Happy Independence Day! I mean that with all sincerity. A quick scroll of the posts and news I missed over the last week or so while hiding out in a warm tropical paradise tells me a little hope is in order, stat. Be forewarned: This post will not tell you how miserable our government is, or how awful our lives are, or how corporations own us all. If you were looking for that, skip over this one and look around. You’ll find plenty of folks elsewhere to reinforce that belief. I prefer success, and especially hope.
I am by nature an optimist. That doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the snark and snipe games as much as the next guy, but my natural inclination is to see the good rather than the bad. Despite popular themes, far more good has come out of the past 18 months of the Obama administration than bad. And that good is only now beginning to hatch. Is it as good as it gets? No. Can it be better? Sure, just ask any of the folks who lost their unemployment benefits (thanks to Republicans) or have exhausted them. Even so, what I see is a half-full glass that needs to be filled more, but still offers a refreshing break.
How many of you can count the number of accomplishments this administration has actually delivered over the past 18 months? Friends are working on a detailed list now, and the number of substantial, documented, quantifiable accomplishments of this President is well over 300. So far.
300 substantial positive changes in 18 months. That’s a remarkable number, certainly far more than we’d have seen if Almost-President McCain and Quitter Palin had been elected. Accomplishments that invest in present and future. Some correct past mistakes. Others seek to establish a strong foundation to build a future for us all. Still others affirm a commitment to opportunity for all of us.
Here are a few easily-forgotten examples.
- Offshore tax haven closure, which benefited rich investors, outsourcers and corporate tax dodgers. [Reference]
- Reformed Credit Card laws, adding consumer protections against predatory credit card lenders [Reference]
- Doubled federal funding for clean fuel research [Reference]
- Expanded Pell grants, enabling more low-income students to go to college. [Reference]
- Established climate change as a policy priority and set benchmarks for efficient energy standards. [Reference]
These accomplishments stand next to the ones most obvious: Turning the economy around, restoring our international standing, initiating a call for an end to nuclear proliferation worldwide, and getting universal health care passed, to name a few.
For those of you who are already sputtering “but, but, but….” and pointing out how each of the initiatives I listed or mentioned are impure, or somehow flawed from the original vision, I offer this: Legislation is an act of Congress. The health care bill, for example, teetered on the very, very edge of what was legislatively possible given the players in the House and in the Senate. One look at the vote counts should be all it takes to understand what that means. Changing one small provision could have killed the entire effort. Instead, we have a future which includes coverage for all, and subsidized coverage for those who cannot afford any health care, covered or otherwise.
All of this — all 300 separate accomplishments — are a down payment on future progress. This is what change looks like. It looks incremental, not immediate, and moves slower than any of us want. Some say it wears the tarnish of compromised promises. I say it wears the patina of unrivaled effort.
It is July 4, 2010. In 4 months, there will be an election. What is said today matters to that election of tomorrow. Ignoring what has been done in this short time will not win those elections. Using what has been done in 18 months to build upon a better, more progressive Congress will not only win elections, it will lay the foundation for more progress and more opportunity to rebuild what conservatives have spent the past 40 years tearing down.
Blue America is already working toward that future. If hope is kept at the forefront — yes, HOPE — we will make opportunities to perfect and refine the work in progress.
Hope pushed our founding fathers to sign their names to a Declaration of Independence. This country was founded on hope and optimism, not despair and criticism.
I don’t cut President Obama much slack — the job is too important for that and he doesn’t need patronizing sycophants — but on Independence Day it pays to remember that the election of the first black president is still, as the Veep would say, a Big F$@#ing Deal:
I wonder too about whether President McCain would really care enough to do this for the baby turtles in the Gulf.
Cross-posted to Crooks & Liars