I was sitting at a small window table overlooking the Mediterranean sea, sipping my coffee and eating scrambled eggs that had the consistency of cottage cheese when my waiter, Giovani—a tall man with deep-set eyes, a 5-o'clock shadow and dimples so deep I'd have liked to drink Limoncello out of them—asked me if I'd like a newspaper. My instinct was to say yes, but then I considered the scene and opted out. Why ruin a good thing? I thought. It had been relaxing to disconnect from the world of punditry for a week, and I just couldn't gag down the verbal equivalent of my runny eggs. A headline here and there had been more than enough to sustain my inner wonk.
Crazy things happened while I was away: It would seem that Barack Obama up grew a pair—or, at least, something resembling one. Might I say: It's about time. Not only did he throw some elbows and back-room-deal his way toward the signing of the healthcare reform bill last week, but last Friday, he also announced that he's revamping his costly foreclosure program in an effort to truly help those in need. And this past Saturday, he had the audacity to make 15 important recess appointments that have been blocked by Republican obstructionists for months.
Who does Obama think he is? The man who was elected by an angry but hopeful majority in November 2008—many of them feeling let down and left behind as of late. I'm glad he remembers it now and hope it's not too late to recapture the voters who may have thrown their hands in the air where he's concerned.
“The United States Senate has the responsibility to approve or disapprove of my nominees,” he said in a powerful public statement. “But if, in the interest of scoring political points, Republicans in the Senate refuse to exercise that responsibility, I must act in the interest of the American people and exercise my authority to fill these positions on an interim basis.” In other words: Talk to the hand, GOP. Now, here's your dunce cap, go sit in the corner. Sort of makes little ol' disenfranchised me want to do my naked end-zone dance again.
On Election Night, drunk on too much champagne and the naïve possibility that one intellectual human being was going to change the course of history, I stripped out of my clothes—except for running shoes and a pair of white, over-the-knee socks with black stars—slapped Obama stickers on each tit and one on each booty cheek, and I ran.
Many of us, I know, have long since let go of the inspiration and hope that drove us to the polls with our proverbial sleeves rolled to our elbows, ready to dig in the mud if it meant we could effect change. However, sustaining that kind of hopefulness has proved impossible as we've watched the obstreperous behavior of the men and women of our Congress vie for political pole position at the expense of the average American citizen. Shame on them.
It was Grover Norquist, the conservative anti-tax advocate, who several years ago said his goal was to “get [government] down to the size where we can drown it in a bathtub.” So far, it's thrashing about in the water.
It's a vicious and intentionally created cycle: If you keep your citizenry always with its toes at the edge of the abyss—out of work, uninsured, desperate not to go over—there isn't much energy left for fighting the Norquistians who really want to see Obama et al. fail rather than see their fellow citizens have more and better opportunities.
I know that I'm busy clinging to the shadow of a miserable job just so my family has healthcare coverage. I know several people who have been laid off and are looking for work, and one friend is losing his house. Our schools are a mess, and social services are being cut. Trying to change the world through activism and letter writing and online-petition signing isn't exactly a priority for those of us treading water. Insecurity of this kind leaves people open to manipulation through fear, and GOP operatives, wing-nuts and tea baggers are doing their best to capitalize on that. During this past year and some months, it hasn't seemed terribly farfetched that a man like Mitt Romney might become president in 2012.
The notion that, prior to Scott Brown's election, Obama enjoyed an overwhelming majority in Congress is to ignore its many right-leaning Democrats. They may have been elected in conservative districts, but they aren't really Democrats and are part of the problem. These people need to be expunged from the ranks. In fact, I think most of our congressional members should be thrown out. We need a do-over.
Yet, all I can see from where I sit is that our elected officials have their fingers in the air, waiting to see which way the wind is blowing. Their goals seem to be completely incongruent with what is best for those they were elected to represent.
It's hardly surprising that we find ourselves in the situation we're in. But Obama is taking a stand—finally—against the big, bad, insured-for-the-rest-of-their-lives bullies of Congress. I admit to taking great pleasure in reading about his unilateral action, but not so much that I'm going to pick up a paper in the morning or dash through the streets of San Diego naked. It takes a special kind of man to make me do that.
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