Obama and the politics of humanity

The genius and wonder of our President is his willingness, no eagerness to enter into our world. All of our world. He doesn’t demand that we enter his reality. He joins us in ours. In our languages. Attempting to look through our eyes and walk in our shoes.

This can’t be taught or faked. This is why the GOP is in despair.
Comment by Vicki, on The Obama Diary
I've not much been a person of faith. I was raised Catholic, and went to church every Sunday until I hit high school, at which point my parents said it was my decision whether or not to go. Neither of my older brothers went, so I stopped going. 

It was at that point that I started losing faith in many things as I grew into my adolescent rebellion—God and other people being the two major things. I didn't see much goodness in humanity at large, aside from my family and close friends. I certainly didn't see goodness and right action in the political sphere. My family was that rarity: a Democratic Cuban family in the Age of Reagan. Even at the tender age of 10, when Reagan was first elected, I was rather politically aware. I remember how he broke PATCO during the air traffic controller's strike; we were a union family, and we were outraged that he could just destroy a union that represented working men and women doing a strenuous, stressful job. That was my first indication that Republicans simply didn't care about ordinary working people. The GOP preyed on their fears of downward mobility to garner votes, then, once in office, effected policies that fulfilled those fears, all the while blaming the Other for their plight, and managing to retain their votes.

I was a bit hopeful when Bill Clinton won the Presidency. And, certainly, I enjoyed the economic boom. But it was soon apparent that mostly what Clinton was doing was giving Reagan-Bush policies a Democratic imprimatur, validating Reaganomics. Sure, he raised taxes. But so did Reagan. And so did Bush I. And under Clinton we got NAFTA, and the revocation of Glass-Steagall, and media consolidation, and the "end of welfare as we know it." And, of course, his inability to keep it in his pants saw the GOP use the details of the Lewinsky scandal as a cudgel to hem him in and prevent him from doing anything by going over their heads, directly to the people. The Clinton presidency did not restore my faith in politics.

It's tempting to commit Bush II to the memory hole. The GOP is trying to do that desperately, hoping that people won't associate Mitt Romney with GWB. But, like every dark episode in our nation's history, we have to remember 2001-2009, and keep it fresh in our memory, because only then can we learn. But it's no exaggeration to say that towards the end of the Bush regime, most of us on this side of the aisle were in hopeless straits, despairing that the country in which we grew up was vanishing, never to return.

Then Barack Obama came along.

Full disclosure: I was a John Edwards man at the start of the primaries. His purported views on social justice and the two Americas jibed with my own. But, like Bill Clinton, he just couldn't keep it in his pants. Thankfully, he imploded early on, so I had to find someone else to support.

I couldn't support Hillary. Bush, followed by Clinton, followed by another Bush, followed by another Clinton? Banana republics have alternating political dynasties, not the US. So I turned to Obama. And the more I listened, the more I read, the more I was impressed. The more, dare I say it, that I rediscovered faith in something besides my immediate circle.

This is the thing about Barack Obama: he's a genuinely good man. Not just a good politician, but a good human being. There's no artifice about him; his public persona is his private persona. As a politician, he's not only interested in what will work politically; he's also interested in what will make good policy. His belief is that if the policy outcome is good, the politics will be good.

His politics can be defined as a "politics of humanity". He doesn't pursue a political strategy exclusively for the political gain he can wrest from it, but with an eye towards how the politics will affect the bulk of citizens. Will it improve their lives? Will it make it easier to achieve their dreams? Will it make them just that little bit more secure?

This is from the conclusion of his interview in the May 10 issue of Rolling Stone:
You generally don't hear in the press about what goes right, but you do hear it from the people who were impacted by it. I tell you, not a day passes where somewhere, somehow, I don't hear about something we've done that's really touched somebody directly. Somebody writes and says, "I'm 25 years old, and because of health care reform, I was able to stay on my parents' plan and ended up getting a checkup, and it turned out that I had a tumor and it was caught early, and I just want you to know that treatment is going well, and I really think this health care bill saved my life." Or you're in a rope line and somebody says, "I know you've been criticized because a lot of folks have had their homes foreclosed on, but your housing program actually helped me stay in my home, and it's made all the difference in the world."

There's an incredible generosity and recognition from people that these are tough times. It reminds you of what an incredible privilege it is to occupy this office. You're touching people on a day-to-day basis, and sometimes you don't even know it.

My hair is grayer, and obviously you get dinged up and bruised in this job. But my confidence in the American people is stronger than it was when I came into office, and my determination to do right by them and make sure that every morning, I wake up trying to figure out, "How do I improve their prospects?" That determination burns brighter than it did back in 2008.
Can you imagine Mitt Romney, or John Boehner, uttering those words? Of course not. Everything that the GOP does is based on calculation, on what will win them the next news cycle, the next election. Romney will have ten different positions on one issue before November 6, all in an effort to wring out one more vote. The Republican Party that saw Richard Nixon create the EPA is dead; it has been replaced by a party of leeches, sucking the lifeblood out of the American body politic in an effort to maintain its own power so as to service those who fund it. It's not a political party; it should be the subject of a RICO suit.

As banged up as this President has been, as disrespected, as mercilessly attacked as he's been by the opposition, his fervor to do the best for the most hasn't diminished. This is the definition of a politics of humanity: doing the best that you can to help the most people, regardless of the short-term setbacks. It's this kind of politics that, if continued to be practiced, will save the Republic.

Faith isn't easy; faith is hard-fought for and hard-earned. But it's a prerequisite for accomplishing anything when the odds seem insurmountable. And it's Obama's politics, practiced by this good man and those influenced by him, that just may restore our faith in something greater than ourselves, and in the belief that we can change the world around us.