President Obama may need to kick his leadership up a notch if he wants to inspire democrats before the midterm elections.
His speeches moved me. His stances on multiple issues during the 2008 campaign – everything except his nonchalant stance on same-sex marriage – resonated with me. Considering that government and politics, to me, is a field with not many sexy people, I thought Obama was quite the silver fox.
After his first year in office, however, my love for the President of the United States is far from lasting.
Beyond the overload of fiscal and global issues on his plate, the president’s insistence on cowardice, as opposed to a firm stance on any or all contemporary social issues is what caused my Obama-love burnout.
On Sept. 4, Slate.com posted an article by Jacob Weisberg titled “Obama’s Moral Cowardice.” Weisberg’s words, I realized, were everything I was thinking about Obama but couldn’t write.
“Obama has had numerous occasions to assert leadership on values this summer,” Weisberg wrote.
Obama pulled a duck-and-cover rather than planting his foot in the ground and demonstrating his leadership on any of the following issues: the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, which bans gay and lesbian personnel from serving openly in the military, the same-sex marriage debate and the Proposition 8 ruling, Arizona’s anti-immigrant law and the debate over the construction of the Islamic Center near ground zero.
Weisberg wrote, “But Obama’s instinctive caution has steered him away from casting these questions as moral or civil rights issues. On none of them has he shown anything resembling courage.”
When I bicker and moan about Obama’s GLBT rights fail, acquaintances and college democrat peers are almost always quick to point out to me that Obama is “dealing with a lot.”
That cop-out argument never ceases to make my blood boil. The issues my peers are referring to are not going away any time soon. The war in Afghanistan is still ongoing. The economic woes have been making headlines for two years and counting.
It’s impossible for these issues to be placed on a backburner because of the effect they have on each and every one of our lives. But the struggles of people whom the United States and society-at-large have cast as the “other” – the GLBT population, immigrants and Muslims, in this case – are equally impossible to put on hold.
A truly strong leader wouldn’t tiptoe around these issues – she or he would tackle them head on.
Obama, like myself, is a knee-jerk progressive. I use the word “progressive” because the word sounds more in-line with human rights than “liberal,” which sounds like an explicit word to conservative and middle-of-the-road Americans.
Weisberg knows this too, which is why the word “cowardice” is in the writer’s headline.
“Obama has let pass moment after moment … to reframe the issue around terms of inclusiveness and justice,” Weisberg wrote. “If he applied his literary gifts to these principles, it would give Obama’s depressed democratic base something to be excited about. It could remind a grumbling nation what it liked about him in the first place.”
And I’m someone who, for the sake of my imaginary friendship with Obama, needs that reminder.
Josh Fernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.