There are Obama haters aplenty, have been from Day One: Snooty left wingers have offered advice he should have, could have, would have followed to success if the president had just listened to his white betters in the media. Hate-filled right wing bigots have jostled to be the loudest claiming Obama isn’t a “real American,” not one of us, from somewhere else, a liar, a communist, a Muslim, the anti-Christ… and that’s just a start.
Economists have lined up on all sides to predict his policies would fail, that we were headed for depression, world economic collapse, and higher unemployment. Hawks told us the president was giving in to terror, maybe he was a terrorist himself. Doves told us he’s a mass murderer, using drones to target the innocent.
Civil libertarians told us Obama is creating a surveillance state, that he’s Orwell’s worst nightmare personified. That, of course is when he’s not selling us down the river to terrorists, as the Religious Right claims or turning our children into gays.
The Religious Right also tells us that the president is a baby-killer, wants to destroy marriage, hates families, and is in league with a global gay conspiracy to coddle pedophiles. Speaking of pedophiles, the Roman Catholic bishops – when not busy with settling lawsuits on behalf of abused children their priests raped – have told us that the president is anti-religion, anti-Catholic and anti-religious freedom, all because he hasn’t kowtowed to them and insisted that women are given full health coverage, including access to contraception.
The president has only been forced to tell one untruth, and it’s not that everyone could keep their coverage irrespective of how bad their so-called insurance was. That was a misstatement. It’s this: He’s never been able to say that the bitterness of his opponents stems from the fact he’s black. Not everyone who opposes the president is a racist. But race embarrasses us. We try not to mention it. We pretend we’re a less race-divided country than we are.
The president can’t say that because then on top of everything else he’d be accused of being an angry black man. Pundits like to tell us how well Tip O’Neill and Ronald Reagan got on and worked together. Why can’t the president be like that? The two Irish-Americans on opposite sides of the issues back in the good old days were both white, that’s why. One of them wasn’t facing a party of obstruction and hatred so irrational they would risk the entire world economy to make a point, that’s why!
With the economy salvaged from the toilet, two unnecessary wars ended, America’s standing retrieved from the lowest point it’s ever been that W Bush brought us to, with our dollar taken from worthless to the world currency again, our educational system retreating from free fall, any minimally fit president who had held all that together would be ahead in the polls… if he happened to be white.
The Democrats put forward the brightest, most compelling and inspiring candidate since Franklin Roosevelt. He won. But he did not change the blighted elitist heart of the white ruling class – Left or Right – used to being in charge. I say this as a white, 61 year-old former Republican and former Evangelical leader, who was turned into an Obama supporter by my disgust with the hijacking of the Republican Party by a bunch of anti-American revolutionaries. (See my new book And God Said, “Billy!“ exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering a way to better understand what I mean by the term “anti-American revolutionaries.”)
Senator Obama won scholarships to America’s top academic institutions, was voted by his peers to be editor of the Harvard Law Review, is a family man with an exemplary and obviously loving marriage, has a wife who is a brilliant charismatic woman, two lovely children, is a born-again Christian comfortable with his faith, has avoided making the fast buck in the new gilded age of greed when he could have, served his community, is thoughtful, considered in his opinions, slow to anger, proved right in his judgment about the Iraq war, the economy and just about everything else, looks at every side of a question before making a decision, and is not given to grandstanding let alone defending himself. That is who I voted for twice. That is who the president still is.
And now we come to the “healthcare reform debacle.” It is a “debacle” just as the economy was a debacle. In other words it isn’t. Check the stock market lately? Check the employment numbers lately? Check the wind-down of our wars lately? Check the whereabouts of bin Laden lately? Check the falling crime rates lately? Check the fact our deficit is dropping and that we are closer to energy self sufficiency than ever lately?
Turns out all the worst case forecasts about President Obama have been wrong. No, he hasn’t fixed everything. But, in spite of the racist, crazy Tea Party, the evangelical haters and the supercilious, know-it-all liberals who harass Obama, the president has done A LOT! President Obama remains the most intellectually and emotionally even-tempered and best equipped President we have had in the modern era. And even with the entire machinery of the Republican establishment and much of the media rooting for and egging on the “failure” of his Affordable Care Act, he will prevail.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not expert on health care reform. But given the actual record of achievement of this president I’m betting against the bigots and the know-it-all-pundits. Based on how all the other “disasters” and “failures” this president “created”– by not listening to Tea Party/evangelical bigots and white “liberal” commentators… I’m betting President Obama gets the Affordable Care Act website fixed, survives this current chapter of the slow-motion lynching that’s characterized his presidency, and wins this round too.
Today the president’s poll numbers are down. Thirty years from now the word “Obamacare” will be right up there with the other things we take for granted as the bedrock of our civil society. In President Obama we were given two extraordinary gifts; a great President and a national mirror. Looking into that mirror we just learned who we really are.
Like our national reaction to Jackie Robinson — the American baseball player who became the first African American to play in Major League — we’ve learned that one brave decent black man has had the fortitude to call us to a better place by what he did NOT say or do in his defense. The question is not will President Obama fail, but who are we?
Frank Schaeffer is a writer. His latest book — And God Said, “Billy!“ exploring the roots of American religious delusion, and offering another way to approach true spirituality, is on Kindle, iBook and NOOK for $3.99, and in paperback.