Yesterday was President Barack Obama’s 55th birthday. Instead of taking a well-earned day off, he celebrated by publishing an important piece for Glamour entitled, This Is What a Feminist Looks Like. He issued a call-to-action for American males that read in part, “It is absolutely men’s responsibility to fight sexism too. And as spouses and partners and boyfriends, we need to work hard and be deliberate about creating truly equal relationships.”
Thank you sir. Even though many of us knew it was coming, the positively rancorous misogyny that has dogged the Presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton has been tough to witness (before you genuine dissenters even start, I’m speaking specifically about stuff like this). As the nation’s leader and a devoted father and husband, you know that adding your voice to the call for equality is critical. It is much appreciated.
Then this morning we woke up to some stunningly positive economic news. Employers added 255,000 jobs to the July 2016 payrolls. Nelson D. Schwartz of The New York Times wrote, “The employment data painted an unusually strong tableau of growth, with nearly all of the indicators that form the basis of the Labor Department’s monthly jobs report pointing in the right direction.” Republicans and anti-Obama liberals who look for any reason other than our President’s leadership to account for the country’s economic turnaround since 2008 are running a fool’s errand.
Allow me to quote from a writer who spent much of Obama’s first term feeling disappointed and frustrated with his performance – me. Incensed by POTUS’ compromises on tax policy and health care (public option all the way!), I said in December 2010:
“Mirroring the pragmatism of our indecisive leader, I can believe Obama to be a decent, learned human who truly wants to do right by his country, yet not like his chosen methods, or the results produced by his extreme rationalism one little bit. Somehow the energized 2008 Democratic base has seen its party’s messaging morph from an affirmative and spirited ‘Yes, we can!’ to Joe Biden’s claim on this past Sunday’s Meet the Press that ‘politics is all in the art of the possible.’ The problem is, this shift in mission statement was decided upon without the input of the most impassioned liberals who carried Obama to office on their shoulders in the first place.”
I’m prepared to eat my words today, eat them all with a happy dash of salt and pepper. Because President Obama knows many things that my 32-year-old activist self did not. Like American democracy is a contest of wills and almost all change is achieved incrementally through patience and negotiation. Winning an election is not a mandate to dictate. I’ve grown up as I’ve watched Obama’s steady hand bring us back from the brink of the George W. Bush administration.
It seems a sizable portion of our citizenry has taken the same journey. Post-DNC 2016, which saw POTUS deliver an unbelievably inspiring testament to our country’s greatness while repudiating the authoritarian rhetoric of fear, Obama is enjoying his highest approval rating since before his second inauguration. In contrast to recent electoral contests, which saw Al Gore and John McCain shoving Bill Clinton and W to the back like so many Babys in a corner, Barack Obama is a huge asset to Hillary’s campaign. As CNN’s Jennifer Agiesta argues, “Those who approve of Obama’s work as President are almost universally in Clinton’s [camp] in the upcoming Presidential race.”
As my partner Bob said after the third night of the DNC, “I’m with her. But also four more years!”
We haven’t always appreciated Obama and it seems very likely that the complete insanity of the Donald Trump phenomenon is underwriting the country’s new attitude. He hasn’t been perfect because no leader is. I wish he’d never drawn a Syrian red line and certainly it would have been wonderful to see comprehensive immigration reform and a revision of our ludicrous gun laws, but Obama is a not a king. To accomplish either of the latter he would have needed the support of Congress. To understate the situation entirely, HE HAS NOT HAD THAT. Ok Becky, deep breath.
But let’s remind ourselves what this man has achieved within a total Washington leadership vacuum: Obamacare, Cuban relations, the death of Osama Bin Laden, marriage equality, salvation of the auto industry and so much more. And as NBC’s Andrea Mitchell successfully argues, Obama is The Best President at Speechwriting Since Abraham Lincoln. POTUS has been our Comforter-in-Chief, finding the words to soothe our wounded souls after heinous acts in Sandy Hook, South Carolina, Orlando and Dallas (among other locations) left us speechless.
Happy belated birthday to you President Obama. While there’s much to recommend your likely successor and I look forward to weeping openly at Hillary Clinton’s official ballot box victory, your particular brand of leadership, woven with human empathy and good sense, will be sorely missed.