Happy Fiftieth Birthday. As the First Lady said in her birthday email to supporters on Thursday, you’re earning every gray hair. You must have great empathy for Atlas these days. And he for you. Only he knows what it is like to be in your position.
Outside of your family and friends, no one loves you more than I do. Ask anyone who knows me.
You seemed to have appeared like a God-given antidote to the tenor and the policies of the George W. Bush administration. I started volunteering for your last campaign in February of 2007. I helped found a group of volunteers that grew from 4 to 2,000 members, winning for you in both the primary and general election by landslides in our congressional district. I went to Camp Obama. I met you three times, Michelle twice, and Joe Biden once during the course of the campaign. You and I bonded over being left-handed Leos.
I met the man who would become the father of my child at a fundraiser for your campaign. At another event, I met Arianna Huffington, who asked me to blog for her. I donated the maximum amount to the campaign, which was a great deal of money for a young, unknown actress with student loans and a car note. I had total faith in your assured victory, even when you lagged 20 points behind Hillary. I went to the Convention to see you accept the nomination. I stood a couple of hundred feet away from the Capitol, as you took your inaugural oath.
I have phone banked, knocked on doors, registered voters, given speeches at rallies, talked to the press, learned voter software, cut turf, organized canvasses in four languages, asked questions on CNN/YouTube debates, bombarded my Facebook and Twitter updates with words of support for you. I blogged in the Huffington Post on your behalf. I applied for positions in your administration (with all due respect to Kal Penn, he stole my job).
Often, I have incurred great ridicule from the base for my blind devotion — defending your choice of Rick Warren to deliver the benediction at your inauguration, defending your equivocation on gay marriage, defending your compromise on health care, and even defending your compromise on the debt ceiling. In short, I am a total Obama nerd.
Part of my unwavering support for you has been my belief in you as a person, a belief that was born when I saw you deliver your 2004 convention speech for John Kerry and which grew when I read your honest, soul-searching memoir, Dreams from my Father. It grew even more when you raced up the stairs to a donor’s house, defying your Secret Service guys, to shake the hands of us volunteers, saying with youthful enthusiasm, “I remember you guys from yesterday.” And it deepened as you weathered every imaginable buffet to become the first African-American President of the United States of America. My daughter is half-African, half-white-American, like you. She was just born in September of 2010. And she will never know an America that has not had a president who looks like her.
The other part of my support for you has been simple stubbornness. I feel partly responsible for your success. And my bulldog jaws are latched onto that success’s hem, unable to be pried apart. Do not fail me now.
You won as a consensus builder. I have always seen your compromises as your taking the long view. As your being sanguine, sober, responsible, wise. But you also won as an agent of change. Please do not compromise away the store.
Yes, you have won us health care, equal pay for an equal day’s work, insurance for children, ended “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” You’re ending the wars; you killed Osama bin Laden and have all but destroyed Al-Qaeda. You have given more money to education and the arts than any president in history. And you won free birth control for women. In normal times, there would be no argument about your formidable acccompishments.
However, we can all agree these are not normal times. The Tea Party’s treasonous brinksmanship with the U.S. debt ceiling has led to our first credit rating downgrade in history. I know it is only by Standard & Poor’s questionable standards. I know they miscalculated the numbers. But they have not miscalculated the instability of our political system as it exists under the bullying tactics of the far right. Even you have admitted that.
As Marshall Ganz, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government professor who taught us how to organize at Camp Obama, said, “Compromise is not a strategy.” Giving away revenues, not establishing a jobs program, not repealing the Bush tax cuts, leaving Wall Street criminals untouched, allowing unions to be busted without much fanfare, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid to be up for grabs, bargaining away graduate student loans, disowning your great achievement of health care (Obamacare? Yeah, that’s right: Obama cares), negotiating against yourself, succumbing to bullies — these are not strategies for your success, and more importantly, they are not strategies for the success of our nation.
My daughter Bianca is only 10 months old and she is already walking like a champ. She’s so determined. I want to know that the America she inherits is more lustrous, not tarnished, than the America in which I grew up.
I will fight for you in the upcoming campaign with everything I have, in order to prevent a Republican, or unthinkably, a Tea Party candidate from winning the presidency. But in order to fight for you again, I have to know you’re fighting for Bianca and me. Because if not you, then who?
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