Barack Obama Is 'Citizenship' President

President Chose Best Single Word To Win Backing

Enthusiasm Needed: One of the best reasons to support President Obama is one word: citizenship.
getty images
Enthusiasm Needed: One of the best reasons to support President Obama is one word: citizenship.

By Leonard Fein

Published September 18, 2012, issue of September 21, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

This week’s question and next week’s as well is why Obama. The first and most obvious answer is the precise opposite of what Romney supporters say when they are asked “Why Romney?” Their answer is that he is not Obama and Obama is plainly not Romney.

But one wants to go beyond the negative argument. One wants to be able to say Obama because he is Obama and not merely because he is not Romney. No one will argue that Obama was dealt an easy hand. He has, of course, made mistakes of his own. But the Obama record is, as Bill Clinton so eloquently taught us at the Democratic National Convenion, a record of considerable accomplishment for which the president has not received the praise properly due him.

There was one high moment during Obama’s speech at the DNC that defined his most central conviction — one word, actually, and the word was “citizenship.” (Talk about not being Romney!). If Obama were able to regenerate the sense of common purpose, the sense of us-ness, if he were able to ignite his core conviction regarding we the people in a way that would make us all feel embraced, this would be not only a different presidency, but a different country. To be able to work for and vote for a president who sees the country in such terms is not a fall back position, it is a rare opportunity.

That is what I mean when I say that the most compelling reason to work for and vote for Obama is Obama. It is too easy and too facile to summarize the Obama presidency thus far as a “disappointment”. There have been disappointments, to be sure, but the net does not add up to disappointment.

The values that Obama and I share, including a robust definition of citizenship, a devotion to mutual responsibility, and a system not rigged to reward Wall Street easily begets my endorsement. More significantly, I think, it compels my enthusiasm and that is what frightens me about the many people I know who are planning to vote for Obama but who, this time around, do so with nearly zero passion. Is not compatibility of values a sufficient cause for enthusiasm?

In Ohio, in Florida, in Virginia and in several more of the so-called swing states, the difference between dutiful support for Obama and enthusiastic support for Obama may well determine the victor in that state. If in order to generate enthusiasm, we were required to manufacture it, the challenge might be too great. But we are not required to manufacture it. It is at hand with ample reason. Again and again that is the point.

We support Obama, enthusiastically, because the war in Iraq is over; because the affordable health care act is the law of the land; because he had the wisdom and gumption to appoint Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State; because to a near certainty, the next several appointments to the Supreme Court will be of men and women who see the Constitution as a living document; and because the preservation of tax breaks for the coddled few is an unacceptable distortion of principles of fairness which most Americans, the polls tell us, believe in.

There are of course other matters, as well. Whatever possibility may exist in avoiding a military engagement with Iran exists because Obama so fervently favors aggressive diplomacy to invasive action. Finally, Obama’s commitment to inclusiveness, which was so visually obvious at the convention in Charlotte, beyond even the immediately visible. It wasn’t just Blacks and Latinos, it was gay men and women, and many people, presumably, who live with the knowledge of their direct participation in the first Black presidency in our nation’s history.

So where’s the problem? Have we ourselves been infected with the cynicism that is so widespread in the nation these days? Does our half-heartedness regarding the Obama candidacy reflect a pseudo-sophistication that is no more than a slightly altered version of the cynicism of which I have been speaking. It is a far cry from the enthusiasm that is both required and deserved.

And then there is Michelle and what we learn about Obama from his relationship with her, his two daughters, and his mother-in-law. And, if all that is inadequate, there is also the fact that Obama is not Romney.

Contact Leonard Fein at feedback@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • Meet the Master of the Matzo Ball.
  • Pierre Dulaine wants to do in his hometown of Jaffa what he did for kids in Manhattan: teach them to dance.
  • "The first time I met Mick Jagger, I said, 'Those are the tackiest shoes I’ve ever seen.'” Jewish music journalist Lisa Robinson remembers the glory days of rock in her new book, "There Goes Gravity."
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.