Stephen Colbert, the political satirist, published one of his occasional letters in the New York Times. This one came on the heels of last week’s election.
“In a slightly parallel universe,” he wrote, “it would be interesting to see how Democratic senators would have fared if instead of running from President Obama, they had embraced this leader who saved the country from another depression; saved the auto industry; brought unemployment down from 10 percent to below 6 percent; killed America’s greatest enemy, Osama bin Laden; passed health insurance reform; and put out constant fires.
“If instead of embracing the flawed media narration of a failed presidency,” Colbert added, “Democratic senatorial candidates had embraced Mr. Obama’s monumental accomplishments, I believe they would be returning to Washington next year as senators, not as lobbyists.”
In fact, five of the senatorial candidates Obama campaigned for in the last days of the election lost. Four others won, all in blue states.
From the beginning I thought Obama was too willing to compromise on reforming health care with Republicans whose goal was to cripple his presidency. Some days I wanted to see Obama take a punch and give one or two in return. But it wasn’t his style. The country may not have been up to it.
American democracy is still a work in progress. Sometimes Obama talked too long but it was in the tradition of some of his celebrated predecessors. The story is told about a visitor who had an appointment to see Theodore Roosevelt at the White House. He came out looking dazed. A friend asked what he’d told the president. He never got the chance. “I told him my name,” he said. “And he talked for an hour.”
When Obama was elected president on November 7, 2008 it really did seem like morning in America. The headline in the New York Times the next day cried out: “Racial Barrier Falls in Decisive Victory.” The story from the Times’ Adam Nagourney’s said:
Obama’s election “swept away the last racial barrier in American politics with ease as the country chose him as its first black chief executive. The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis – a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president (George W. Bush) and his economic and foreign policies and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for change and the direction and the tone of the county.”
It seems like a half-century ago when I read the piece, but it really was only yesterday.
This article originally appeared in the San Leandro Times.