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 more 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 who 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
• 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?
did the Republicans and the religious right, Libertarians and halfbaked
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 a 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.
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 president’s critics, left and right, all had one thing in common: with little to no sense of history (let alone reality) thrown in for good measure.
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, childmolesting 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?
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.
stood up and bravely proclaimed that the president’s economic policies
had “failed” before the president even instituted them. Still 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 that mind he
signed a new hate crimes law.)
Those who 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.
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,
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
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.
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 realitybased community — in just 12 short months — President Obama:
Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq
• Thoughtfully and
decisively picked the best of several bad choices regarding the war in
• Gave a major precedent-setting speech supporting gay
• Restored America’s image around the globe
• Banned torture of
• Stopped the free fall of the American economy
the USA squarely back in the bilateral international community
the USA squarely into the middle of the international effort to halt
• Stood up for educational reform
• Won a Nobel peace
• Moved the trial of terrorists back into the American judicial
system of checks and balances
• Did what had to be done to start the
slow, torturous and almost impossible process of health care reform that
seven presidents had failed to even begin • Responded to hatred from
the right and left
with measured good humor and patience
• Stopped the free fall of job
• 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” • Showed that he could not only
make the tough military choices but explain and defend them brilliantly
But none of these were 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.”
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 they could be proved right in
their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers
behind our obscenely dumb news cycles who have turned “news” into
stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.
the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his
lefty “supporters” or hate-filled Republican detractors.
The future looks good
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.
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.
Frank Schaeffer is a New York Times best-selling author whose most recent book is Crazy For God.