Barack Obama is Not My Boyfriend Anymore

2 Jun

Photo used under a Creative Commons license by flickr user waltarrrr

My dears, it has come to this. A while ago, Bill Maher did a bit telling liberals to stop fawning over Obama because “He’s your president, not your boyfriend.” I read this quote on on Glenn Greenwald’s blog and back then I was like, “right on, right on.” But it was like one of those empty church amens that people do when they’re not really listening all that well, but know they should be agreeing with whatever was just said.

I don’t think I’m the only liberal who had a little bit of “Barack Obama is my boyfriend” syndrome. And who could blame us? After eight years of being stuck in a terrible, unfulfilling relationship with Stifler from American Pie, we were all so glad to finally meet this wonderful guy who promised to make us forget all about that Bush fellow.

Let’s take a moment to remember the times, shall we?

When we first saw him in 2004, we were struck by how perfect Barack Hussein Obama was. Although we’d been told that it wasn’t healthy to pin too many hopes on a guy we’d just met, we couldn’t help but imagine how wonderful it would be to be in a relationship with him. Our new boyfriend Barack was the perfect man– Larenz Tate in Love Jones, if you will. He was so smart and soulful, whispering sweet nothings about hope and dreams and change into our ears. He read to us from his books, and we were blown away by how beautifully he could put words together. By every measure, he was everything our ex wasn’t: cosmopolitan, intellectual, responsive to our needs, and respectful of our feelings. Unlike the last guy, he wasn’t an ignorant oaf who embarrassed us at parties. No, we didn’t have to worry about Barack choking on hors d’oeuvres or repeatedly mispronouncing our colleague’s name. He had a law degree and spoke a couple of languages, so we could introduce him to even our most bougie friends and he’d fit right in. Lest you think he was Carlton Banks, Barack also had a subtle way of reminding us that he was down, a Chicago boy who knew how to brush the dirt off his shoulders. After years of dealing with a controlling partner, it was refreshing that Barack didn’t want to isolate us from our friends, but encouraged us to stay close with all of our mates around the world. We didn’t even mind that he was technically already taken; seeing how wonderful he was with his other family made us love him even more.

So we liked it, and we put a ring on it. Our wedding was fantastic—Aretha sang, and we partied for hours on end. We even got a little vindictive, and made sure our ex was there to see how much happier we were with our new boo. And then we coldly told G.W., “to the left.”

It was really quite terrific for a while, and we woke up everyday pinching ourselves thinking, “Am I really married to this guy? Is it possible for men to really be this wonderful?” It was astounding to us that when there was a problem, he’d actually listen to us and try to fix it, instead of shutting us down and claiming that he alone was “the decider” in the relationship. It took us an even longer time to get over the fact that he would apologize for mistakes that he’d made! What was that thing our ex used to say about the “bigotry of low expectations” again?

Now we’re a year and a half into it, and like all marriages, the shine is starting to wear off a little bit.  We’re definitely still happy, but we want more.  While we wouldn’t dream of going back to our old guy,  we’re starting to feel like our relationship with Barack has plateaued a bit. When we were young and still courting, he made us imagine all these fantastic possibilities, and now that we know how wonderful relationships can be, we can’t settle for anything less than what he promised us. Even though we did our fair share of gawking in the early days, the fact that he still looks good in a tux and can make us smile just isn’t enough anymore. Maybe our relationship problems stem from Barack having to deal with the fact that our ex maxed out our credit cards and started feuds with a bunch of our neighbors before he peaced out. In any case, something has got to change.

So how do we emerge from this relationship malaise, and get the unabashedly progressive marriage we want and deserve? Well, the first step is refusing to look at any more adorable pictures of this man (and his other family) because they always make us forget why we were so mad at him in the first place. Avert your eyes from that smile, we have serious things to be angry about! Like why he didn’t push for the public option like he said he would. Or why he’s been so slow to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. And while we’re at it, how come he’s starting to behave a lot like our ex did, what with all that  sinister maneuvering to avoid giving detainees their constitutionally protected right to due process?

This isn’t the guy we married, the first guy many of us decided to trust after we’d been in a series of crappy relationships. I mean, we wore t-shirts with his face on them!

We still see a little of the old Barack here and there, enough to keep the spark alive. But if this is going to last, we need to start demanding that Senator Barack Obama show up more often and remind us why we were totally bonkers over him in the first place. That Barack spoke out against the War in Iraq and opposed the arbitrary detention of insurgents and American citizens.

That guy, with his dreams of transformative change, was–to borrow his term—audacious.

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6 Responses to “Barack Obama is Not My Boyfriend Anymore”

  1. DCDistrictDiva June 2, 2010 at 12:07 pm #

    This is too cute! And it goes without saying that its well-written — but I’ll say it anyway! I love your writing.

    But, to the point, I’ve got to say what Obama said to someone who heckled him on DADT last week: “‘do it faster?’ Come on, man!” http://voices.washingtonpost.com/federal-eye/2010/05/obama_heckled_again_over_dont.html. Seriously, he has pushed legislation on DADT, it’s getting repealed. In the grand scheme of importance, it wasn’t as big of a deal as other policies, so yeah, it really could wait until his SECOND year to get done. And he’s getting it done. Honestly? This is not something he should still be getting criticized over.

    He passed the most extensive health care reform in decades! Considering the lack of support from stupid Democrats who don’t understand what “yo, we just won” means, I think Obama did an amazing job surviving health care reform. Since it is a part of my job to monitor all of the foolishness and fall-out that resulted from his efforts to pass reform, I have to say, I –and my colleagues– were not only surprised that he got anything passed at all, we were also grateful.

    There are huge benefits in this reform for all Americans, particularly the most needy among us. It is an absolutely imperfect law, but it will be upheld as constitutional, despite these frivolous legal challenges and constant smears and ad hominem attacks against him and members of his administration. (Seriously, did you see the Obama is Hitler and the Brownshirts are coming anti-health care reform tomfoolery? And you wanted him to do more than he did?)

    He is removing the troops from Iraq just like he promised. He said the troops will all be out by July, so we will see. He has deployed more troops to Afghanistan as he promised he would do during the campaign.

    According to Politifact, he has kept 113 campaign promises thus far, has 253 in the works, has compromised on 34, and has broken 19. I’m sorry: That’s pretty freakin’ amazing. http://politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/

    I think if we would actually stop looking at him as our perfect boyfriend / god-man and instead as our human President — who is not only battling racism within and without his own party — we will see he is really doing the best he can. And he’s actually doing a pretty great job, all things considered.

    • mudiwudi June 3, 2010 at 2:03 am #

      Thanks for the props Diva–it means a lot! And I love that you wrote back– I crave feedback (and in this case, pushback).

      I certainly agree that the expectations people had were crazy unrealistic, something which I tried to satirize a bit here. He was and remains the best choice we had in that election. At the same time, I also feel like he gets too much of a pass at times among liberals because we’re just supposed to assume that he’s earnestly trying, and that it’s Congress that’s standing in his way. But on a lot of things (detainee issues in particular) it’s the White House that’s dictating the agenda, so we ought to hold their feet to the fire when they fail to meet their own previously articulated standards.

      On DADT– frankly, it took way too long. I’m not saying it should have been very first before the bailout and healthcare. But, he could have used an executive order to prevent the enforcement of the policy even before the drawn out Congressional process was underway. He chose not to, even though I actually think he would have had some political cover from the number of military people who have come out in favor as well as turning public opinion. Your crazies are going to accuse you of destroying America’s moral fiber no matter what, so that can’t be a legitimate cop-out. And the main undercurrent of all the criticism here (if you read the Greenwald post I linked to in the beginning) is that Obama seems far more willing to roll on progressives in service of “bipartisanship,” i.e. it’s liberals who are always forced to cede ground. And if you campaigned on being “a fierce advocate” for gay rights or whatever, your constituents deserve to be mad about something that you yourself characterized as a pressing civil rights issue.

      As for the public option, they clearly didn’t care too much about trying to saving that. Obviously, I’m incredibly happy that the bill was passed, but this is again another instance were the progressive agenda was too easily sacrificed. And the White House can’t even blame Congressional Dems for this, because it’s well documented that they tried very hard to get Weiner et. al to stop pushing for the public option, and even went so far as to threaten not to help liberal Congresspeople with their campaigns if they defied the WH’s wishes.
      http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2009/08/19/obama/index.html From what I understand, many polls indicated that people were in favor of the public option, and given that he’s being smeared as a Leninist anyway, he might as well have gone all the way.

      And the last area where his actions have been wholly indefensible is the approach to detainees. Everything else I can concede except for this. This was the one area in which Obama really could have made a dramatic difference, and the one area which I feel is especially pressing and has enormous implications for the future of this country. Save for the (now stalled) attempt to shut down Guantanamo, he has upheld the Bush line on almost everything else. Under Obama, the Justice Department is still arguing that people who have been detained or rendered to other countries can’t file suit against the government because of “state secrets,” and they have also adopted the line that the President has the power to indefinitely detain people without due process if he determines that they are dangerous enough. As a Senator and then as a candidate, he was on the record against this so many times that it’s really a pretty craven betrayal. And this is the one thing that a lot of liberals freaked out about while Bush was President, the way that Bush was nefariously assuming all these “executive” powers. Obama is still doing a lot of the same, and I think it’s vital that people make more noise about it, because he unambiguously said that his election represented a shift away from that approach.

      I think he’s doing a good job, given the challenges. He’s already guaranteed a solid spot in the text books because of the historic nature of his campaign. But I really think that he has the potential to join the pantheon of great presidents, and I fear his reluctance to stick his neck out a bit more will cost him that.

  2. Sarah Baram June 3, 2010 at 4:33 pm #

    Loved your post, but it is always interesting running in to someone who is so “infatuated” with President Obama. Sure, he has kept a majority of his promises… But has he done anything THAT great? Our economy is still horrific, and finding a job is still a year long ideal. And now health care reform? Hm, everyone will regret that one soon enough. Socialism never works, you always run out of everyone’s money, everyone will get tired of paying for every last person’s health care. Or, the money will simply run out… Just like it has been in Social Security, another great bad idea for Americans.
    President Obama was great at campaigning. He had an awesome marketing team and even better speaking techniques. He new just how to get everyone amped up, especially young voters. Many of those young voters too young to understand what he was really wanting to do, of course.
    I do not completely disapprove of President Obama, but I do believe he is more concerned with becoming a pop culture icon rather than a great President. Which in turn, confuses me why you want to see more of him. Are you not on Facebook, or Twitter? Or iTunes? Have you seen him on television lately talking about the NBA? The man is everywhere, which forces the question… What exactly is he doing for our country right now?

    • mudiwudi June 7, 2010 at 2:40 am #

      Hey Sarah. Thanks for reading, and for the comment. I always like to read views that diverge from my own.

      The main point of my post was to say that I think Obama could/should be doing more. But I really think that he’s doing a good job given the enormous challenges he’s been presented with in his first term (something which I now feel I should have made clearer in the original post). Health care was a pretty impressive first year accomplishment, and you and I definitely disagree a lot on the nature of that bill. I don’t think it was socialist by any stretch of the imagination, and it will do a lot to bring people into the system who were previously excluded while doing nothing to endanger anyone’s liberty.
      And I certainly disagree with your claim that ” he is more concerned with becoming a pop culture icon rather than a great President.” I’ve found that reasonable people on both sides acknowledge that Obama is a fairly serious guy, someone who is by nature contemplative and measured. If anything, people have accused of him of being TOO inward, of not playing politics when it was necessary. I think he’s made it fairly clear that he wants to go down in history as a great President. The man had health care reform as part of his first year agenda! If that doesn’t communicate seriousness, I don’t know what does.

      As for the NBA, iTunes, and Facebook stuff. C’mon! All public figures do a lot of really trivial stuff to please their constituents/sate the media’s perpetual need for a story/e.t.c. I seriously doubt that any of the time spent talking to the NBA adversely affected his ability to solve the economic crisis. And no, Barack Obama does not actually update his own Facebook, so you don’t have to worry about him not focusing on the country’s problems while he checks his profile. A lowly staff member probably does that.

  3. NG June 9, 2010 at 2:42 pm #

    As an observer of the American political process (and newly minted citizen), I find the sphere to be wrought with contradictions and incongruous ideologies. There is no doubt that Barack Obama is an intriguing man. In fact, I keep hoping and praying that no dirt ever comes out. The truth is, Barry means different things to different people, however, he is still a politician. Lest we forget that the nature of politicians is capricious, leaving little room for expectations or long term relationships (in the case of your original post). So when one looks at Barack Obama the candidate, he had to utter certain phrases and buzz words in order to win the hearts and minds of the electorate, including people who had declared that they ‘would never vote for no Osama’. He successfully did this, throwing the country into a dizzying frenzy of “Si se puede”. Enough respect to the man for running a successful campaign. That’s what politicians do. Now, Barack Obama, POTUS, is a different story. Faced with the challenge of outrunning the pungent aroma of his predecessor’s epic miscalculations, the man wakes up to the many expectations from all corners of the electorate. This is where pragmatism must take hold, temporarily putting the romanticism to the sidelines (this may not come back again during his presidency). The thing about the presidency is that one must possess the gift of maneuver. Realistically, this means that not all people will be happy all the time. Props to 43 for saying, “This is not a popularity contest.” America finds itself in an unexpected demotion, no longer the hegemonic power (though everybody else saw it coming) and dealing with heavy domestic and international issues. Barack Obama will have to maneuver his way around these issues, and some will take priority over others. The unfortunate part is that his prioritization will become ammunition for naysayers to slander his efforts and character. The thing about boyfriends is that over time, you see another side of them. Are the things you now see a deal breaker, or do you still hold on to the fundamental belief that he really is a good guy just trying to do the right thing (given the information and resources available at the time)?

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