Obama, with all his faults

In 1904 the New York Sun published the following one-line endorsement of Theodore Roosevelt, then running for a full term as President of the United States: â??Theodore! with all thy faults . . .â?Â  What the editors of the Sun were trying to say was that the Republican Roosevelt, though far from perfect, was a better choice than his opponents: Judge Alton B. Parker (Democrat) and Eugene V. Debs (Socialist).  T.R. eventually won, carrying most of what were then 45 states, while Parkerâ??s support was limited to the â??solid Southâ? (minus Missouri).  Like voters before and since, most Americans who voted in 1904 chose the lesser of many evils.

In 2008 most Americans, tired of the George W. Bush administration, voted for â??Hope and Changeâ? and elected Barack Obama as President.  Obamaâ??s election, along with the election of a Democratic Congress, was supposed to usher a new Progressive Age in American politics.  That, of course, never happened.  The economy, which was bad enough under Bush, only got worse.  Obama seemed unable, or unwilling, to exercise the strong leadership needed to pass legislation or change the political culture.  Obama could not even sell the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, his most important achievement.  By the mid-term elections of 2010, Obama had disillusioned his base, alienated independents and energized the opposition.  The result was the grassroots, right-wing movement we know as the Tea Party and an election that gave the GOP the House of Representatives and most state governments.

Under our constitutional system of government, no one has his or her own way, and those of us who cheered Obama to victory were fools to think Obama would be our new secular messiah.  This was partly due to Obama himself, who promised too many things to too many people.  But political leaders, like the world, can break your heart, and Obama disappointed us in ways no other President, not even Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton, ever could.  Itâ??s no wonder that once-progressive individuals who supported the President on his way to the White House are doing little or nothing to help him stay there; some going so far as to back one of his Republican opponents.  Among these former fans are many lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people, who expected Obama to do for us what he promised, only to learn that he is just another politician.

Barack Obamaâ??s record on LGBT issues is far from perfect.  But he is the most LGBT-friendly President in history; and much better than most of the Republican candidates.  Though the Presidentâ??s views on same-sex marriage are still â??evolvingâ? â?? and how much of that is a ploy to keep the fundamentalist wolves at bay? â?? he seems to support the rights of lesbian or gay couples in many ways short of the dreaded â??M word.â?Â  Thanks to Obama (though not as much as he would like us to believe), openly LesBiGay (but not Trans) people can serve in the U.S. armed forces; and HIV+ individuals can enter the US.  The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act expanded the federal hate crimes law to cover sexual orientation and gender identity. A record number of LGBT people have been appointed to executive positions, judgeships and U.S. embassies abroad.  Though there are many reasons to criticize Obama, his record on LGBT issues should not be one of them.

Like the New York Sun in 1904, I support the President, for all his faults, because he is better than the opposition.  Republican candidates, seeking the votes of the religious right and the Tea Party right, have largely thrown their lot with those who oppose equal rights for LGBT Americans.  Not all Republican candidates oppose LGBT rights.  GOP candidates Fred Karger â?? openly gay and ignored â?? and Gary Johnson â?? not gay but equally ignored â?? support all or most LGBT issues; while Jon Huntsman backs civil unions and domestic partnerships.  On the other hand, Michelle Bachmann, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum compete against each other to see who is the most homophobic candidate.  These candidates and their supporters oppose â??gay marriage,â? back the return of â??Donâ??t Ask, Donâ??t Tellâ? and, all in all, want to turn back the clock as far as we (or anyone else) are concerned.

There are other reasons why I plan to vote for Barack Obama in 2012; not because heâ??s perfect but because heâ??s the best choice.  Will Obama disappoint us again?  Perhaps.  Most second term Presidents have.  On the other hand, what does not kill us politically might make us stronger; and Obama might become a more effective leader in his second term than heâ??s been in his first term.  In a political world of sharp divisions, of the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street, trying to please everyone, which is what Obama tried to do, is the worst sin.  Perhaps heâ??s learned his lesson.


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