Our American President

This past Tuesday, Barack Obama handily won re-election to hold his title as President of the United States. I must admit that going into the election on Tuesday I was confident but still nervous. Nate Silver’s pragmatic election forecasting had kept me calm and reasonable during the entire campaign but when CNN started showing red states populating the electoral college map, I must admit my stomach did summersaults.

We now know that Nate was right all along for as the night drew onward, the polls of the last few months bore out his math and Obama won state after battleground state. In fact the only one he lost was my own of North Carolina. While NC did go red this time around, the decision here was extremely close which honestly surprised me. In the end NC’s electoral votes didn’t matter as Barack won Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, and yes, even Florida. I must admit I did enjoy tuning in FOX News throughout the night just to see the next four years slipping away from Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and Karl Rove. As Rachel Maddow pointed out this week, and as many pundits have rightfully written, Tuesday’s election results hit Team Romney, and many on the right as a complete and utter shock. For months they had deluded themselves into thinking the exit polls were wrong and that victory was the only possible result. Heck, Romney didn’t even have a concession speech ready to go. Who does that anyway? What kind of man running for the President doesn’t prepare for every eventuality? Evidently Mitt Romney, that’s who.

I face the next four years with hope and a huge sense of relief. We will not have new conservative supreme court justices. Roe v. Wade will not be overturned. The Affordable Care Act is here to stay (thank GOD), and world leaders will continue to respect our President. Obama hasn’t been a perfect President by any stretch of the imagination. There have been many issues he’s been unwilling or unable to tackle such as immigration reform and climate change. He’s also done things I’m not proud of such as the continued detaining of prisoners without due process. But in the end his pluses far outweigh his minuses. Despite the faux outrage from the right-wing elements in our country this past week, the United States is indeed on the road to recovery. We’ve not turned into a socialist state overnight and we won’t be one tomorrow. And no, Barack Obama didn’t kill the country this past Tuesday, Nov. 6th., he actually saved it. Saved it from regressing 50 years in policy and mindset. Saved it from extremist, conservative ideology that threatened to destroy a woman’s right to choose and American’s access to affordable health insurance. And in a small way, he saved this country from the rampant racism and hate that has reared its ugly head during his first term. A vote for Obama re-affirmed that he was no fluke, he was here to stay despite the efforts of the dwindling, white majority who has tried to paint him as “different from us” and “un-American”.

I’m very proud of my President and my country for making the right choice this past Tuesday. I wish I knew what the next four years will bring, but I feel confident that Barack will meet the challenges head-on and do what’s in our collective best interests. I sincerely hope he listens to the will of those who elected him and grows a spine when dealing with Republican obstructionism, thankfully there are signs of this already. Above all, I’m grateful that we’re moving forward as a country instead of backwards, making laws instead of repealing them. I wish our President good luck and God speed because unfortunately as history has demonstrated, he’s going to need it.

Stop, Obama Time!

Of all the political videos this election season, this skillful take off of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This has to be my favorite. It’s awesome on so many levels it’s difficult to describe but I love seeing Michelle grooving and Barack crooning. It also highlights the media’s obsession with playing the “gotcha!” game with our politicians, especially the President. The fading commentary at the end is particularly cringe worthy. “There’s no taking Obama out of context!” and my personal favorite – “Obama should have known better. You don’t put the subject apart from the predicate!” Yes, he should have known better. Enjoy.

Bring It

Prior to the 2008 election, I was understandably nervous about the possible outcome. The potential of President John McCain and Vice President Sarah Palin shook me to my core and I followed the political scene very closely. I blogged about politics quite a bit, every chance I got actually and set out to do my part to try and help get Barack Obama elected. The thought of another four years of republican policies and control combined with Palin being just one step away from the Oval Office often kept me up at night. I was anxious, nervous and worried.

Looking back now, I probably shouldn’t have been so stressed. In hindsight, the country longed for a new direction, a vision to lead us away from the war in Iraq, away from torture as an official U.S. policy, and away from the leadership disasters of Katrina and a tailspinning economy. Obama stepped in at the right moment, won the nomination and then the Presidency and made history in the process. I remember wondering the night before the first presidential debate if Barack really had what it took to lead the nation. He was young and full of hope an enthusiasm, but would it be enough? Would the elder, more experienced statesman win the debate and the presidency? No, he would not.

Now, four years later my thoughts return to that election and how I felt leading up to it. Hate for this President has run deep, deeper than even I have thought possible. Almost since the day he took office, republicans have been blocking, obstructing and denigrating him and his position in the hopes of getting the upper hand this November 4th. Questions about his birth certificate still circulate in right-wing circles. Cries of socialism and a “government takeover” of healthcare have rallied the conservative base. Billionaires, backed by the Supreme Court’s mis-guided Citizen’s United decision have poured gobs of money into Karl Rove’s coffers and flooded the airwaves with negative ads all designed to convince the country that Obama hasn’t done enough to turn the economy and the country around fast enough. These last few months I’ve started to wonder, could Romney actually win this thing? I mean, Mr. Bland, Mr. RomneyCare, Mr. Also-ran Mitt Romney?

No, I don’t think so. In fact, the closer we get to election day, the more I think Barack will prove his worth with voters and handily win re-election. He now has a laundry list of accomplishments that he will be able to wield like Batman wields his utility belt. Want to talk about terrorism? He’s ended the war in Afghanistan, killed dozens of Al Qaida operatives and oh, Osama Bin Laden has shuffled off that mortal coil. Obama’s fought for the rights of gays and lesbians repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and signed laws designed to help give women equal pay for equal work. Obama’s administration saved the auto industry. Mitt didn’t even want to touch the problem with a ten-foot pole, preferring instead to let the industry go belly up, and thousands upon thousands of Michigan jobs with it.

And then there’s health care. The right sees it as their war cry. “We’ll repeal Obamacare! Socialism! Socialism!” but more and more Americans’ agree that the fundamental principals that the Affordable Care Act provides (insurance for pre-existing conditions, more of your dollars paying for care instead of overhead, etc) are good ones. Just this week Romney, in a bid for independent voters said that there are parts of Obamacare he wants to keep. This flies directly in the face of his fellow hard-line conservatives who have said they want the entire act repealed. Nothing less will do. That’s the problem with extremism, it doesn’t win elections. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, politics is rarely a black and white endeavor. It takes compromise and a willingness to walk in the other guy’s shoes in order to get things done. This simple principal has been Washington’s way since its inception, but it’s also seemingly been abandoned by the right in their bid to regain control of the White House. Indeed, no other congress has stymied the lawmaking process as much as this one has. In order to get anything done, the President has had to take some unusual measures which, predictably, has only increased right-wing cries that he’s “power hungry” and refuses to work with republicans.

I have no delusions that Barack Obama has fulfilled all his promises as President. Obama’s White House isn’t nearly as transparent as he had promised it would be. We still hold prisoners without hope of ever getting a fair trial before their peers. He was naive to pretend he could make bipartisanship a household word. Perhaps most distressingly he’s been unable to communicate effectively to the American people just why he’s done some of the things he’s done. Then I look at the other side of the coin, all that he’s accomplished despite the massive pile of dung he was handed by his predecessor, and I look forward with hope. The country is indeed in a better place today than it was when he took office. I absolutely cannot WAIT for the political debates which being October 2nd. I believe Barack will wipe the proverbial floor with Mitt and seal the deal in the process. I also think deep down inside, conservatives won’t mind because like McCain, most of them don’t like Romney anyway. I’m starting to get excited about this election, and while there is still a huge level of uncertainty, (much can happen in two months) I look across the aisle to my conservative counterparts and think – “Bring it.”

UPDATE: As if almost on cue, conservatives have started to publicly decry Romney’s anemic campaign. Like I said in the post, things are still early but it’s obvious that Romney is an also-ran for the GOP. He was really the only viable choice to contend with Obama, but he’s failed to bring the “right-wing goods” as it were and therefore the knives are showing. I have a feeling things are about to get very ugly for the republican party as they face some unpleasant truths.

‘Obamacare’ Vindicated

Back in 2007, two full years after my doctor pronounced me cured of my malignant lymphoma, I sat across a conference room table and listened to my insurance representative tell me I was ineligible to receive life insurance. I questioned him at length and asked why I was being denied even though the doctor had certified me cancer free. His response was simply “Because that’s the way the insurance industry works.” In that moment I felt a rush of anger, frustration, sadness and helplessness all at once.

Needless to say today’s Supreme Court decision to uphold the Obama Administration’s Affordable Care Act brought with it feelings of joy and satisfaction. The court affirmed the government indeed has the ability to require individuals to purchase health insurance or face a penalty. This means that children can remain on their parent’s health insurance longer, people no longer have to fear losing their insurance when they switch employers and that people (including children) with pre-existing medical conditions cannot be denied coverage. All in all, some 30+ million American’s will now be able to receive health insurance who could not before.

Predictably, conservatives are not happy about the decision and immediately began trying to spin Robert’s reasoning in their favor. It never ceases to amaze me how some people can manage to contort the facts of a given situation to fit their special world view. The topic of personal responsibility is a perfect example and one that illustrates the hypocrisy of many right-leaning folks, some of which are in my own family. Like them, I believe that people should basically be responsible for their own successes or failures, but unlike them I also realize people sometimes need help from their government. I often hear from conservative family and friends how they dislike liberal “entitlements”, ie people shouldn’t be able to game the system and receive free services at the expense of hard working folks. So, given the fact that the Affordable Care Act requires people to stand up and take responsibly for themselves by paying their fare share of health care costs, you would think they would support it. This, paradoxically, isn’t the case.

Many would rather have freeloaders continue to game the system, raising everyone else’s premiums than levy a penalty or “tax” as Justice Roberts wrote, and be forced to take responsibility. This is especially damning when you consider the individual mandate in the Affordable Care Act was originally created and promoted by conservatives. It seems as though such people are perfectly content to alter their principles simply to express their opposition to President Obama. It makes me very sad when my fellow Americans are willing to sacrifice the good of the many out of spite.

The good news is that as I write this, millions of people are better off today than they were yesterday. Many will be receiving rebate checks from their insurers who spent too much on administration, advertising or lobbying and not enough on making people better. Friends and followers on twitter who have family members that were finally able to obtain insurance due to Obamacare can breathe a sigh of relief, and I can think back at that frustrating meeting so long ago with my insurance agent and smile. The Affordable Care act isn’t perfect by any means, and Republicans will do their best to try and repeal the law (good luck with that), but today was a very good day in the history of our country. A very good day indeed.

UPDATE: A wonderful post over on Reddit that explains every detail of the ACA in easy to understand terms and explains just how the bill will or will not affect you. I really suggest everyone read it. (via @bigzaphod)

NC’s Silver Lining

I have to say that when I went to bed last night I was feeling pretty darned depressed about what transpired here in North Carolina with Amendment 1. I just don’t understand how people can treat their fellow Americans with contempt just because of whom they love. I firmly believe the state has no business interfering in our lives in this way, and the passing of A1 with such an overwhelming majority (even if they were confused about its implications) was quite heartbreaking.

But then today the President finally finishes “evolving” his position and comes out in favor of gay marriage. Suddenly things just don’t seem as bad. I know his stated position doesn’t change anything for the thousands of lgbt couples in NC and around the country, but what Barack did today is symbolic and it does indeed matter.

I was very proud of the President when he was elected. He’s strayed on some important issues, bent his promises on others, but in his heart, I believe him to be an honest and good man. Today he re-affirmed my faith in him, for that, and for lifting the specter of Amendment 1′s passing, I thank him.

Exceeding Expectations

Local lawyer and conservative blogger, Sam Spagnola is running for county commissioner. Sam and I have had dust ups over on Ed Cone’s blog and it’s no secret that I disagree with the vast majority of positions he’s taken on national politics. So when I spotted (what I assumed must be) his truck at the Quaker Village shopping plaza, I had to snap a few pictures.

Even though I’ve never met Sam in person, I have to say that the messages conveyed on his vehicle fit the man to a tee. Typically politicians seeking office take the moderate route so Sam’s slogan of “Elect a REAL conservative!” could be considered a bold, fresh marketing move. Unfortunately for voters like myself, seeing his mocking of our president on his bumper sticker and license plate turned me off. Then again, I guess local constituents and business owners like myself are not his target audience. Best of luck, Sam!

UPDATE: Turns out I assumed wrong (bad me!) and the truck isn’t Sam’s after all but one of his bigger supporters. The good news for Sam seems to be that his identity as a true conservative politician appears to be hitting the mark with his voters. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, major props to someone who takes action and runs for office instead of just standing on the sidelines grumbling to the crowd. Local government could use more of this, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.

Teabagistan is Born

The Tea Party took decisive, measured steps today toward becoming a full-fledged domestic terrorist group. Some of its members faxed death threats to congressmen, other vandalized offices. An investigation was launched into the cutting of a gas line of the brother of another congressman and meanwhile, Greensboro’s conservative bloggers were all deadly silent on the topic. I wonder why that is.

The Tea Party has been filled with extremists from the day it was born, but now, egged on by Sarah Palin, and suffering a devastating loss at the hands of Obama for health care reform, they’ve decided to “double down on the crazy”. What’s worse, members of the U.S. Senate like John McCain and North Carolina’s very own Richard Burr are encouraging them with their infantile obstructionism to prevent the business of government. Are these representatives men or children? Are they so obsessed with exacting retribution for the health care loss that they are willing to put national security at risk? Seriously?

This is what the right-wing in this country has become. A gang of unprincipled, dishonorable thugs. They are starting down the path of violence and domestic terror, and are being supported by the actions of some of this country’s most (previously) distinguished elected officials. This must end now before it’s too late. A storm is on the horizon, and unless cooler heads prevail and the course is corrected, we’ll all go down with the ship. Call Senator Burr’s office and tell him to grow the hell up. Send him a tweet and demand that he get back to work and stop throwing a temper tantrum.

Hitler’s Waterloo

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at one of these “Hitler learns…” videos since the meme started last year. The historic passage of health care reform gave me just the excuse I needed to give it a shot. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun watching as I had editing. Enjoy!

Shaping the Future

It was to be his Wateroo, or so the Republicans said. After a year and a half of debate, name calling, lies, threats, punditry, shouts of fear, uncertainty and doubt, tonight the House of Representatives passed health care reform. President Obama has managed to do something no other administration in recent memory has been able to and he did it despite the efforts of the GOP to filibuster, block and obstruct at every turn. The President and the Congress has struck a blow to the status quo and moved the country forward to at least try and deal with the death grip of expanding health insurance costs in this country. Obama promised it, and Nancy Pelosi helped deliver it.

The implications for what happens next for Republicans are as deep as they are serious. Here are just some of the reactions making the rounds:

Massie:

“Make no mistake: the more virulent GOP opposition to the plans became – and, if you like, the more hysterical – the more Democrats had to pass it if only to save face. Sceptical Blue Dogs, Pro-Lifers and Leftists were all forced to club together for the greater good of the party. Left to their own devices they almost certainly couldn’t have agreed on a bill, any bill.”

Frum:

“No illusions please: This bill will not be repealed. Even if Republicans scored a 1994 style landslide in November, how many votes could we muster to re-open the “doughnut hole” and charge seniors more for prescription drugs? How many votes to re-allow insurers to rescind policies when they discover a pre-existing condition? How many votes to banish 25 year olds from their parents’ insurance coverage? And even if the votes were there – would President Obama sign such a repeal?”

Andrew Samwick:

“I don’t think anyone will hold up the bill that will pass as exemplary, but it does reflect elements of health care reform that Democrats campaigned on and won on in 2008. So I have a hard time seeing this as doing violence to the will of the people as it is typically expressed in our electoral system. Elections matter. This is how they matter.”

So what does all this mean for Obama and the Democrats? It’s difficult to tell yet, but I firmly believe that delivering health care reform will help cement a second term for the President. As the economy continues to recover, more people start to find work, and the reforms from tonight’s bill start to kick in, the GOP will find they were on the wrong side of history. 32 million more Americans will be able to have health coverage. Pre-existing conditions (including those associated with simply being a woman) will no longer bar people from coverage. Expensive treatments like chemotherapy will no longer have a benefit cap and small businesses will earn tax breaks and subsidies to help keep their workers covered.

The handwriting is on the wall and it isn’t hard to read. But no matter what happens in November, tonight’s vote was a signal that American’s hope for real change wasn’t misplaced. The sheer fact that this bill wasn’t killed dead and buried in a cornfield speaks volumes about the progressive movement in this country. This was a tough vote, and undoubtedly many Democrats will lose their seats in the fall because of it. It takes courage to stand up and do what’s right, even more so when the opposition is screaming at the top of their hysterical lungs. Tonight President Obama said “We did not fear our future, we shaped it.” No truer words were ever spoken.

Economic Egress

The next time someone tries to tell you that Obama is destroying the country, or that his administration will be the ruin of us all, please point them at this handy chart. The Democrats should have this printed on t-shirts, bumper stickers and anywhere else they possibly can. It speaks volumes, especially about the economic policies of so-called “fiscal conservatives”. It’s simply the best chart I’ve seen in years.