I’m going to miss Jon Stewart so much in the year and a half ahead, as we witness the circus that is “Democalpyse 2016”. He and Bill Maher have a unique talent to make you laugh while at the same time making you angry. But last week was such a good one for Obama and other folks who lean a little bit to the left (but who are really just humans who care about other humans), even curmudgeonly Bill Maher said he might be running out of things to be outraged about! Affordable health care – still available!! Marriage equality – finally reality!! Obama being the kind of inspirational leader we always wanted him to be – check and mate!!
I like Barack Obama. I think he’s been the best president we’ve had in my lifetime. Of course he’s not perfect; he’s made mistakes and overstepped his boundaries at times. He’s a human being in a very powerful position, with the eyes of the world on him at all times. And he’s had to contend with two overarching obstacles, one of which was unprecedented (although the other is all too common): (1) the ridiculous do-nothing Congress that’s been in power during the two Obama terms, regardless of which party was in so-called “control”; and (2) the color of his skin, which shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference but of course it does to a large number of ignorant people in this country. Clinton made huge mistakes, too – Monica Lewinsky, anyone? – but he’s revered as a strong president and world leader and continues to be one, as does Jimmy Carter, the last “good guy” president (i.e., liberal-leaning centrist Democrat) before Clinton. (I definitely have a “type” of president I prefer, and it ain’t named “Bush”.)
I saw a photo on the Internet a few months ago where the Obamas had hosted a Passover Seder at the White House. A toddler was face-down on the carpet having a full-on meltdown. The president is standing there, arms outstretched toward the prone child, looking at the camera with a bemused expression as if to say, “See what we parents have to deal with?” The look on his face is priceless. That, to me, is a REAL moment with a man who is forced to very much compartmentalize his personal and professional lives (like my college roommate the D.C. teacher having parent-teacher conferences with Bill and Hill). And through it all he always maintains a certain grace and good humor that distinguishes him from those politicians who convey a more petty and combative and whiny approach (and there are many – dare I say “most”?).
Generally speaking (and I am admittedly painting with a broad brush here), I consider Republicans to be the party of selfish, greedy, inward-thinking, “me-first” people, while Democrats are other-directed, egalitarian, willing to share and sacrifice for the common good (at least in theory, if not always in practice). I definitely align with the latter and I’m proud to admit it. Although my ex-husband has moved considerably further left politically since I’ve known him (and I’d like to think I had SOME hand in that, just like we hope our words have SOME impact on our children even if you are convinced they haven’t heard a single word you’ve said), in our early years together the worst insult he could come up with for me was to say, “You’re such a liberal,” like it was a dirty word (imagine it being said with a sneer).
But something I hate equally for politicians in BOTH parties is this: Why the hell do they need to raise so many millions and even billions of dollars? For what? Gas for the campaign bus and/or charter plane to criss-cross the country stumping and glad-handing and kissing the babies? Billboards and TV and radio commercials to smear their opponents? How about debating on “free” TV? That shouldn’t cost the candidates more than the price of a nice suit. Congresspeople spend so much time fund-raising and campaigning to get re-elected that they don’t actually do their jobs on Capitol Hill. The voting public doesn’t have enough real choice among candidates, especially in the party primaries. With few exceptions, politicians all seem to say the things they think the audience they are addressing that day wants to hear. I’m sad to say that it’s all become a reeking load of crap. Why do people get into politics anyway? For power and control? Or to effect change in our world? I think the American public has become so disillusioned with the impotence and corruption of our political system that we are squandering the great gift of freedom that our forefathers fought for and that our current military men and women (as politicians are quick to point out) are defending throughout a world that doesn’t seem to like us very much.
Every once in a while you hear of a politician who wants to do things the “right” way – take Zephyr Teachout, Andrew Cuomo’s Democratic opponent in last year’s New York State gubernatorial primary. (If that isn’t an epic name for an elected official, I don’t know what is.) A law professor from Fordham (whose running mate, Tim Wu, was also a law professor), she said all the things that I personally wanted to hear, things that would make sense to anyone who wants a government to work for them rather than against them – or rather than, worse yet, a government that ignores them completely, that seems to operate in a parallel universe that doesn’t really have anything to do with them except in vague ways like how much we have to pay in taxes and whether we can get an abortion. Although she captured a respectable 34% of the vote in the Democratic primary, having raised a mere $800,000 in a pure grassroots campaign, ultimately not enough people voted for Zephyr Teachout. It’s hard for me to believe that right-thinking people weren’t ready to hear her message, so it must have been something else. Perhaps if she had spoken a little bit louder, or if her opponent had been just a little less popular (and a little less of a legacy), or a she had managed to have a little more money in her campaign coffers, that might have enabled her to advertise on every channel and get in the voters’ heads. But a couple of lines from her now-defunct campaign home page might give a little more insight as to why she wasn’t able to win: She spoke the truth that most people don’t want to hear. “The system is rigged,” she said, “and Andrew Cuomo is part of the broken system. . . . We are not Albany insiders, but we believe Governor Cuomo . . . must be challenged.” I found that message so inspiring – someone willing to take on the “old boy network”, the corruption and waste in Albany – but, more importantly, someone you could BELIEVE. Why, then, didn’t every New Yorker not in the upper 1 percent believe her enough to vote for her?
Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is my new favorite politician who speaks truth. And yet, unlike the cast of thousands of potential Republican candidates, she isn’t even running for president! Democrats will end up being stuck with Hillary Clinton as our candidate, who has raised over a billion (!) dollars for her campaign, who has name recognition and a stacked resume, but who I don’t trust nearly as much as I do Elizabeth Warren. Wouldn’t it be fantastic, though, if Hillary got the nomination and then she chose Elizabeth Warren as her vice president? Not only would we have our first female president, the two most powerful people in our country would both be women! That would be amazing. Dare to dream!