Before he'd served even one year, President Obama lost the support of the easily distracted left and engendered the white hot rage of the hate-filled right. But some of us, from all walks of life and ideological backgrounds -- including this white, straight, 57-year-old, former religious right-wing agitator, now progressive writer and, given my background as I describe in my book Crazy For God, the son of a famous evangelical leader, unlikely Obama supporter -- are sticking with our president. Why? Because he is succeeding. Obama's critics from the left and right are going to be proved dead wrong.
We Obama supporters still trust our initial impression of him as a great, good and uniquely qualified man to lead us.
Obama's steady supporters will be proved right. Obama's lefty critics will be remembered as easily panicked and prematurely discouraged at best and his critics on the right will be remembered as nothing but shriveled hate mongers.
The Context of the Obama Presidency
Not since the days of the rise of fascism in Europe, the Second World War and the Depression has any president faced more adversity. Not since the Civil War has any president led a more bitterly divided country. Not since the introduction of racial integration has any president faced a more consistently short-sighted and willfully ignorant opposition -- from both the right and left.
As the president's poll numbers have fallen over the last two years, so has his support from some on the left that were hailing him as a Messiah not long ago; all those lefty websites and commentators that were falling all over themselves on behalf of our first black president during the 2008 election.
The left's lack of faith has become a self-fulfilling "prophecy" -- snipe at the president and then watch the poll numbers fall and then pretend you didn't have anything to do with it! The left wanted a rock star and got a president smarter than the talking heads. They wanted miracles and got hard work instead, they wanted magic and got the slogging reality of trying to govern.
- An ideologically divided country to the point that America was really two countries
And those were only some of the problems sitting on the President's desk...
"Help" from the Right?
What did the Republicans and the religious right, libertarians and half-baked conspiracy theorists -- that is what the Republicans were reduced to by the time Obama took office -- do to "help" our new president (and our country) succeed? They claimed that he wasn't a real American, didn't have an American birth certificate, wasn't born here, was secretly a Muslim, was white-hating "racist", was secretly a communist, was actually the Anti-Christ, (!) and was a reincarnation of Hitler and wanted "death panels" to kill the elderly!
They not-so-subtly called for his assassination through the not-so-subtle use of vile signs held at their rallies and even a bumper sticker quoting Psalm 109:8. They organized "tea parties" to sound off against imagined insults and all government in general and gathered to howl at the moon. They were led by insurance industry lobbyists and deranged (but well financed) "commentators" from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh.
The utterly discredited Roman Catholic bishops teamed up with the utterly discredited evangelical leaders to denounce a president who was trying to actually do something about the poor, the environment, to diminish the number of abortions through compassionate programs to help women and to care for the sick! And in Congress the Republican leadership only knew one word: "No!"
In other words the reactionary white, rube, uneducated, crazy American far right, combined with the educated but obtuse neoconservative warmongers, religious right shills for big business, libertarian Fed Reserve-hating gold bugs, gun-loving crazies, child-molesting acquiescent "bishops" frontier loons and evangelical gay-hating flakes found one thing to briefly unite them: their desire to stop an uppity black man from succeeding at all costs.
"Help" from the Left?
What did the left do to help their newly elected president? Some of them excoriated the president because they disagreed with the bad choices he was being forced to make regarding a war in Afghanistan that he'd inherited from the worst president in modern history!
Others stood up and bravely proclaimed that the President's economic policies had "failed" before the President even instituted them! Others said that since all gay rights battles had not been fully won within virtually minutes of the President taking office, they'd been "betrayed"! (Never mind that Obama's vocal support to the gay community is stronger than any other president's has been. Never mind that he signed a new hate crimes law!)
Those that had stood in transfixed legions weeping with beatific emotion on election night turned into an angry mob saying how "disappointed" they were that they'd not all immediately been translated to heaven the moment Obama stepped into the White House! Where was the "change"? Contrary to their expectations they were still mere mortals!
And the legion of young new supporters was too busy texting to pay attention for longer than a nanosecond. "Governing"?! What the hell does that word, uh, like mean?"
The president's critics left and right all had one thing in common: impatience laced with little-to-no sense of history (let alone reality), thrown in for good measure. Then, of course, there were the white, snide, know-it-all commentators/talking heads who just couldn't imagine that maybe, just maybe they weren't as smart as they thought they were and certainly not as smart as their president. He hadn't consulted them, had he? So he must be wrong!
The Obama critics' ideological ideas defined their reality rather than reality defining their ideas -- say, about what is possible in one year in office after the hand that the president had been dealt by fate, or to be exact, by the American idiot nation that voted Bush into office twice!
Meanwhile back in the reality-based community -- in just 20 short months -- President Obama:
- Continued to draw down the misbegotten war in Iraq (But that wasn't good enough for his critics)
Other than those "disappointing" accomplishments -- IN BARELY TWO YEARS -- President Obama "failed"! Other than that he didn't "live up to expectations"!
Who actually has failed...
...are the Americans that can't see the beginning of a miracle of national rebirth right under their jaded noses. Who failed are the smart ass ideologues of the left and right who began rooting for this president to fail so that they could be proven right in their dire and morbid predictions. Who failed are the movers and shakers behind our obscenely dumb news cycles that have turned "news" into just more stupid entertainment for an entertainment-besotted infantile country.
Here's the good news: President Obama is succeeding without the help of his lefty "supporters" or hate-filled Republican detractors!
The Future Looks Good
I'm beginning to feel good about November for the first time in a while. Basically, as things get better, the Republicans have nowhere to go, and they're not any more popular themselves than they were before.
When Obama has served two full terms, (and he will), after his wisdom in moving deliberately and cautiously with great subtlety on all fronts -- with a canny and calculating eye to the possible -- succeeds, (it will), after the economy is booming and new industries are burgeoning, (they will be), after the doomsayers are all proved not just wrong but silly: let the record show that not all Americans were panicked into thinking the sky was falling.
Just because we didn't get everything we wanted in the first short and fraught 20 months or so Obama was in office, not all of us gave up. Some of us stayed the course. And we will be proven right. If you lack the energy to fight for this president and to work to keep the Democratic majority in Congress, shame on you.
Frank Schaeffer is a writer and author of Crazy for God: How I Grew Up as One of the Elect, Helped Found the Religious Right, and Lived to Take All (or Almost All) of It Back