberal position during the campaign, in my opinion.

Simply put, he couldn’t have if he wanted to get elected. It’s just not what the 51% want, hence Clinton’s 3rd way political adaptation of the 1990s.

Which describes perfectly to me the choice that liberals face(d) in terms of national politics. Build a coalition with moderates and independents in order to win the middle ground and then govern somewhat moderately, or lose. That’s it. Right or wrong, no Door #3 exists. The same is true for those on the far right, as they will likely find out in 2012.

For my money, Obama has to operate within this context. Note the backlash to what was a rather modest expansion of government health care, after all.

Many liberals may be mad and/or disenchanted with it all, from Tea Partiers to Blue Dogs to Obama, and that is their right. But I would ask them the following…

1. Given that no actual liberal outside of a barely-elected Al Franken was sent to Washington in either 2006 or 2008, whose revolution is this, really?

2. For right or wrong, given the rather moderate coalition that brought Democrats back to power in 2008, was the liberal vision of things ever really going to happen? Did Obama ever really have that agency?

3. Now that his left-leaning moderate politics are laid bare, and we can stop pretending that he is a liberal, should we have sent Hillary instead? Yeah, sour grapes… but would she have been more adept and competent at pulling the same levers and trying to accomplish the same goals?

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avatar Chris Moore September 27, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Excellent analysis, agreed.

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avatar Andy Cohen September 28, 2010 at 10:29 am

Here’s the thing that kills me: People act so disappointed and call him a failure–even those on the left. Things aren’t turning around fast enough. But really, what the hell did these people expect? That on inauguration day, the roses would magically come into bloom, the birds would sing, the sun would shine, and all of our problems would suddenly, mystically be washed away?

Look, it took us the better part of 12 years of Republican tyranny to get to where we are. That’s an awful lot of damage that has to be undone. And if it took us 12 years to get into this mess, it’s sure as hell going to take us longer than two to get us out of it.

And when you look at the utter and complete belligerence coming from the Republican side of the aisle, it’s incredible that this administration has been able to get ANYTHING done at all!

Is Obama and his administration perfect? No. Is there a perfect solution to every problem? No, of course not. But at least now we have a guy who doesn’t believe he’s infallible; who is willing to listen to different ideas and cobble together the best possible solutions based on the best information available to him at the time. And maybe some of those solutions aren’t popular (see: Afghanistan), but he still has the courage to do what he thinks is right (in most cases–there are certainly some things where he could take a more defiant stand, but he’s much more calculating and patient that way), which is more than we can say for 99% of our elected officials currently in office.

I’ll take this over what we’ve seen from every Republican administration I’ve seen during my lifetime every single time. Because it sure as hell beats the alternative.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 28, 2010 at 11:43 am

I love this debate! Why? ‘Cuz it goes straight to the dilemma of the disenchanted progressive.

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avatar Shane Finneran September 28, 2010 at 11:46 am

The question is not whether our Democratic president beats the Republican alternative. The question is, given that Democrats have been running the show for nearly 2 years, is this the best we can do?

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avatar Andy Cohen September 28, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Given the current environment and the opposition’s dedication to opposing EVERYTHING, absolutely EVERYTHING! without presenting a viable alternative of their own, then yeah, it probably is the best we can do until we get a filibuster proof super-majority in the Senate, which ain’t gonna happen.

You don’t want him to have to start doing everything by executive order. That just opens him up to semi-legitimate accusations dictatorial tendencies, and undermines what effectiveness he does have.

But I’ll agree with you: Dems should push back harder, and be more vocal about what’s really going on and the Repub hypocrisy (see: Deficit, Budget and Tax Cuts). We need more people like Debbi Wasserman-Schultz, Anthony Weiner, and Alan Grayson. We need more people in the Senate like Al Franken, and we need to make sure that Barbara Boxer defeats Carlyfornication.

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avatar Shane Finneran September 28, 2010 at 12:44 pm

Seth makes an assumption that I think is at the heart of this debate: “Obama never once even thought of taking an actual liberal position during the campaign…It’s just not what the 51% want.” I’d argue that the 51% often do want “liberal” solutions, but that Democrats instead are prone to cater to the same monied interests that run the Republicans.

For example, several polls showed that a clear majority of Americans wanted a single-payer solution to health care. If Democrats were focused on the will of the people, wouldn’t they have pushed for single-payer? Instead, single-payer was off the table from the start, and Dems delivered an insurance-industry-approved reform. They delivered what the money wanted, not what the people wanted.

In fact, if you think anyone if DC cares about the will of the majority, how do you explain TARP and the other credit-crunch bailouts? Those were despised by 80% or 90% of Americans, yet both parties in Congress approved almost overnight. Money, again.

It’ll probably always be true that money plays way to big a role in setting our govt’s priorities. Republicans prefer it that way, of course. What sucks is how Democrats are failing to offer a creditable alternative.

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avatar Andy Cohen September 29, 2010 at 5:00 pm

Here’s the thing: This country is not a true democracy. It’s a republic. The difference between a true democracy and a republic is that in a republic, we elect people to act on our behalf. Since it is not at all possible to put every single issue to a vote in a nation of nearly 350 million people, then it is our responsibility to put people in elected office that can and will act in our best interests.

That does not mean that they always follow the polls. They are privy to details that we are not. They supposedly know things that we do not. They have access to expert analysis that we do not. For example, you criticize the TARP, but the truth is that as distasteful as it was, it probably did actually save our economy from oblivion.

That’s what they are supposed to do: To make tough decisions on our behalf based on the best information they have available to them. And if it turns out they’re not doing that, then it’s our RESPONSIBILITY to vote them out of office. (Such as Brian Bilbray and Darrell Issa, although Issa will win his election easily).

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avatar RB September 30, 2010 at 8:41 am

OT; My understanding of why we have a republic is different.

First, the founders assumed our elected officials would be framers, doctors, journalist, etc.. They assumed that our elected officials would act in our best interest because they would be us, not a separate, professional, class of career politicians. So I don’t buy the elected officials and their extra knowledge as the reason for the republic.

I was taught the reason for having a republic was protection of the minority from the majority. The smaller states were concerned that the larger states with larger populations would dominate the federal government. To overcome these objections, a republic rather than a pure democracy was selected. The Senate, not based on population, with two members from each state and the electoral college , election by each state, are two outcomes of the compromises for the smaller states in the formation of a republic rather than pure democracy.

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avatar Frank Gormlie September 27, 2010 at 11:22 am

Thank you Dan, Shane and Seth: this is exactly the type of discussion we need to have.

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avatar Brian September 27, 2010 at 2:14 pm

“Timothy McVeigh-inspired signs about the “blood of tyrants” ”

It’s a shame that American History only goes back to Timothy McVeigh. They should really teach schoolchildren about Thomas Jefferson, too.

Here’s some “great” Obama administration news:

I love the doublespeak closing: “They can promise strong encryption. They just need to figure out how they can provide us plain text.”

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avatar Liam Scanlan October 5, 2010 at 9:56 am

Love it.
Right on the mark.
FACTS are used to support all of this, in contrast to the BELIEFS that are used to denigrate it.
I always prefer FACTS to BELIEFS.

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