Thursday, July 3, 2008

Take a Deep Breath, Count to 10

(Cross-posted at MyDD)

Some of you are going to be surprised to see these words coming from me, and I implore you to read the entire diary before you begin throwing flames.

I've been defending Obama at every turn since late March. I defended him against the people who were using Wright to attack him; I defended him against bittergate; I scoffed at fingergate. I defended him until I pissed off at least half the Clinton supporters on this site. I made myself pretty unpopular with people I once liked, but I didn't care. I felt I was doing the right thing by defending him because I thought it likely that he'd become the nominee. I was trying to be fair, attempting to be moderate. I probably spent more time criticizing Hillary than Obama because she was my candidate, and I held her to a higher standard. So through my efforts to remain rational and speak in measured tones, I gave Obama the benefit of the doubt - always - for approximately three months. I stuck my neck out for him on MyDD and in my personal life, much to the displeasure of my Hillary supporter friends and my Republican parents (who came to grudgingly respect my admiration for Hillary, but felt nothing but disdain for "the empty suit"). I defended him and didn't mind doing so. I kept my doubts to myself.

But I'm profoundly upset right now, and I refuse to lie or mask my disappointment.

I think I dealt with Hillary's loss well enough - publicly, at least. I was optimistic and enthusiastic about Obama. I gave him my full support the second Hillary endorsed. I knew Obama was a good Democrat who would lead the Party with honor and govern with principle. You can never trust a politician 100% of the time, but I put a lot of faith in him. Hillary clearly believed in him, and I believe in her - so I gave Obama all the trust I could muster.

And he betrayed me.

He betrayed my trust.

In fact, I can't help thinking he betrayed his own country.

Yes, I realize it's nothing personal. I realize he can't cater to people like me all the time; no politician can win an election by speaking only to the "fringe lefties". But his lurch to the center seemed so abrupt and so violent; when he announced his support for the FISA compromise, I felt like the ground had been pulled out from beneath me. I was shocked - where had his principles gone? Where was the new politics of hope and change? Why was he pandering, why was he compromising? Didn't this sound a great deal like the much-decried triangulation of the 90s?

Senator Feingold put it best:

"The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the Presidents illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration."

And Obama capitulated. He caved, he folded, he buckled. I've been an Obama supporter for less than a month, and I already felt disillusioned and angry. I hadn't pegged him as the sort of politician who would pander and "compromise" quite that much. And where did I get that impression? I got it from his stance on the gas tax holiday. I slammed Hillary on that issue because as far as I was concerned, it was shameless pandering. It may have sounded good to the uninformed, but it was a terrible idea. I respected Obama for opposing it; he'd voted for it in the Illinois state legislature, came to the conclusion that it didn't work, and ultimately took a principled stance against it. For once, I felt he'd outshined Hillary. As a result, I came to the conclusion that he was less likely to pander to the masses.

I was wrong. FISA, faith-based initiatives... disappointments of epic proportions. I was furious and disgusted. One of the things which made me angriest was the knowledge that, had Hillary become the nominee and taken the same positions, the vast majority of the Left would have gone on yet another witch hunt. Of course, Obama is (rightfully) taking a metaphorical beating from his own supporters. Some of them are taking it a little too far. A few are withdrawing all support. People are withholding their funds and even asking his campaign to refund previous donations (and from what I understand, he's doing it).

What's worse, although Hillary issued a statement in February [many thanks to atd for finding it] in opposition to the FISA Amendment, she may now feel pressured to support the decisions of the nominee. I'd love to see her take a stand, show leadership, and join the effort to filibuster the bill; I fear, however, that she is locked in by her own powerful endorsement. She has promised to support Obama, and I believe she will - in every way. That means she'll probably take the stance that he took, she'll support his position. I half wonder whether she can keep fighting for us if she's busy fighting for Obama.

I didn't know what to say or do at first, but I've had some time to think now. It's true, we should hold his feet to the fire, but we shouldn't abandon our nominee or offer him our unmitigated scorn. I'll get back to FISA in a moment, but before Clinton backers crucify Obama over his support for faith-based initiatives, let's think for a moment. When aurelius said, "To hell with you, Barack," my initial reaction was an involuntary but emphatic, "Yes!" And then I remembered... Hillary has spoken out in support of them, as well. Disappointing, yes?

I think this is the thing that's so difficult for a lot of Clinton supporters. When I heard about Obama's stance on the FISA compromise, part of me wanted to scream, "SEE?!? WE TOLD YOU SO!!!" at the people who had been supporting him all along. I keep thinking, "Hillary never would have buckled like this." The truth is, I'm not sure what she might have done had she become the nominee. The second you start going toe-to-toe with the GOP, the game changes. Hillary might have disappointed me on FISA, too, and the fact that she supported faith-based initiatives is disappointing, no matter how I look at it. Now that Hillary's out of the race, it's very easy to say, "She would have made a better decision on this issue," whenever Obama screws up. It's easy to forget the times she screwed up. But I shouldn't forget because Hillary wasn't perfect, and Barack is a good candidate overall.

So for those of you who are angry, as I am, please try to remember that Obama is still a man of principle on many issues. For the most part, he believes in the things we believe in. He supports the 50-State Strategy. He has instructed the DNC to stop taking money from lobbyists. Polls indicate that offshore drilling is now favored by a majority of voters, but he hasn't caved - he stands in staunch opposition. He's taken a relatively unpopular but principled stance in favor of driver's licenses for illegal immigrants. While he doesn't personally believe in gay marriage and isn't the gay rights champion I'd like him to be, he still wants to repeal DOMA and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Even Hillary didn't intend to repeal DOMA altogether, but Obama has called it "an abhorrent law." He and Michelle have spoken out forcefully against it. In a speech called "The Great Need of the Hour," which he gave at Dr. King's church the day before Martin Luther King, Jr. Day this January, Obama addressed the bigotry he perceived within the African American community and stuck his neck out for the LGBT community, the Jewish community, and immigrant communities:

"For most of this country's history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man's inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays - on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King's vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity." - Barack Obama, Jan 20 2008 [huge thanks to psychodrew for finding this for me]

Now look at our other option - a man who flipped on offshore drilling, flopped on immigration, still supports DOMA and DADT, and lacks the courage to look Ellen DeGeneres in the face:

The differences between the two candidates are stark - like night and day - and we have a good candidate in Barack Obama. Do we want four more years of darkness under another Republican administration? Obama has pissed a lot of us off, yes, but let's not withdraw our support. Let's not abandon or abuse our nominee. I'm speaking especially to the Clinton supporters whose doubts are resurfacing, and to the Obama supporters who are suddenly realizing they don't know their candidate as well as they thought they did. Take a deep breath, count to ten, and channel your anger into something productive. Take action. Go join the "Get FISA Right" group on MyBO, which is now well over 15,000 members strong. (I recommend that you not select the option to receive all emails because I foolishly did so and received over 80 emails within approximately two hours yesterday. Select the "Receive a daily digest" option instead.) There are several steps you can take from there, including contacting the Obama campaign office, contacting Obama's Senate office, and contacting your own representatives. If you need help thinking of what to say when calling Sen. Obama and your representatives, go here for suggestions. Go to the "What else you can do" page, and you'll find a number of options to keep you busy. There are two petitions for you to sign - Harry Whirlit's online petition and Credo Action's online petition.

We have until July 8 to put some serious pressure on our nominee and our senators. Let's find out whether Obama was right. Let's see if we are the change we've been waiting for. But even if it doesn't work out - even if we can't change Barack's mind - he's still worth fighting for. Our country is worth fighting for, and even if I disagree with him often, I have faith that President Obama will do his utmost to bring safety and prosperity to this nation and its people. I trust he will get us out of Iraq, pass healthcare legislation, reform immigration, bolster our economy, fight for gay rights, and protect women's rights. Those things alone are change we can believe in, but somehow, despite his stance on FISA and faith-based initiatives, I'm reasonably confident he'll do better than that.


Psychodrew said...

You read my mind!

Methinks Obama is taking the "change" theme a bit too far.

Carrie said...

Great post, thanks!

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