I voted for Barack Obama for all the wrong reasons.
Like many college-aged voters, I was captivated by his compelling public-speaking ability and his down-to-earth personality. Despite some of the failures of his first term, I felt honored in 2012 to cast my vote for the nation’s first black president and someone who had inspired so many across the world.
Before that, I believed his 2008 promise of hope and change. To a young, impressionable student, President Obama really did seem like a different kind of politician. During his 2008 presidential run, I used to go into my high school social studies classroom after class let out to watch videos of his campaign speeches with my U.S. history teacher.
I’ll never forget President Obama’s stop in Philadelphia in March 2008, when he told the story of Ashley Baia, a 9-year-old girl whose mother was ill-stricken with cancer and without healthcare. To make her ailing and financially struggling mother feel like she could support her family, Ashley convinced her mom for a year that all she wanted to eat was mustard and relish sandwiches.
I bought it all. The political rhetoric. The sob stories. The arbitrary inspiration.
Was President Obama’s 2008 run one of the most well-orchestrated public relations campaigns in modern history, or was it just the first time that I was old enough to pay attention and be fooled by politicians’ old tricks? It’s likely a combination of both, but I’m sure I’m not the only student who was moved by President Obama’s message of hope in 2008, only to be sick over the all-too-familiar political climate in Washington during his first four years.
Budgetary disagreements, congressional gridlock, foreign invasion. Am I describing President Obama’s first term, or the first term of virtually every president who has taken office in the past 50 years?
President Obama and Congress’ most recent debacle has me feeling more hopeless than ever.
The so-called sequester, which really means $85 billion in federal spending cuts, went into effect on Friday, March 1, marking the beginning of what appears to be a months-long process where more than a million of federally-employed Americans could lose their jobs.
The cuts were proposed by the Obama administration during the 2011 talks that raised the country’s debt ceiling and were accepted by Republicans wanting to reduce spending during those negotiations.
But the sequester was never supposed to actually take place.
The sequester was proposed as a fail safe; a hypothetical so unacceptable that members of the opposing parties would have to come together on a package that balanced the government’s budget before the cuts took place.
Republicans and Democrats could have addressed the issue at the end of 2012, when parties rushed to avert automatic tax increases and spending cuts from going into effect, but the negotiations were only able to save a few months.
Now, the country is facing the reality of a White House administration and Congress so hampered by gridlock that they’re unable to protect the jobs of the people who voted them into office.
The sequester and all its failures from both parties only highlights the depressing reality of life as a politician in Washington, a reality that President Obama has gotten a harsh dose of since Republicans took control of the House of Representatives in 2010.
Since then, it’s been financial showdown after showdown, with Congressional approval ratings steadily declining and President Obama’s approval rating middling below 50 percent, according to weekly Gallup poll data.
Yet there I was, voting for President Obama in 2012. It was less an endorsement of his policies as it was a feeling of wanting to be part of something big, something historic. Contributing to the election of the country’s first minority president certainly qualifies, but I’m sure even President Obama will tell you he’d like to be remembered for something more.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.