Change We Can Believe In

When I was 15 years old, Americans over the age of 18 without felony convictions went to the polls and elected the single stupidest president in the history of this country. George W. Bush is not only without a doubt the least intelligent person to be elected to be head of the US executive branch in over two hundred years, but also one of the least intelligent people to be born anywhere on the planet in over five hundred years.

This was a defining moment in my lifetime because at the age of 14 when the campaign was ramping up, I realized that I would be able to vote in the next national election and so it was important for me to start paying attention to presidential politics. Prior to the 2000 election I had only paid passing attention to the presidency in general. I remembered vaguely liking Clinton, or at least I liked the comedic caricatures of him on various comedy shows like SNL. But it wasn’t until 2000 that I started to pay attention to things like primaries, the electoral college, &c.

It was frustrating to me to know that the result of the election in 2000 was going to shape so many aspects of my life and ultimately the issue was decided by the second most awful state in the Union, Florida.

The most embarrassing part of being an American is not that we elected George W. Bush, because Americans — like college freshman — are shortsighted floozies and are often charmed into one night stands we later regret. The really embarrassing part is that we elected him twice in a fucking row! The eight years of “Dubya”‘s presidency represent the combination of ruthless authoritarianism in the form of constant expansion of executive power, warrantless wiretapping, illegal detentions and torture with incompetent bungling of every single important project from the Iraq war to peace talks between Israel and Palestine.

George W. Bush is a moron, a right-wing conservative lunatic, an unapologetic fundamentalist Christian, and an incompetent leader. There was absolutely nothing for any reasonably intelligent person to like about him, and now, years after the end of his presidency I realize that was the most important thing about him. George W. Bush was a great president because he consistently stood on one side of every issue — the wrong side. My life was so easy to organize when our country was being led by a man that was universally hated by anyone with whom I had anything in common and universally loved by everyone I despised. Asking someone how they felt about Bush was a wonderful litmus test that enabled me to screen people for entrance into my life. In fact I had quite a few friendships based on nothing else but our shared hatred of Bush.

But all that has changed…

We are now about 14 months into the presidency of Barack Obama, a man for whom I cast my second presidential vote. I followed this campaign closely and like many other people whose political opinions fall far to the left, I was so hopeful for his presidency. During the months leading up to the election he seemed to me like some incarnation of Santa Claus for grown-ups, he promised to pull the American troops out of Iraq, close the Guantanamo bay prison, give us universal health care, respect civil liberties, and even hinted that he was somewhat less inclined to seek the death penalty even if he wasn’t entirely against it.

Understandably on that night in November of 2008 when all major news sources were calling the election in his favour we all took to the streets. All of my friends were out marching through Richmond until the wee hours of the morning screaming and celebrating. We thought things were going to change, and why did we think things were going to change? Because Obama told us they would, he told us thousands of times that they would.

Thus far we haven’t pulled our troops out of Iraq, the Guantanamo bay prison is still operating, the health care reform bill that people are lauding like it’s the second coming of Christ is a joke of a compromise with no public option, the Obama Administration has continued to seek the death penalty in the same percentage of federal cases as the Bush Administration, and Barack Obama extended the Patriot Act, the single most despicable piece of legislation written in my lifetime.

I feel personally betrayed by every single failure of this administration and while I would never in a thousand years have voted for McCain, a man so old he doesn’t know what the internet is and so sexist that he voted against an anti-rape amendment, I definitely wish I had simply voted for a third-party candidate or perhaps just given Greg Bennick a write-in vote. Greg Bennick has effected more meaningful progress in the past 14 months than Obama has and he may not have gotten a single vote in the 2008 election.

My disillusionment with the Obama Administration has put me in an awkward position as an activist and as a Hardcore kid because I find myself being really angry with a person who is — vaguely and perhaps only ostensibly — on my side…kinda. This is troublesome because 99% of Americans are only smart enough to perceive politics as a dichotomy of Democrat v Republican, Red State v Blue State, Explorer vs Prius, so I am constantly being perceived as a conservative because I disagree with Obama. Also I’m having so much trouble figuring out who is and isn’t a moron. When Bush was president all the wrong people supported the president and all of the right people hated him, but now it seems like all of the wrong people, and some of the right people hate the president, and some of the right people still support him.

Having a center-left president isn’t all it’s cracked up to be and it’s nerve-wracking for me on a personal level because the enemy of my enemy is NOT my friend by any means. When the health care bill was passed I felt betrayed because it passed without the public option, and so I ended up ranting about how much I hated the bill right alongside all the stupid conservatives in the country and it made me feel gross to almost kind of agree with them even if it was for different reasons, gross like someone had poured cheap beer all over me. Obama registers close to the middle of the political spectrum (and also the middle of the intelligence gauge) and so I can be attacking him from the left (and high end of the intelligence gauge) at the same time as people are attacking him from the right (and the low end of the intelligence gauge), which makes me cringe a little bit.

I’ve used idiots as a compass my entire life in that whenever an idiot applauds something I’m doing, I immediately do something else. So it’s inevitable that I die a little bit inside whenever I criticize Obama and I receive emphatic agreement from idiots who believe that Obama is a socialist, or a Muslim.

The only productive thing for me personally about Obama’s presidency is that it has allowed me to locate the racists in my life with pinpoint accuracy. A mention of Obama is usually enough to cause all the racists in the area to float to the surface, much like firing a cannon across the Mississippi River to raise drowned bodies to the surface, except that this method — unlike the cannon — actually works. I recently had someone tell me that Obama’s election had a lot to do with Kanye West “calling out the black card” (I think she meant to say pulling the race card) which for me was like pulling the mask off the villain at the end of a Scooby Doo episode to discover not just a racist, but an idiot!

People have always called me an optimist for even bothering to vote or follow establishment politics and while I don’t necessarily think that the biggest problems in the world will be addressed by politicians, I do think that there are some issues that could in theory be solved by politics. In a country with any sense of justice, we would have a constitutional amendment banning the death penalty, one guaranteeing universal healthcare for everyone, and another securing the availability of abortions for women with no legal restrictions.

Sadly the only legislation to positively affect me in the past ten years has been Virginia’s limited indoor smoking ban. At this point I’ve got such lowered expectations that a statewide partial ban on indoor smoking coming years later than most other states seemed close enough to a velvet revolution that I was tempted to get together a drum corps and some banners and take to the streets to celebrate some real change.

Barack Obama ordered secret service agents to take my faith in politics out into the Rose Garden and shoot it in the face. But no matter how angry, disappointed, or offended I am I bite my tongue, not because I have any hope left but because I think that it’s not only important to be liked by the right people, but also hated by the wrong people so when conservatives start applauding me for anything I know it’s time to get the hell outta Dodge.

My vote goes to Sarah Palin in 2012 based solely on the fact that she’s even stupider thanĀ George W. Bush. It’s worth the nuclear war she’ll inevitably start because at least with her in office I can easily tell who’s a moron and who isn’t.