The Case For Obama As A Great President

Now that Election Day is here, it’s worth taking a moment to look at the case for President Obama’s reelection.

There’s been a lot of liberal hand-wringing over Obama’s performance in office: He didn’t make a strong case for the Affordable Care Act; he underestimated the size of the stimulus needed and he didn’t act nearly as quickly as people wanted on a range of issues, including the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and marriage equality.

For anyone caught up in the Hope and Change rhetoric of the 2008 election, the actual Obama presidency looks a lot like a boyfriend who seemed really great when you were dating him and turned out to be a disappointment when you moved in together.

But disappointment about Obama may say more about the expectations that people placed on him than on his performance. If you looked closely at Obama in 2008, he was never the most liberal of candidates (that really was Hillary) or the one likeliest to radically transform the political landscape. He’s an incrementalist, cautious about risk and not willing to overturn the status quo.

All that said, Obama has accomplished great things, far beyond the record of most other presidents. The economy may not exactly be humming, but Obama steered the country through the worst financial crisis in 80 years. He undertook a series of foreign policy decisions that put the U.S. on the right side of change. And he signed a federal law to transform health care, which will provide insurance to tens of millions of people who currently don’t have it. With that accomplishment alone, Obama succeeded where every Democratic president since Harry Truman had failed.

But if you do want to look at transformation, look at Obama’s record on gay issues. He shepherded through the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which resulted in images like this. He refused to defend DOMA and then came out in favor of marriage equality, inextricably linking the Democrats to the issue  forever and giving it the seal of political acceptance. No Democrat running for president after this will be able to reverse course without seeming out of the party mainstream.

Now you can argue, with good reason, that Obama hasn’t been at the forefront of these changes: He didn’t jump on halting discharges under DADT, preferring instead to wait for its repeal to play itself out over the course of more than a year. He dragged his feet on marriage equality until his vice president apparently backed him into it. In general, Obama doesn’t seem all that fired up about gay rights. He says the right things, but you can’t quite picture him as the Grand Marshall in a Pride Parade, waving as floats of muscle boys and drag queens drift by.

For all the lack of drama and fanfare, Obama has done the right things, and that’s what counts. He’s accomplished more on gay rights than any other president before him and by extension more on civil rights than any president since Lyndon Johnson. Consider the last Democrat who was president. Bill Clinton gave us Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell inadvertently because of his bungled attempt to repeal the ban on gays in the military. He also gave us DOMA and used it as a cudgel against the community to win reelection. Obama’s way of doing things may not be exactly what we would wish for or as quickly as we would wish for them, but what matters is that he did them and did so in the face of a Republican opposition determined to stop him in his tracks.

Obama is not a great politician. Anyone who watched his first debate performance could tell you as much. But history doesn’t judge presidents on how great they are at politics. They get judged on what they did. On that score, there’s every reason to believe history will treat Obama very kindly.  It may even determine that Obama was, indeed, a great president. We’ll find out soon if the voters agree.

Photo: BarackObama.com

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  • brent

    The big problem with Obama is that he is a supporter of John Maynard Keynes.

  • Kieran

    Just voted for President Obama for two main reasons. (1) His position on gay rights. (2)He’s less likely to get America involved in another foolish neo-Con War.

  • Ronbo

    Yes, it was “expectations” that hurt Obama’s enthusiam among Democrats.

    We expected a Democrat and got…

    Heritage Foundation RomneyCare (not healthcare)…
    Increased Military Spending (now paying corporations for their private contractors)…
    More prosecution of Whistle-blowers than all former Republican Presidents combined …
    Presidential approved assassinations…
    Elimination of Habeus Corpus (permanent imprisonment without the right to trial)…
    The promise of cutting Social Security and Medicare…
    A President who claims that Ronald Reagan was one of his heros.

    There isn’t a dime’s difference between Obama and a Republican. I don’t know why queerty tells us otherwise. Nixon acted like a flaming liberal compared to this Republican Trojan Horse.

    The American public could be convinced that the alphabet begins with Y, because Y is closer to the beginning of the alphabet than Z.

    The only loser in this election is the public. The 1% cheers for both!

  • alterego1980

    @Ronbo: I’m sad for you. Your assessment is far from the truth. When you say there is no difference between Obama and a Republican, you are either being sarcastic or you don’t know what the Republicans policies are. Increased military spending? he continues to shepherd a downsize in the military and military spending by billions of dollars, Cutting Social Security and Medicare? you have the wrong candidate for that one. Don’t leave out gay/civil rights, womens rights, DREAM Act, Consumer protection act, and the list goes on…No one can do it all in 4 years and Obama is no exception. But he is also no Republican. Go ahead and pedal your lies somewhere else…

  • oldhouseguy

    Wow, I’m so proud to be a gay man, except when I read their mindless sheep mentality following of Obama. Really, why is that gay men think to be “a good gay” means following the liberals …”because liberals accept us”? Think again…drones… Gays self stereotype themselves to the point of ad nauseum.

  • mpwaite

    I have been on the fence in this election. I was one of the people that felt like Obama didn’t measure up to his promises (not the ones promoting the gay agenda.. yes we do have one folks) but the economy.. And let me say that by “on the fence” I meant about whether I would vote or not.. I WOULD NEVER VOTE FOR THE LIAR ROMNEY OR (R)MONEY!! What I mean is that I became disenfranchised with the YES WE CAN and CHANGE motto.. However, I looked back at Bill Clinton’s administration and what he inherited for the FIRST BUSH!! the SAME MESS FOLKS!!! Then I remembered the first 4 years were hairy, however, we started to see the light at the end of the tunnel…(LIKE WE ARE SEEING NOW).. Then I remembered how GREAT the economy was at the end of Clinton’s presidency.. And it was the BEST SHAPE this country had been in in decades.. So now.. here we are again standing on the precipice of having the chance to DO IT RIGHT THIS TIME.. I seriously doubt we will have a “stained dress incident” from Obama.. CHILE.. MICHELLE WOULD SNATCH BARRACK BALDHEADED and then go GHETTO ON THE SISTER WHO FOOLED WITH HER MISTER… OKURRR????!!!!

    So yes, I see us in the same position we were at the end of the first term…..and like the Clintons……President Barrack Obama will take us into the second term and well will see CHANGE……….

    So today my friends I became a OBAMA SUPPORTER AGAIN!!!!

  • Dumdum

    @oldhouseguy: Very funny. So transparent you person. Sheep??? Strange choice of words, for a gay man. Sounds more like the Christian term for do not think for yourself let me do that for YOU. One for the most part cannot tell a TRUE QUEER how to think. You people have tried that for centuries, and it never worked. So piss off you bloody wankers !!! WE ARE QUEER, WE ARE HERE, DEAL WITH IT!!!!!!!!!!! HONESTLY GIVE ME A BREAK……

  • Dumdum

    NOW AS FOR GREAT??? Grate yes. Better? Certainly better than the alternative. That a person of color was elected over a woman??? Still in shock but understandable given the patriarchal aspect of society ever since Lilith told Adam to go F**K himself. In myth there is a nugget of truth.

  • brent

    @2eo: You are only telling half the story. The democrats are also making us look bad by allowing Hitler and Mickey Mouse as registered voters.

  • Dumdum

    @mpwaite: THAT WAS BRILLIANT!!!

  • Matt

    I can’t believe this headline. Obama has been an awful president!

  • jmmartin

    Not a great president but a damned good one. His style is not up to the task: in such difficult times, one longs for an LBJ, capable to leaving the Oval and going down the street, a bottle of bond in hand the better to sit down with an opponent in the Senate offices and persuade him to vote for this or that bill. Obama had the misfortune to come along at a time when the right and left are so highly polarized nobody remembers that politics is the art of the possible so long as all are willing to make compromises. Unfortunately, “compromise” has come to be too closely associated with “losing.” Obama’s gifts to lgbt-queer people are extraordinary and yet they do not transcend his considerable failures. Nevertheless, dealt the hand that he was, he has done some pretty remarkable things.

  • manjoguy

    Obama has not been a good president. Lying about Benghazi and Fast and Furious, misleading electorate about Obamacare (“It’s not a tax”), choosing “tax cheat” Geithner and “my people” Eric Holder for his cabinet, increasing the deficit, eliminating vouchers for D.C. students, and promulgating class and race division, …

  • jeff4justice

    The 2-party system = more war, poverty & erosion of civil liberties.
    The Democrats have moved so far to the right with their wars.
    Democrats helped vote in Alito and Roberts to the Supreme Court.
    When Democrats had a majority they cried Republican obstructionism when they failed to deliver. So doesn’t that mean they can obstruct Republicans when they’re a minority?

    Obama is another corporate puppet, war mongering, dick.

  • Yang Tai

    Obama is a horrible president and a horrible human being..he believes in central planning and I’m sorry gay issues aren’t important to anyone but gays..he needs to go

  • dbmyers

    @alterego1980: Here Here. So, as the man says, go away troll!

  • Dumdum

    Nana nana boo boo stick your heads in doo doo.

  • Dumdum

    @Yang Tai: How can you even say that? Do you know president Obama personally? Well he won, so you can just go cry into your pressed duck and dried sea horses. Or maybe some live newborn baby rats fried in hot oil will make you feel better. Personally I like the snake bile and blood combo.

  • Matt

    What a sad day for America with the re-election of Barack Hussein Obama. Unemployment at 8%, gas prices doubled in four years, 10 million more people of food stamps than 4 years ago. People don’t want to help themselves. As I saw them say on tv, “We don’t have to work. Obama will take care of us.”

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