Way back in 2004, on Monday, November 1, I sent the following email to a group of friends. It was addressed to a friend of mine who lives in Granite City, Illinois, and stated the following:
Eric, what do you think we have to do to steal Obama from Illinois?
That man has promise.
I hope he doesn't get shot because he is going to make a really good
President some day.
The comment about getting "shot" was an unfortunate glimpse into my cynicism, but given the amount of "nigger" comments on Facebook and Twitter, the reality is still the same.
I was sure that Obama was the next John F. Kennedy, in the sense that he was young, vibrant, intelligent, and as it turned out, a one term Senator before his election happened as President of the United States of America.
Of course, when I wrote this, 9/11 had already happened, but The Great Recession of 2007 had not. A lot of the future still had to happen to get Barack Obama into the White House, including Bush admitting in December of 2008 on CNN that he had to "abandon free market principles to save the free market," as well as defeating the self-proclaimed shoe-in at the time for the primary victory, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.
In the meantime, I wanted to learn as much about his as I could about him. I obviously started with 'Dreams of my Father' and then 'The Audacity of Hope' as soon as it was published.
What is amazing is that when you read 'The Audacity of Hope,' it is basically a treatise on pragmatic government and bipartisanship. One example is that he advocates for charter schools and even merit pay for teachers. These are not exactly stalwart aspects of liberal ideology. (I also tend to disagree with the Charter school concept, but I digress.)
Some highlights from the 'Audacity of Hope:'
"What’s needed is a broad majority of Americans—Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill—who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others."
"All the money in the world won’t boost student achievement if parents make no effort to instill in their children the values of hard work and delayed gratification."
"ideology and values: Values are faithfully applied to the facts before us, while ideology overrides whatever facts call theory into question."
Obviously there are more, but the point I want to make with these quotes are that he never promised to be a liberal savior, and especially never even approached anything like that of Karl Marx. What he promised was really nothing more than that he was a problem solver, and that he was willing to work with anyone who wanted to help solve problems - regardless of their differences in values and ideologies.
He seemed to give me the language for the things I believed but didn't previously know how to say.
I worked hard for his election. Canvassed, door to door, phone calls, typical annoying conversations with family and friends, and worked the 'Get Out the Vote' efforts on election day. (If anything about politics have been proven over the last decade, it's that the ground game matters.)
I met Obama for the first time when he came to the Moolah Theatre in St. Louis. It was the very beginning of the Democratic primary. I knew he was my passion for President already, so I wanted to take the opportunity to meet him in person. I took my stepson, Matthew, as well. It led to one of the most embarrassing moments of my life and I'm not too prideful to admit it.
After a highly anticipated and powerful speech, when I finally met him, I could have said or asked him anything I wanted. What I did instead was ask him to autograph my tie. That's right...my tie.
His response, and looking at me with surprise? "If you really want me too."
The worst part is that I was so embarrassed that I didn't even have him sign it.
My stepson Matthew has a different memory. His is, "I've met both Bill Clinton and Barack Obama!"
After he secured his nomination, I took my firstborn, Kurtis, to hear him speak on the Arch-grounds. It was a much different environment. The fervor had spread and getting close to him was a near impossibility. Our distance limited Kurtis's excitement, but I was still proud to be there.
On election night, as I watched him speak on his victory from Chicago. My eyes welled up in tears. I was proud of him. I was proud of the enormity of his election. I was proud of my country. Most of all, I was proud that I was a small part of it. Both of my sons looked at my wife and I, and saw us both with wet, swollen faces.
They still talk about us crying about his election to this day. At the time they were 7 and 6 years old and were coloring in the map of the United States with red and blue colors as the election results came in. They didn't understand our emotion, but they knew enough to know something big had just happened.
As January rolled along, I won an essay contest held by Congressman Russ Carnahan, and the prize was two tickets to his inauguration, as well as horderves with the Congressman. We stayed with my father in Richmond, Virginia, took my wife to the reception with the various members of the Missouri political establishment, and then my six year old Joey to the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama.
Upon returning I wrote the following in a local gossip magazine:
It was the kind of event that often causes the cynic to roll his eyes. But for me, it was the kind of occurrence that makes a believer in the common purpose of humanity to understand the promise of America and celebrate the inherent goodness of all people.
However, it wasn't long before the ironic rise of the so-called Tea Party and the "inherent goodness of all people" to be called in to question. While what I said held true for the moral plurality of America, a dark-skinned president with the name Barrack Hussein Obama was just too much for the "Ignorance as a Value" crowd to handle emotionally.
Irrational fear, and the uniquely American form of inherent racism possessed the media marketplace; especially on conservative radio and television sources, giving them an disproportionate platform.
Sensationalism sells. Yes, hope won the election of 2008, but misguided fear raped much of our country from the progress it deserved for the next four years.
President Obama honestly believed he could run a bipartisan effort to pass common sense regulations in health-care and Washington. He failed to use the bully pulpit and took advantage of his mostly mythological filibuster-proof majority as a last result in order to pass the Massachusetts Romneycare influenced plan for health-care reform.
Over the next four years, and especially with the mid-term elections, the GOP showed America their true color; white. Not to mention, mostly male, plus a very small minority of minorities and women that are more convinced of their purpose in evangelical deslusion than their own self-interest in reality.
The childish behavior of the Republican Party prompted me to make the prediction that the current form of the GOP would not win another presidential election again in my lifetime.
Speaking in general terms, there are not enough people left in America to vote for a Republic candidate nationwide. The Republicans have only won the popular vote once since 1988, and that is something they need to seriously reflect on...especially considering this is a republican democracy and not a dictatorship.
Likewise, the relative weakness of the office of President of the United States was something hard for liberal democrats to understand as well. Many were not happy. Liberals wanted more, and conservatives simply wanted out of their socialist, marxist, muslim make-believe nightmare.
Our Constitution ensures a tug-of-war and very rarely, if ever, does anyone get what they want without enormous amounts of compromise and behind the scenes wrangling.
This takes us back to Obama's 'Audacity of Hope.' The book, as I said, was a pragmatic look at running the American government given the realities of our legal system, and that is exactly how he ran his office - with honest effort and pragmatism.
If for no other reason, Obama's leadership and intelligence were proven in his re-election on November 6th, 2012.
There is no way President Obama could not be an intelligent, pragmatic leader, face what he faced for the last four years, and still emerge as the defacto leader of the free world for yet another four more.
I did not work the ground this time, and I did not tear up during his election speech. I'm much more cynical about American government (not because of the system, but by the quality of the electorate) now than I was four years ago, but I am just as proud and excited about President Obama serving as our top representative of our republican democracy as ever.
Given the realities of the tug-of-war between ignorance and rationalism, my expectations are lowered, but there is no one else that I would prefer to have behind the desk in the Oval Office than Barack Hussein Obama. In the attached video above, it is the tears of Obama in front of his campaign staff that keep my confidence high.
It times of personal media environments, narrative bias, confirmation bias, uncertainty, randomness, fear, and irrational behavior world-wide, the best you can hope for is a level-headed decision maker calling the shots. If President Obama has proven anything in the last eight years, since he first became a part of my life, it's that he is cool under fire. Obama possesses the critical thinking skills to set the agenda of America through this most tumultuous time in human history; a time that over the next 50 to 200 years may even leave our planet uninhabitable for our species to exist at all, most less to exist in freedom.
Given President Obama's Top 50 accomplishment's in the face of four years of a dysfunctional House of Representatives, I am really looking forward to the next four in the hope that the GOP and much of the rest of Amerca has learned a lesson. For that...we shall see.