If I hear one more person declare that Obama's "honeymoon is over" or that the Republican response to the stimulus proves that his quest for a bipartisan America was naïve and ineffectual, I will surely scream. What I'd really like to know is: Where were these wise naysayers circa summer of 2007? Toting Hillary signs? Blathering about Barack's enormous potential, but (voice lowers, candidly) proclaiming the nation just wasn't ready for a black president?
See, a couple years ago, some of us were hard at work executing the inklings of an ambitious vision that the majority said was impossible. It's a good thing my friends who spent A YEAR knocking on the doors of every home in Council Bluffs, Iowa, connecting on a person-to-person level and exchanging new ideas that inspired a community, then a state, then a party, then a nation to adopt a new mindset and make history didn't listen to contrarians who could only echo simple-minded soundbites. They understood, like most forward-thinking leaders, that real, lasting problem solving happens at the root cause and is built by meticulously gaining the trust and support of invested parties. (Including, dare we acknowledge it!, the Republican party.) Any other approach is subject to the whimsical ebb and flow of partisan politics, resulting in hard-fought legislation undone each election cycle. Who wants to bleed and sweat for change that isn't going to endure?
The limited vision some of my close pals, favorite pundits and fellow Obamamaniacs have displayed post-inauguration is beyond disappointing. It's as though, in our collective gloom about the economy and the dilapidated state of our nation's affairs, we've forgotten that the prize we sought during the election was always going to be another staggering, indefinite uphill battle. How many times did you say in conversation during the campaign, "Do you think whoever wins this thing is really going to want the job when he finally gets it?"
For the last couple weeks I have wanted to shake some people and remind them of the early days, when we were the only ones who believed in the senator from Illinois. I can remember recruiting people to attend events in LA in the spring of 2007 and being blown off and told I was a dreamer. I wore my campaign buttons religiously to spark conversations, most of which centered around Obama's supposedly far-fetched viability as a presidential contender. I recall being advised by mentors to jump off the hope train and position myself more strategically in alliances with Clinton staffers.
We had to have those conversations defending Barack every day. It was a year before SuperTuesday, when we rounded a corner and people started to open their minds and hear the message. Eventually, those conversations turned even Ohio and Florida from red to blue.
Of course I'm pissed that the Republicans, desperately in need of displaying a united front after getting their asses kicked, decided to err on the side of belligerence. It wasn't a particularly bold way to lead. In fact, their lackluster stimulus performance is reminiscent of a lil vote in 2002, in which no Democrats could be found to prevent the obviously ill-advised invasion of Iraq. I'd love to call them cowards and tell them there are now plenty of vacancies at the Hotel Guantanamo Bay if they'd like to secede from the union and start their own backwards society. That would not be helpful.
I will never forget how disempowering it was in 2000, when George Bush took office and started systematically slashing the accomplishments of the Clinton administration and undercutting the hard work that a generation of progressives put into the comparably glorious 1990s era. I was appalled that a leader could be so divisive, and I was amazed at the fleeting nature of political power.
I chose to support Barack Obama because he built his coalition for America's future from the bottom up. He focused not on party politics, but encouraged us to find common interests and work together whenever it was possible. He addressed the root cause of apathy in our disengaged collective citizenship, convincing individuals through the most successful grassroots viral marketing campaign in American history that they could be leaders in their own communities. The combined choices of anyone who, as a result of his leadership, has decided to be a solution-oriented person who will act on his beliefs is the real power of this administration. I did not traipse around Des Moines, Portland, Seattle, Denver, Austin, Chicago and Los Angeles with "Change We Can Believe In" signs just to throw my hands in the air, exasperated by a media-infused political squabble a month into this thing, and give up on the mission we signed up to execute. We have not even scratched the surface of what we can do yet.
The MSM continues to cover what politicians and other pundits are saying and doing. That's why the early days of Obama's presidency are being told in a narrative framed by a politics-as-usual perspective. Just like they missed the stories of what was really happening on the ground as the Obama campaign's dynamic field teams enlisted supporter after supporter, they're getting this story wrong too.
What's really happening is that the hype and bandwagon support that characterized the home stretch of the Obama campaign is scaling back to its dedicated core. The people who bought into the mania were destined to crash as abruptly as they clung to us when it was the hip thing to do. Secondly, the core is tired. We worked our asses off just to realize we have to do it again. Some dove into the new administration with as much energy as could be mustered, and others of us have just needed to mentally check out for a couple months and regroup. You know, think about our own long-neglected lives for a change instead of phone banking and knocking on doors every weekend.
If you fall in the latter half of the burned-out Barackers (and I certainly do), it's probably time to crawl out of hiding and come back to work. We were always the stewards of this undertaking, and our fearless leader needs us out in the field. As exhausting as it is watching this circus of cynics try to take him down after building him up, we can't possibly be as tired as he is.