Tuesday, November 06, 2012

What I Like About Obama: The Personal Reason

I believe that Barack Obama is the person most like me who will ever be president of the United States.  And the Obama family is the most like my family that will ever occupy the White House.

Barack Obama is a year younger than me.  I am conscious of being right on the cusp between the Baby Boomer generation and Generation X.  As I get older, I side more and more with the younger generation, the Xers.  Barack Obama is clearly a Gen Xer - a pragmatist who rebuilds basic institutions, willing to compromise to get practical reforms moving.  That is my attitude toward politics, large and small, as well.

Barack and Michelle Obama are meritocrats from financially modest backgrounds who made their way by academic success.  They finished their schooling at Harvard, which my wife and I, who did our graduate work at Yale, do not hold against them.

The Obamas are long and solidly married, and devoted parents. The Gruntleds married younger, so our kids are older, but I predict that Malia and Sasha Obama will likewise be successful students.  When Malia is ready for college in a couple of years, I imagine there will be stiff competition, especially between Columbia and Princeton, her parents' alma maters.

The Obamas are mainline Christians from a Reformed tradition of stewardship for society. Their faith informs their politics - including a firm sense that church and state should be separated for the good of each.

The Obamas were raised with the Civil Rights movement as the living chapter of the long sacred history of America, a heroic fulfillment of the long-denied promise of our nation's birth.  The Gruntleds see American history the same way. We have a triptych over our fireplace, surrounding the many family pictures: Lincoln, Martin Luther King, and above all, Jesus, in Rembrandt's rendition.

I feel a personal connection to Barack Obama that I am not likely to feel for any other president. I happily voted for him before, and again today.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

What I Like About Obama: The Joshua Generation

One of the greatest achievements of President Barack Obama is how little we talk about him now as the first black president.

Four years ago, candidate Obama was very much seen as the great hope of the Joshua generation of black leaders to complete the civil rights revolution wrought by the Moses generation of Martin Luther King and his contemporaries.  Obama himself honored his elders, and sought to carry forward the mantle honorably.

It is a huge measure of his success that now his supporters, like me, point to his solid record of practical achievements in righting the ship of state from the disaster of the previous administration, and making dozens of improvements in how government functions.  Likewise, Obama's opponents attack him for many things, but only rarely for his blackness.

To be sure, Barack Obama's election to the presidency brought the racists out of the woodwork of American politics.  And some of his most vociferous and poisonous opponents are motivated by racism, which they sometimes foreground in their attacks.
NOTE: I am not saying that all opponents of Pres. Obama are racists.  Most of just Republicans, opposing the Democrat, in the most ordinary of ways.

I think that anti-black racism is the original sin of America.  I therefore believed four years ago that in electing a black president, American had taken a giant step forward.  And in electing a hugely accomplished meritocrat, married to another hugely accomplished meritocrat, who were devoted parents, committed church members, patriotic citizens - in short, just what we usually want our First Family to be - the Obamas made it clear that there were plenty of African-Americans ready and able to take their place in the leading classes of ordinary, bourgeois America.

Barack Obama was elected as, among other things, the first black president, and that mattered a great deal.  But he will be re-elected (I believe) as just the president, and that matters more.