Barack Obama was the first Democratic Candidate for President whom I have ever supported. I want to tell you what he means for me.
By 2006, in graduate school I had become a Democrat. I came from a very religious background. I had bought what republicans were selling. They had played me like a violin.
In my classes for my minor, I found myself inexorably drawn to considering the inequality present in the U.S. and the causes of that inequality. I realized that, in the final analysis, I had only two explanations: intrinsic or extrinsic. I have always hated racism with a burning passion. The inequality that I saw in facts and figures combined with the history (where I was always the top student out of 400 in every class) I knew only found a satisfactory, acceptable answer in extrinsic factors. Anybody who thinks that intrinsic abilities account for the inequalities we find is, in my view, worthless. It certainly has no logical or factual merit. On the other hand, intellectually, ethically, ..., in every way, I found a sufficient cause in our history.
What statistics am I speaking of ?
I am talking about the
100 point difference in math SAT scores between caucasians and African Americans and Hispanics
100 point difference in verbal SAT scores between caucasians and African Americans and Hispanics
the fact that the average life span an African American male is 10 years less than that of the typical American
the fact that African American and Hispanics make much less for the same work
The educational achievement differences
The fact that African Americans and Hispanics are much less likely to have health insurance
The fact that there are nearly as many African Americans in jail as graduate with a four year degree
The percentage of African Americans in jail as a percentage of the population
The poverty levels, compared to their respective percentages in the population, of different ethnicities.
I realized that structural inequalities would prevent change in this area (equality) from occurring on its own. This required me to become a member of the Democratic Party. And so I did. This all occurred in 2005-2006 time period as I wrote above.
So, Barack Obama was the first Democratic President I ever voted for.
I voted for him in the primary (in Texas we do the two step so I also caucused for him). I made calls in Spanish and English for him. I knocked on doors, talked to people at school, and donated to him. I did all of this during the primary and general election season.
I am so, so very glad that I did. There are many people for whom last time was their first time to vote for a Democratic President. So, there are many people like me.
What have I seen ? A Democrat who wins more than 50% of the vote, something Bill Clinton never managed to do. A Democrat whose personal life is irreproachable. A President who never lost his cool. The President who saved America and the world. We were losing jobs at 750,000 jobs a month. He turned it around. Our auto industry and millions of jobs were on the verge of being lost forever. He accomplished major reforms to prevent the recklessness of Wall Street which led to the financial crisis. He brought universal health care to 95% of Americans. He strengthened Medicare. He eliminated Bin Laden. He kept us safe from terrorists. He ended the war in Iraq. He is ending the war in Afghanistan. He restored our place in the world. He is a man of unimpeachable character. He spoke for marriage equality. He repealed DADT. He opposed DOMA. He nominated and got confirmed two great new female Supreme Court Justices.
He has done all of this in the face of racism and bigotry of the highest order. He has accomplished so much despite intransigent Republican obstruction. He is leaving in place a blueprint for us to follow for building and expanding our party, a blueprint for winning.
I tell you that he will cast a long, long shadow upon this country. He will be remembered as one of the five or six best Presidents that this country has ever been privileged to know. He is an iconic figure whose position, accomplishments, values, and character will leave an indelible imprint upon this country and the world for the next century. He has set us upon a path that, if we have the courage and wisdom to follow it, leads us home, to a place of equality and prosperity.
In truth, if we do not measure people against their own times, which Democratic President supported and accomplished as much in terms of progressive agenda items as he did ?
Bill Clinton was a great President. He did not get health care reform accomplished. His personal life was not irreproachable.
Jimmy Carter was progressive in ideals but in accomplishments ? Certainly, his economic record is worse. President Obama inherited this crisis. Jimmy Carter did not inherit an economic crisis. Nor did he accomplish anything in regards to health care.
LBJ was more of a war monger than President Obama.
FDR did not fight for civil rights as he should have.
Simply put, in absolute terms, we have never, ever had a Democratic President that was as progressive and accomplished as much of the progressive agenda as President Obama. That is simply a fact. It may be inconvenient for those who refuse to acknowledge progress or our form of government. It is inconvenient for those who cannot count to 60. It is inconvenient for those who wish that we would adopt positions that perhaps as much as two percent of the population support - those who wish we would push for agenda items that don't have ten votes in the Senate.
We are moving forward. This train has left the station. Some people will be left behind - the republicans due to bigotry and their support for inequality and some others on the left because they can't embrace political reality.
President Obama has easily been the best President of my lifetime.