After the longest campaign ever, the 2012 presidential election is finally upon us. With that in mind, it’s time to reflect on the past 4 years and consider how we got here. In this article, I make the case for moving forward with Pres. Obama.
Not long ago, it felt like Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert were the only media personalities making any sense. The people who were supposed to keep the government in check largely handed Pres. Bush a free pass to start unnecessary wars and send the U.S. economy into a downward spiral.
It’s not hard to remember where we were in 2008. The job market was in shambles, the war in Iraq was continuing after 5 long years, the stock market had collapsed, access to affordable health care was hard to find, and the aftermath of a major natural disaster was much worse than it could’ve been if proper action had been taken. Bush had basically ‘checked out’ by 2005, leaving the country to suffer.
Don’t just take my word for it: These issues and more were brilliantly encapsulated in my favorite video to come out of that election cycle, the hilarious ‘Wassup 2008’, an independent continuation of the unforgettable 2000 ads.
Barack Obama offered hope for the future. “Change we can believe in.” He said he would dramatically change course across economic, social, and foreign policy. That was a lofty goal, but did he actually deliver? Let’s look at the facts.
The inauguration of President Obama was one of this nation’s proudest moments, but a lot of hard work was ahead. Luckily, a lot of progress was actually made.
The economy, jobs, and taxes
Let’s start with the economy. The stock market, which had collapsed to half of its previous total value, has now completely recovered to its pre-2008 levels and then some, rescuing millions of people’s investments and their futures.
The job market has now recovered, thanks in large part to the president’s recovery act of 2009. The massive hemorrhage stopped, 5.4 million new jobs were created, unemployment went back down to its pre-recession levels, and we now have more than 30 straight months of job growth. Jobs are back — and it’s not just the number of jobs, but fairness and equality at work. The president signed into law the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which allows women to challenge their employers and fight in court for equal pay if they discover discrimination.
What about taxes? Guess what, you probably got more money. Pres. Obama cut taxes for 95% of working families, first with the Making Work Pay tax credit and now with the payroll tax cut. That’s $3,600 more in your pocket on average.
Students now have more help paying for college. Student loan reform eliminated private banks as the middleman and brought interest rates way down. For people struggling to pay back student loans, now there’s help to reduce payments as well. That’s not all — credit card reform also happened. Now, you can’t be charged as many fees, your statements are more helpful, your due dates must be the same every month, and making a payment on the due date means it’s actually on time.
Let’s not forget the U.S. auto industry is still around, which it wouldn’t be if the president didn’t act to save it. That’s over 1 million jobs saved, and manufacturing cars here in the U.S. is still a thing. That’s pretty huge. Pres. Obama has also provided tax incentives for electric powered cars and committed to other kinds of clean energy to help curb climate change and protect our planet.
Health and social issues
You just can’t sum up Barack Obama’s first term without the Affordable Care Act, which expands access to affordable health care to all Americans, ends insurance company abuses such as pre-existing conditions, strengthens Medicare by lowering prescription costs, allows people to stay on their parents’ plans until age 26, and improves care for women, covering birth control without co-pays or deductibles and ensuring women aren’t charged more than men for the same coverage.
I’m entirely convinced: If you don’t at least appreciate health care reform, you don’t understand health care reform. It’s an incredible accomplishment.
Keeping his promise to make progress on immigration, the president took executive action to make sure children of undocumented immigrants who came to the U.S. through no fault of their own will be able to come forward and become documented residents without the threat of deportation.
Lending a hand to education, the president’s recovery act initiated Race to the Top, a program that helped schools across the country raise their performance.
Pres. Obama endorsed marriage equality for same-sex couples, encouraging all states to reject discriminatory laws defining ‘traditional’ marriage. What’s more, his administration no longer defends the so-called Defense of Marriage Act. He is the first president to make it clear: Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people are people first. They all — we all — deserve equal rights.
Military and foreign policy
The fight for equal rights for all extended to the military, where in his capacity as the commander in chief, Pres. Obama repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing gay and lesbian people to serve openly for the first time in this country’s history.
Even though Republicans in Congress blocked the closure of Guantanamo Bay, which Pres. Obama signed an executive order to shut down, the president ensured the U.S. halted the Bush administration’s policy of torture. Those same people in Congress also refused to allow crucial funds for the military unless Pres. Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act, but the president pledged never to exercise the more controversial and outright ridiculous provisions of that act.
Why such provisions exist in the first place is completely beyond me. Pres. Obama should do more to make sure our civil liberties and basic rights as citizens are protected — to do any less would be unacceptable. That said, I certainly wouldn’t trust Mitt Romney with the power to make those decisions.
The war in Iraq, which began in 2003 but Pres. Obama correctly recognized as early as 2002 would be disastrous and unnecessary, finally ended under his presidency. Back in 2004, I couldn’t believe Pres. Bush won the election after launching such an insane war. It was the issue of my generation at the time. I couldn’t be happier now that Pres. Obama has corrected that course.
Remember that other war? The president has also said he will make sure the war in Afghanistan ends over the next 2 years, bringing an end to the post-9/11 response started by Pres. Bush in 2001 and putting a cap on that era of U.S. history.
Pres. Obama replaced Bush’s failed policy of endless war with a successful policy of swift, targeted action where necessary. As we all know, the president directed the military to take action that brought justice to Bin Laden. I’ll never forget the night the president strolled down ‘I killed Bin Laden’ lane and delivered the news. It was a moment of relief for America and the world.
So, here we are. It has now been 4 years since Barack Obama’s election, and the next election is imminent. What should we keep in mind as we look ahead?
Forward vs. backward
Over the next 4 years, Pres. Obama has said he will continue the progress we’ve made since his inauguration. The president’s plan for his second term calls for a renewed focus on growing the economy, continuing to add new jobs, and realizing the benefits of health care reform; as well as for an expanded focus on education, immigration, building our nation’s infrastructure, and protecting equal rights.
If you’ve been following the campaign this year, you know the apathetic observer’s perception that both candidates are the same, or that both political parties are the same, isn’t true at all. In many ways, they’re diametrically opposed to one another.
Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan want to undo most of that great progress we’ve made over the last 4 years — they said it themselves. The despair and aggression of the Bush administration would come back in full force. Economic policies would protect the 1% at the expense of everyone else. Health and social policies could be rolled back decades. If Romney got the chance to appoint justices to the Supreme Court, fundamental rights we now take for granted could be taken away.
Last month, Pres. Obama worked together with Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey after Hurricane Sandy. With his response, the president at once demonstrated the necessity of the federal government and exhibited the kind of bipartisanship that we need. It wasn’t just the right thing to do — it was true leadership. In this and other cases, Pres. Obama has come through. He’s earned respect.
If there’s one thing that bothers me more than anything else, it’s the gross lack of respect that Mitt Romney and Republicans have shown for Pres. Obama and the offensive total disdain they’ve shown for people like you and me. Those guys don’t care about most of us. They simply don’t deserve to run this country.
Bill Clinton spoke at one of the final campaign rallies this past Sunday. His voice was almost gone. As he struggled to speak, he said, “I have given my voice in the service of my president.” What a beautiful moment. In one off-hand remark, Clinton asserted what we’ve been trying to say for 4 years — like it or not, Barack Obama is indeed our president, and he should be treated as such.
I believe Pres. Obama has done what he can to make America a better place. He’s had to face unrelenting opposition every step of the way, from people who have tried everything they can to discredit him and tear him down, and ultimately tear us all down. But they couldn’t. They can’t. They won’t.
We’ve seen what it’s like when they’re in control. Bush was around until 2009 — it’s still fresh in our minds. As much as we all love Stewart and Colbert, I don’t want another era in which our favorite comedians seem to be the only voices of reason in the midst of complete nonsense from the president on a daily basis.
This election is a choice between two vastly different visions for America, and the choice is clear. President Barack Obama remains our best hope for moving forward. It’s time to put this endless campaign behind us and move on.[Medium | Tumblr]