Wineke: The wisdom of Barack Obama

C3K columnist looks at the progress of America's current president

I confess that, back in 2008, it did seem for a moment as if happy days were here again.

Barack Obama had just been elected president, the first African-American president in the nation's history. It was tempting to believe the nation's racist history had been, if not erased, at least modified.

And it did seem possible that the nation's and the world's economic crisis was so grave that the new president might even be able to enlist the energies of the Republicans in Congress to help alleviate it.

Well, that was kind of naïve, wasn't it?

The Republicans in Congress made an immediate decision to block every single program the new president might propose. It turned out to be a pretty good decision; they ended up taking power two years later, and Republicans took full power in any number of states, including Wisconsin.

One of the things these states started doing was to restrict voting rights in ways that made it increasingly difficult for minorities to actually cast ballots. If you lived in a black neighborhood in Ohio or Florida, for example, you might expect to wait in lines for hours to vote.

In the meantime, the liberals decided to blame their reverses on Obama. He chose to go for universal health care rather than jobs. He didn't stand up sufficiently to the right wing. He was too willing to back the military in Afghanistan – or too unwilling to intervene in Libya and, later, Syria.

This spring, the mania of both right and left seemed close to panic when Congress started investigating the IRS.

Through it all, the president seemed to just glide along, doing his thing, keeping his cool, sometimes even laughing at his own failures.

And, even as his detractors on both right and left kept pulling their hair and predicting imminent doom, things seemed to keep working out, not perfectly, but consistently.

The great recession did not turn into a great depressing. The American automobile industry rebounded. Health care legislation passed Congress and most of it is now actually working, a fact that saves me, personally, a couple hundred dollars a month on the insulin I need to treat my diabetes.

Obama is not the savior we thought we needed. He is a human being who turns out to be a pretty effective leader in the long run.

I think it comes from his experience as a community organizer.

I have a tiny bit of experience in this area and what I've learned is that any change you want to make will be met with resistance. If there isn't any backlash, then the change is probably not important. Sometimes, you take two steps forward and one back – sometimes you take one step forward and two back.

But if you keep your eye on the goal you are seeking, there's a good chance that you will end up closer to that goal than if you never started.

Does anyone even remember the "scandals" that seemingly engulfed the president earlier this year? Turns out, there never were any scandals, just some fallible bureaucrats who made some mistakes.

In the meantime, we are several steps closer to 30 million Americans getting health insurance that may keep some of them alive and save many of them from bankruptcy.

Actually, not a bad achievement for a mere mortal.

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