My thoughts on the U.S. election
I spent the evening of the U.S. elections with like-minded friends in a downtown bar, tentatively awaiting the results, nervously listening to CNN journalists explaining and analyzing, furiously tweeting and re-tweeting the stats, and eventually rejoicing with honest-to-goodness jubilation as Barack Obama was re-elected.
I did the exact same thing four years ago, only with a different set of friends and in a different Montreal bar. I’ve always been an Obama supporter, and a full presidential term later, my support hasn’t waned.
I know that for many it has. I know that many friends south of the border do not understand our excitement. I know that many of them are disappointed, angry, disillusioned, and feel justified in their rejection of a president who once upon a time appeared as a saviour, and four years later is locked in a stalemate with the country he leads; the U.S. is at a virtual standstill.
But here’s the deal.
As flawed, imperfect, incomplete (and yes, even at times disappointing) as his presidency has been these past four years, there’s really no question in my mind that he’s still – by far - the best and only man for the job. There’s a reason why the rest of the world breathed a huge sigh of relief on Tuesday night. Not because the rest of us arrogantly know better (I refuse to pretend that we liberal-thinking Canucks are in a position to be giving pointers, while Stephen Harper is still working his magic on us), but because, removed as we are from the day-to-day divisive partisanship and the daily challenges that still face Americans, we’re perhaps able to see the bigger picture.
The world, inevitably affected and impacted by the United States (the big elephant that’s always in the room), looks to that country’s leader to set the global tone. We know only too well that the American leader’s priorities, and the policies that result from them, have the power to impact us in ways we don’t even want to contemplate. Obama has the ability to reassure us and appease our fears. His presidency still continues to reverberate with hope.
Regardless of how disappointed some people may feel that Obama hasn’t quite delivered, hasn’t been forceful enough in moving things along (hard to do, by the way, when you’re being shut down every step of the way by petty partisan politics), hasn’t made good on everything he’s promised, he’s still the pro-choice, pro-women, pro gay-marriage, pro-education, pro-health care-reform president I want to see sitting in the Oval Office.
I mean, look at the alternative. No, seriously, look at the alternative! Here’s a man who openly claims to make legislative decisions based on his religious faith, is not even remotely pro-choice, would deny gay Americans their basic human rights on the basis of his personal beliefs, and, to add insult to injury, tried to bring along an entire slew of conservative crazies to run with him! Add to that, the smug entitled arrogance of a privileged man who “was born on third base and thought he hit a triple,” as U.S. actor and political activist, Martin Sheen once said in an interview, and the choice is just too easy for me.
As flawed, imperfect, incomplete (and yes, even at times disappointing) as his presidency has been these past four years, there’s really no question in my mind that he’s still – by far - the best and only man for the job.
Yes, the U.S. economy is still faltering along (did anyone honestly expect that the financial disaster he inherited would be solved in a mere four years?). Yes, unemployment still isn’t where it needs to be. Yes, concessions and compromises have been made along the way, and there have been times where I’ve wished for Obama to be tougher, push farther, and be more relentless in demanding bi-partisan cooperation! But that’s what the molasses slow pace of politics often presents. It’s a system that’s imperfect. Frustration is often the name of the game. U.S. foreign policy still stinks, what attention has been paid to the environment has been lip service at best, and mistakes have been numerous along the way. But the good has far outweighed the bad. Progress, albeit it slow, is still taking place.
Ultimately, this is a man who is cool and cerebral, (albeit a little corny at times… I can go another four years without listening to another joke about Malia and Sasha’s bed time or the girls wanting another dog) in the face of challenges. I fully expect that, re-energized by a 2nd term, he will finally make a serious dent in this constant bickering and division between Republicans and Democrats that has literally paralyzed Washington, will move along to slowly shaping the face of the Supreme Court and Senate, and perhaps laying the groundwork for the U.S.’s first female president in 2008. I truly believe he will leave a legacy behind that will be worthy of the trust people have placed in him.
Most of all, this is a man who has consistently displayed a compassion and empathy that resonates with me. I know some will accuse me of being naïve, but in each and every debate, I watched a man, who, even when angry, even when firmly disagreeing with his opponent, stayed respectful and considerate. His eyes were always kind. That kind of dignity – to debate without necessarily dismissing - is no small feat in my books. It’s the kind of character trait that the world desperately needs - both in our leaders and in each other.