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In a political season in which most of the media spotlight is turned on the shifting tides and opinions inherent in the Republican race (hobble?) toward a nominee, the one message that seems to remain stable and consistent among all the voices speaking for the GOP is this: “Defeat Barack Obama.”
Republicans are using the Democrats’ perceived mantra of the 2008 election (“Anyone But Bush”) as justification for their goal. Obama and his liberal, big-government, overspending, helping-hand-to-the poor out, they say. And we, the American public, have swallowed the intended negative implications of these terms. Democrats and left-leaning independents actually get quite defensive when having to answer these as if they are accusations. The GOP has successfully trained us to believe that they are bad words.
However, when examining the reality behind these terms (something the overworked and distracted American public has neither time nor inclination for), and specifically on their meaning for us as a country in the last three years, the concepts behind them have not only kept our country from going off the rails, they have been examples of what Americans, by and large, want from their government.
Liberal. This word, contrary to the spin that pundits and talking heads like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly have perpetuated, does not mean “hold everybody’s hand and buy them an ice cream cone.” It does not mean “support people so they don’t have to work” or “save the trees at the expense of business opportunity.” Instead, its definition lies more accurately in several accomplishments for which Mr. Obama has received little public acknowledgement or credit.
Sonja Sotomayor is the first Hispanic and only the third woman to take a seat on the US Supreme Court. Her opinion history, when viewed without the lens of Obama-bashing, has been fairly centrist and non-controversial (almost no judge with the qualifications to sit on the Court will be headline-free). She is the kind of person this country increasingly wants and demands to be in a position of power, and President Obama put her there.
He also signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. Although Mr. Obama would surely agree that it would be better if this kind of legislation were not needed in the first place, this “liberal” law has increased the rights of workers to sue employers for wage discrimination. The fact is that we need protection from this sort of short-changing of low men on the ladder. This liberal law expands the rights of citizens, contrary to the complaints of anti-legislation conservatives.
The same is true of the credit card reforms instituted by the Obama administration. Americans overwhelmingly approved measures that decrease predatory practices by banks. These are laws. Laws require legislation. Legislation requires government. Presumably most Americans would not disapprove of the mechanism by which their rights are protected. They swallow the term “increased government” with the bitterness that they are told it has. But they would not want to be without it.
Obama’s “big government,” “liberal” policies have also led to expansion of SCHIP, the program covering the medical needs of low-income children. Do the every-man-for-himself conservative pundits think government should step out of the way and leave these children to their fate? The American public does not think so. And, in fact, when children are sick, the economy suffers due to lost wages by parents. Americans and Obama understand this even if Romney and Gingrich do not. They also overwhelmingly support stem-cell research, whose federal funding was expanded by the President’s executive order in 2009, and the regulation of the marketing, sale, and manufacturing of tobacco, also in 2009.
The most apparent and controversial accomplishment of the Obama White House has, of course, been the stimulus bill. Decried by the Limbaughs and the Gingriches of the world, it has, in fact, saved our economically imperiled country from further destruction. Because it was so large, and because some of the companies who took the money have since failed, conservative critics have called it a disaster. However, up to 2.4 million jobs were created by the largesse of the bill. In fact, it has been estimated by noted economists that without the bill, unemployment would have hit 10.8%, with a loss of an additional 1.2 million jobs. When looked at from this perspective, the bill was a huge success.
Obama is still the best man for the job, and he is still willing to do it. We should be glad to take him up on it.