Because today, the Democratic National Convention kicks off, and I am taking this opportunity to explain why I support the President in his reelection campaign. I hope you will forgive the politics if that is not your favorite bag of doughnuts. I will return to the bookish talk promptly.
Exhibit A: Harper's Magazine September 2012 issue.
Besides holding within its covers a 1947 contract between Kurt Vonnegut and his wife regarding household duties AND a 1915 pamphlet on "The Sexual Habits of the Adelie Penguin," which included the following phrase: "these unmated cocks congregate in little "hooligan" bands," this issue also includes a somewhat unflattering commentary by Thomas Frank called "Compromising Positions." In it, Frank makes the argument that Obama's presidency has failed because of his too great commitment to political compromise. He writes
The president is a man whose every instinct is conciliatory. He is not merely a casual seeker of bipartisan consensus; he is an intellectually committed believer in it. He simply cannot imagine a dispute in which one antagonist is right and the other is wrong. No, there is always something honorable about both sides, some concession to be made by each. His presidency has been one long quest for a "grand bargain," as he has sometimes put it, between red and blue. (6)The rhetoric is a bit charged here, but the driving point is Obama believes in considering a situation from all reasonable sides. He is an intellectual and is open to learning from others and to new experiences (one of the markers of a Liberal mind - see Jonathan Haidt's TED talk on the subject here. It's fascinating). Some would say someone that devoted to compromise can't do the job of the presidency, isn't strong enough to Git R Done. I disgree, and here we find Why I Still Believe in President Obama #1: I want to vote for someone who will lead by weighing the issues rather than one who will merely follow a party platform or public opinion poll.
Exhibit B: Time September 10, 2012 issue.
This is the "Special Convention Issue," but it is not all sunshine and roses from a left-wing media outlet. In fact, one of the Commentary pages is granted to Rich Lowry, editor of National Review, a conservative outfit that includes such headlines as "Racist Dog Whistling: Only Liberals Can Hear It" on their web page. Lowry asserts that Obama was lying when he made his now-famous 2004 DNC speech, especially regarding his desire for unity across political and social lines. Lowry writes
Upon his election, Obama acted as any ideologue would. He pushed as much through as often as possible when he had maximal power, without seriously compromising on anything until the Democrats lost control of the House, after which he cut a deal to extend the Bush tax cuts. ...Obama blew up his debt deal negotiations with Republican House Speaker John Boehner because he didn't want to be caught settling for less in tax revenue than what congressional Democrats wanted. (20)After reading the Harper's piece, I was struck with the dissonance jangling between these two views. How could Obama be both committed to compromise and a tyrannical ideologue? As has been so often the case lately, most of Lowry's piece is vague and damning and riddled with false statements pronounced as fact. The worst of those is the bit about not wanting "to be caught settling for less in tax revenue than what congressional Democrats wanted." Here is the overwhelmingly neutral USA Today on that issue when it happened:
I am disappointed with Time for publishing this piece because there will be those that accept it as truth. This issue of truthiness is not just a good Colbert bit. As Sophia A. McClennen writes in a HuffPost piece:"It is hard to understand why Speaker Boehner would walk away from this kind of deal," Obama said.Obama said he was willing to "take heat" from fellow Democrats on big program cuts, but Republicans decided to "walk away" in order to avoid higher taxes on the wealthy."There doesn't seem to be a capacity for them to say yes," Obama said.At a news conference following Obama's comments, Boehner said the White House "moved the goalposts" by demanding $400 billion in additional tax revenues, on top of $800 billion to be realized through tax reform. White House officials said they were always willing to negotiate that additional $400 billion.
And this is where I start making my way to Why I Still Support President Obama #2: I want to vote for someone who believes that facts and truth and right and reason are the path to good policy and therefore good government. In the extended piece on Obama in Time, here is what the President had to say on this subject: "I believe that if you do the right thing, then public opinion will eventually follow. But public opinion doesn't always match up precisely with the election cycle, right?" The article also quotes his campaign spokeswoman Jen Psaki: "If he could sit down with each person in America to explain his policies, he believes he would win the day." You notice he doesn't say if he could just chat with each person in America. He says he wants "to explain his policies." He believes that if voters simply had the facts, they would see he has some powerful work he wants to get done, and they would want to help him get it done.
In the descriptive bit at the beginning of that same Time article, journalist Michael Scherer talks about the tray the President's aide has placed across from him. It holds "the two novels he is reading at the moment: Home by Toni Morrison and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward." Why I Still Support President Obama #3: I want to vote for someone who reads often, reads widely, and believes in the power of beautiful words carefully crafted. I don't feel this way just because I like books, however. There are much more important reasons, and I think Yann Martel says them all better than I could in this Big Think video.
Exhibit C: Les Miserables.
Toward the end of the book, the narrative takes us through the streets of a Mardi Gras carnival:
In the good humor of that winter of 1833, Paris had disguised herself as Venice. We no longer see such a Mardi Gras nowadays. Everything being a constant carnival, there is no carnival left. (1367).That's us. That's politics. That's our society. Everything is such a crush of clowns and deception and trickery and masks that we no longer see it as a carnival at all; it is just life. And I refuse to give way to that irrational world. In the Time article, David Plouffe (who managed the 2008 campaign) says of Obama, "He is a very rational person, so when you're faced with irrationality that can be a jarring thing." Why I Still Support President Obama #4: I want to vote for someone who cares about being rational in an irrational world.
There are many, many more reasons. But this post is epic enough as it is. If you are still reading, please feel free to comment below. And, as always, feel free to disagree with me. I would love to learn from your view.