I realize at the outset that some of what I am about to say is hardly likely to make me popular among a certain segment of the American population. But I’ve never let that stop me before, so I’m going to go ahead and say it anyway.
Much has been said over the past several weeks about the outcome of the Nov. 2 general elections. Most if not all of that comment has focused on the idea that the election’s results – particularly here in Oklahoma, where Republican candidates won every major state office – was a rejection of President Obama and his vision of America.
My good friend, outgoing State Senator Jay Paul Gumm, was among those who has added his voice to the Anti-Obama Choir. In an article that appeared in the Nov. 7 edition of the Tulsa World , Gumm – a conservative Democrat who lost his re-election bid to a former aid to U.S. Senator Tom Coburn – laid the blame for the Democrats’ losses in Oklahoma squarely at the feet of the President.
“Clearly, this was a response to the president and his incredible unpopularity,” Gumm was quoted as saying. “It had nothing to do with us.”
As much as I – an unapologetic Obama supporter – might hate to admit it, there is some truth to Gumm’s statement. Obama has never been popular with a majority of Oklahomans, regardless of party affiliation, and he never will be. Pundits and poll-watchers can debate back and forth until they’re blue in the face about the reasons for this; I have a few theories of my own, some of which will not sit well for some on both sides of the partisan aisle. But for now the simple statement of fact will suffice: A lot of folks here just plain don’t like the man.
Okay, fair enough. It’s part of being involved in politics, and anybody who gets into that game believing they are going to be universally loved is being overly optimistic to the point of foolishness. (Much the same can be said for newspaper columnists…)
The problem in the case of President Obama is that so much of the public dislike and distrust aimed towards him, here and elsewhere, continues to be based on things people “know” about him that have no basis in fact and have in fact been refuted time after time after time.
You’d think after all this time the silly (and in some cases borderline libelous) rumors about Obama being a Muslim who was born outside of the United States and is seeking to destroy America with his evil “death panels” would have finally quieted down. But that doesn’t appear to be the case; such nonsense is probably never going to abate – especially as long as the Becks and the Palins and the Limbaughs of the world continue to fan the flames of mistrust and discontent – and continued attempts at rebuttal from Obama supporters like myself will only continue to divert focus from the real issues facing the country.
What I find more disquieting is the number of those who supported Obama in 2008 but have turned their backs on him because the change he promised hasn’t come fast enough. Were they not listening when he said it was going to take time? Did they really expect that the mess inherited from the previous administration could be fixed overnight? By that reckoning, House Speaker-designate John Boehner should already be held accountable for not having made things better before he actually assumes control of the gavel.
In a sense, perhaps he is. A poll released just a day or so after the Nov. 2 election found that more than half of those who supported this latest Republican Takeover expect to be disappointed in the results of that takeover by the time the 2012 election rolls around. I’ve never been one to put a whole lot of stock in polls – even when the results skew the direction I like to see – but this particular finding should provide some idea as to how unrealistic everyone’s expectations have become in this age of demanding instant gratification.
And in the midst of all this talk about what hasn’t happened yet and what won’t happen in the next two years, too many people on both sides of the aisle don’t seem to be paying a lot of attention to some positive things that HAVE happened during the first two years of the Obama Administration.
Things like the removal of roughly 100,000 American servicemen and women from the quagmire in Iraq; the addition of $4.6 billion to the Veterans’ Administration budget, to recruit and retain more mental health care professionals; increased funding for the Violence Against Women Act; the elimination of subsidies to private lender middlemen of student loans and protect student borrowers; the expansion of Pell grants to help low-income students pay for college; establishment of the “Credit Card Bill of Rights,” which prevents credit card companies from imposing arbitrary rate increases; the creation of financial reform law establishing a Consumer Protection Bureau to look out for the interests of everyday Americans – that’s you and me, Bunky; and the creation of more private sector jobs in 2010 than during the entire eight years of the George W. Bush Administration, (as demonstrated by information contained in the September Jobs Report).
Yes, the road to recovery is proving to be a slower one than many of us originally hoped. Nobody ever promised to wave a magic wand and make everything all right overnight; we elected an African-American mortal, not the blue-skinned Genie from Disney’s Aladdin . But successes like this are why President Obama has my continued support.
And he achieved them, I hasten to add, without taking a single person’s gun away from them…
(Copyright 2010 by John Allen Small. This is a revised version of an opinion column originally published in the Nov. 11, 2010 edition of the Johnston County Capital-Democrat, Tishomingo, Okla.)