In the past several weeks, President Barack Obama took two bold, moral stands — expressing support for marriage equality and giving DREAMers legal standing until Congress can be forced to act — which put him 13 points ahead of Mitt Romney among likely voters, according to a Bloomberg poll released Wednesday.
Now, even for those who might want to believe its every precious word, that simple sentence is well beyond shaky.
First, as pundits quickly pointed out, most polls put Romney neck and neck with Obama in a seesaw race they expect will last right down to Election Day.
So, there must be something wrong with the Bloomberg poll — its respondents were too well educated, the questions nudged them to make choices they wouldn’t have made on their own — and subsequent polls will set the dead-heat record straight.
That has to be it, else the Koch brothers might as well proceed with those plans to buy Guatemala instead of the White House, the Manhattan-Beltway pundit class will suddenly need gainful employment, the political blogosphere can return to Sudoku, and Mitt can finally buy Ann another $78,000 dancing horse.
Then there’s the question of the “bold and moral” component of Obama’s two stands. The President’s personal support for marriage equality will allow no gay or lesbian couple to marry, as he merely expressed his view that individual states should redress an inequality.
And his memo giving certain DREAMers an avenue to apply for temporary work and student visas does nothing to permanently enact comprehensive immigration reform.
Ever at the ready, pundits — maybe a slightly different group of them — decried the political nature of Obama’s two moves, which they contend were designed to fire up support among the LGBT and Latino communities, which otherwise might be tempted to sit out this election as so many did in 2010.
But complaining that the President played “politics” with these issues, using political tools to influence public opinion and move the country in desired directions, is a little like condemning your doctor for turning “medical” on you during an exam.
Now, if Obama took these positions only to garner public support — think Mitt “Weathervane” Romney etch-a-sketching himself right and further right for incremental political gain — then we’d have every right to condemn Obama’s actions as the crassest of politics.
But the President has a history of support for the DREAM Act and for social justice for the LGBT community. And you get a sense watching him announce these two ground-breaking positions that he’s following his moral compass, even if it took pressure from the left to get him to point the way.
Now, risky as these two moves were, they were wildly successful in a political sense. Even if we can’t fully believe the Bloomberg poll, we saw Ben Jealous and the NAACP get behind marriage equality, moving the Black community in a more progressive direction, and polls show Latinos indeed getting “fired up, ready to go” on Obama’s behalf.
More than that, they were successful on a moral level. The problem many in the progressive community have had with the Obama administration is that it hasn’t taken enough strong, moral positions like these two.
Find me a progressive who doesn’t wonder how Obama — mesmerizing orator that he is — could not make his way to Madison, Wisconsin, once this whole past year to rally the pubic service union members.
Show me a left-leaning Democrat who energetically backed Obama’s 2008 campaign who doesn’t wonder how Obama — potential lightening rod for change that he is — couldn’t make it to a single Occupy encampment to express support in the moral battle against economic injustice.
Point out one liberal…well, you know the script. We’ve all got our laundry list of this administration’s promises broken, opportunities missed, and feckless compromises made.
As Marianne Williamson, the New Age spiritual activist, said at a delightful presentation in Santa Monica Monday night, “People respond to conviction.”
President Obama showed conviction with his stances on marriage equality and justice for DREAMers — and that has paid off. We can only pray for more of the same, both from the President and from those on the Left who need to press him time and time again the way these two communities have.
Dick Price is Editor of the LA Progressive. With his wife Sharon, he publishes several other print and online newsletters on political and social justice issues. He has worked in publishing as a writer, editor, and publisher for a quarter century, currently serving as associate publisher for the IEEE Computer Society. In earlier releases, he was a cab driver, bartender, construction worker, soldier, and farmhand, and for many years helped operate a nonprofit halfway house for homeless alcoholics and addicts.
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