Cross-posted on Western Mass Politics & Insight.
Four years ago we supported Barack Obama after backing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination. We believed in him over Senator John McCain for innumerable reasons. However, we backed Clinton in the primary because we feared the sky high expectations the then-junior Illinois senator and his supporters set for him. Indeed, the Republican party, rather than learning from the Bush administration hunkered down into a vile defensive posture and hoped Americans would reward them for obstructing the workings of government.
The Republican party nominated a man, Mitt Romney, our former governor, whose singular focus for eight years has been to get elected president. Since he failed to gain seats in the Massachusetts legislature in 2004, Romney turned his back on our state and would ultimately repudiate almost everything about it. His only nod to his governorship, which other than health care reform, we find unimpressive, is what bipartisanship he engaged in. More revisionist history as he also vetoed hundreds of measures the legislature nonchalantly overrode.
Today there seems nothing to Mitt Romney, but an almost sad pathological desire to be liked. In this desire’s wake, we have seen several incarnations of Mitt, which has driven several publications to reject his candidacy because they do not know who the man is. We know this much about his candidacy. It does not show steady hand in times of crisis, it does not show character and it does not displayleadership.
Unlike many exasperated supporters of the president, however, we can and do support his reelection with a measure of pride. We mention our original support for now Secretary Clinton because our expectations were much lower and if she had accomplished as much as the president did, we would have been quite satisfied. We will not hold the president to a standard any different than we would have held Clinton and by that metric he has been a success.
There have been failures. We do not know if he left too much to Congress, but he certainly did not act quickly enough to peel away moderate Republicans and offer them something to make it worth incurring their leaders’ wrath. We remain gravely concerned about many dimensions of our security policy, like on drones, the Patriot Act, or the NDAA. We also lay blame at the President’s feet for failing to explain his policies in an effective way, such as how Bill Clinton did successfully during the convention.
But the successes are real and wide-reaching. If implemented, the Affordable Care Act, often derided (and praised) as Obamacare, will finally put the United States into the league of humane nations. No longer will health care access be the luck of the draw, but something available to everyone.
Wall Street reform is imperfect and we take to heart that the complex web of regulations being written may need some simplification (preferably in statute), but a massive revision of these laws was overdue. Leaving the old system in place would be little more than a reward for reckless financiers for inflicting untold human misery upon ordinary people.
Civil rights have also been advanced. Odious policies like Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell were abolished and with Obama’s words of support for marriage equality, the likelihood another Democratic president will ever think differently is almost zero.
Even on the environment, whose wounds were laid bare by Hurricane Sandy, Obama has made advances. Not quite climate legislation, but new EPA rules and fuel economy standards for cars are a steps in the right direction to arrest climate change after years of indifference on the issue.
Just as important, our stature in much of the world has been restored. Some nations, like Pakistan, may not hold us in high regard, but many more do once again. Obama has rejected the philosophy, oft-espoused by Romney, that America is at its greatest when it is beating its chest. Obama’s foreign policy has been one of smart thinking and some canny choices rather than primal screams. Not all have been successes, but many more have and could certainly bear fruit in the next term.
There is still work to be done, even on the above areas, whether it is curbing health care costs or expanding employment discrimination laws to the LGBT community under federal law.
However, we never saw Barack Obama as anything more than a man and the incompletes or occasional failures are not a sign that his administration has been a failure. Rather they are signs that he is human. Despite that strike against him, which Republicans sometimes seem to imply they do not have, he has often succeeded. He has done great things for this country and, to borrow the president‘s slogan, the answer is to move “forward.” It is not to erase his legacy and return to the Bush era, something Romney, his protestation aside, will most assuredly do.
We have seen Romney in action here in Massachusetts and as he has drifted rightward over the past decade, we do not see anything that would empower that his national agenda would do for either the commonwealth or Springfield. Immolating our federal investments in education and urban communities is little more than death sentence for our city and lodestone around the neck of Massachusetts. These are things Romney would have to do in order to keep any of his promises on taxes or the deficit.
The president’s balanced approach is best for our nation, our commonwealth and our city. There is no hesitancy. Barack Obama for President, for four more years.