October 30, 2012

End Of The Month Controversy: The Presidential Election

From election night 2008
In 2007, I was a volunteer in an AmeriCorps program.  It was a corrupt program, and a part of my job was not lobbying- as lobbying isn't allowed by organizations that run on government money.  So I was not lobbying our elected officials to support public service, and I was not going around, visiting with every potential 2008 candidate who came through Chicago, and I was not telling potential candidates how important public education is, and how much my organization supported it.  Or how important early intervention services were, and how my organization partnered with them.  Or how important food pantries, school lunch programs, SNAP and WIC, and other forms of public aid were to the kids of Chicago.  To the kids in every city my organization served.

I have always been a good judge of character, so I wasn't often surprised when my meetings with politicians, both local and national figures, went well or went poorly.

I remember being not so sold on John Edwards in 2004, despite his focus on poverty.  And I remember staring into his frozen, fake-smile eyes, seeing only spray tan and hair dye and capped teeth, and believing that this man wasn't taking in a word I was saying- all he saw was a friendly photo-op and a bunch of boobs.  He was easily the sleaziest man I'd ever met,

I remember meeting Bobby Rush, the long time activist and politician in Chicago, and as he looked right past me and barely grasped my fingers as we "shook" hands, I thought to myself that here was a man who simply accepted that he gets to do this job until he chooses to retire, and while that doesn't inherently make him a bad man, it seemed that he really didn't care as much about the well being of his constituents as he should.

I'll never forget meeting this guy
And I remember meeting Barack Obama, recently elected senator.  He took one look at my partner and I, in our matching jackets, and grinned.  He told me, specifically, what sort of good works our organization was doing.  And he looked me in the eye, and I actually felt that he cared about the kids we served.  He knew their districts.  He knew the numbers.  He knew what we were working against.

He hadn't decided to run for president yet.  But despite that, and despite my explicit orders to not express any sort of political opinion, I looked him in the eye and asked him to run.  I asked him to remember how much so little had already done for so many people, and I asked him to keep fighting for them.

He smiled, but he didn't look me in the eye.  He looked at his hands and he said, "We'll see."

And I said thank you, because I knew he would.  I knew he would fight for people like me.  People like him.

You see, he'd recently talked about how becoming a senator had finally allowed him and Michelle to pay off their student debt.  Two law degrees take a lot of cash.  Harvard isn't cheap.

I knew him as the state senator from Chicago's south side who turned up at rallies downtown to support undocumented immigrants and women's rights.

And I knew he actually, truly, honestly cared about those things.

A few weeks after meeting him, I was waiting for a meeting with our then-state senate majority leader, she was running late because of an unexpected phone call.

The unexpected phone call was from Obama, asking her to be on his investigatory committee- to help him get ready to run for president.

I thought, from spending a few years paying very close attention, that I kind of knew Barack Obama.  Not personally, of course.  But I had a sense for who he was, and what he was capable of.  I knew he could be a great president, not because of his brains or his experience, but because the Obama I was familiar with was a pragmatist.  He would rather compromise and get something done than get nothing done.  And I thought we needed that.

I believed in Barack Obama.  I really, truly did.  But I didn't believe he could get elected.  I didn't believe that America was ready to vote for a black man.

Obama's election was an emotional night for my friends
I was wrong- America was ready for a black president.  But the GOP wasn't.  They made obstructing him at every turn, ensuring his failure, their top priority.  Forget the Violence Against Women Act, forget equal pay, forget a jobs bill for veterans... if it was Obama's, it was bad.

And despite that, he has accomplished so much.

And so I'm going to vote for him again.

I'm going to vote for him again because, thanks to him, soon my husband can't be denied health coverage because of his pre-existing conditions.

Because I conceived my twins through IVF, and if Romney's "personhood" amendment promises go through, that would become illegal for other hopeful parents.  Because someday, Aunt Green might want to get married to the girl of her dreams, and I want that for her.

I'm going to vote for Barack Obama because when M was out of work and we had two infant girls, we relied on WIC and food stamps, and we wouldn't have made it to where we are now without that support, and I want a president who doesn't consider us "less-than" for having been poor.

I want a president who doesn't think that single moms, like his own mother, are to blame for mentally disturbed individuals killing innocent people.

I want a president who doesn't have to worry about re-election, and can actually do his job.

I hope that Obama wins.  And I hope that, once he's assured of this second term, he can actually accomplish all those things that the GOP were so determined to keep him from doing.  Things that shouldn't be controversial.

Things like making sure I earn the same money as a man in my job.  Or making sure that my husband isn't denied insurance because he used to have brain cancer.  Or making sure that there are services making sure my family is safe when natural disasters strike.

Despite all the rhetoric, government is a good thing.  We need it.  We need somebody to ensure that we have roads and bridges, that we aren't going to be charged a fee before somebody will put out a fire engulfing our home, that there's a process to ensure that medicine is safe- and that if it isn't there is a way to punish people for selling tainted drugs.  We need government to make sure that banks don't steal our money, that the seismic and meteorological activity around our nation is monitored, so that people can safely evacuate before danger strikes.  We need to make sure that our sick, elderly, children, and very poor are cared for.

And nobody is better equipped or more able to do those things than our government.

And so I'm voting for the guy who thinks that the job of the government is to make the government work, not to dismantle itself.

We take elections very seriously over here.
I'm not as enthusiastic about Obama now as I was four years ago.  Not quite.  But I know why- it's because I've seen what he's up against.  And it's not just the Republicans, it's reality.
I hate that he's authorized drone strikes the way he has.  But I believe he's not doing so lightly.

I hate that he took so long to take a stand on marriage equality.  But I'm glad he did it.

I don't know what happens every day in the oval office.  And I'm not sure I want to.

But I do know that I want the person in there to be somebody who cares about me.

And I think that's the guy who's in there now.


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  2. Excellent post. Came here from Pour Your Heart Out and I am SO GLAD I did! :) Well done!

  3. Fantastic post. Thank you for writing it. I've tended to avoid politics on my blog, but I don't know. This has inspired me to consider it. You are a wonderful writer and I really enjoy reading your posts. Keep up the good work!




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