When Barack Obama took office in 2008, I really thought that the American tide was changing. I thought that by electing a young, biracial community organizer instead of an old, white war hero, we were moving in the direction of fresh over stale, colorful over pale, collectivism over jingoism. Maybe it was wrong of me to put the weight of changing an entire nation’s ideology on the shoulders of one man, but I believed that Obama was going to be the catalyst that transformed the country. Four years later, I think I can speak for a lot of liberals when I say that Barack Obama has not been the progressive hero that we had imagined he’d be. He consistently defends the virtually-unregulated free market that collapsed the entire American housing and economic systems. He supports more trade agreements with countries in Latin and South America that will surely lead to more lost American jobs. He hasn’t moved on promises to close Guantanamo Bay or pass immigration legislation. And even though the NRA and gun-lovers alike continually spew lies that Obama is coming for our guns, he’s actually done nothing to show that to be true; in fact, most liberals would say that he’s ignored gun issues altogether.
However, over the past four years, what I have seen is a man who does not view this country as a business with a bottom line. And, this is the biggest distinction between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney. If the past two presidential debates have proven anything, it is that Mitt Romney does not understand the totality of the job of being the POTUS. He can (vaguely) answer questions about jobs and taxes, but when he’s asked about ANYTHING ELSE, he falters completely. He cannot coherently or effectively answer questions about equal pay in the workforce, healthcare, gay and lesbian rights, foreign policy, education, or immigration. Obviously, jobs and the economy are huge issues right now, but Romney does not seem to understand that there are other aspects of being President besides fixing the tax code. Obama, on the other hand, gets, at least philosophically, that there is a whole country – filled with more diversity of opinion, color, religion, points of view than any other nation on earth – to run, and his priorities tend to reflect that spectrum.
Whether you agree or disagree with Obamacare (I agree), this President has made it known to the American people that he believes healthcare is a right and not a privilege. Whether you agree or disagree with eliminating “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” (I agree), this President has made it known that a military which purports to defend freedom and liberty cannot, therefore, deny the freedom and liberty of its own soldiers to publicly be who they are. Whether you agree or disagree with the killing of Osama bin Laden (I disagree), this President has made it known that he cares about national security…and revenge. Whether you agree or disagree with the auto and Wall Street bailouts (I disagree), this President has made it known that he’s not going to let the economy go over a cliff, nor is he going to allow America to become Greece or Spain.
Many of these “accomplishments” are symbols more than anything else. But, what they symbolize is important and should not be overlooked: Obama has RANGE. Mitt Romney has no range; his wheelhouse is business. Anything outside of that is a struggle for him. Simply cutting taxes and attempting to balance a budget (good luck with that, Mitt) will not provide or protect health care rights, will not help college students with financial aid, will not improve job training, will not necessarily create more jobs, will not insure equal rights and treatment for all Americans, will not help immigrants obtain citizenship or help the poor obtain and maintain housing, food, and jobs.
The President has a multifaceted point of view. He is a man who was raised by a single mother and is now the father and husband of a “traditional,” nuclear family. He has an educated wife who, until recently, had a high-powered professional career but now touts her position as the Mom-in-Chief. He is the sole man in a family of three women. He does not come to us from a dynastic family or from the corporate world (a benefit, as far as I’m concerned) but is now wealthy and regularly deals with CEOs, CFOs, and maybe even UFOs. At this point in his career, he understands the 99%, the 47%, and the 1%. He’s multi-racial, multi-coastal; he’s an international man of mystery with a mean jump shot.
These things matter; they affect worldview and the way in which problems are studied and solved. And, I think Obama’s worldview is broader, more comprehensive, more “big tent,” and I think that makes for a better leader overall. When you have the ability to see things from more than one perspective, it increases the likelihood that the decisions you reach will be fairer, more logical, and probably more utilitarian.
So that’s why today I can officially declare that I’m voting for the First Lady, Michele Obama.