Over the past two weeks I have tried to discuss the failings of the Tea Party in trying to alter a political system that was/is badly in need of altering. Whatever promise the Tea Party originally brought in slowing down oversized government and reducing taxes was almost immediately hijacked by very wealthy individuals who saw a way to harness growing frustration by a significant segment of the population into doing the dirty work needed to make the wealthy even more wealthy. When we look at the Koch Brothers investment of hundreds of millions of dollars into the Tea Party movement, combined with the outrageously misguided Citizens United Supreme Court decision, it is not difficult to conclude that the super rich are getting a great return on the anger, frustration, and irrational assaults on the president that they continue to foment.
I also suspect a large part of the motivation behind the Tea Party movement's disdain for the president is tied to Barack Obama's mixed race. I base this suspicion on two things. First, the timing of the Tea Party movement exactly coincides with the inauguration of our first mixed-race president. Second, when many folks are asked what exactly they don't like about our president, they are unable to articulate any coherent set of complaints. Most people are unwilling to say, "I don't like him because he's black." But I fear that is at the root of so much Tea Party discontent.
Jimmy Kimmel. Kimmel's cameramen go on the street to ask people if they prefer the Affordable Care Act or "Obamacare." Person after person rejects Obamacare but embraces the Affordable Care Act. Since they are both the same thing, one can only believe that it is the presence of the president's name in "Obamacare" that has people rejecting it.
If you look at the president's record since taking office, there is much to like and much to dislike from almost any political perspective. All the warnings that the president was fascist, communist, socialist, Muslim, etc., have not borne any fruit. The stock market is at an all time high, the federal debt is shrinking for the first time since the Clinton administration, and the gap between rich and poor has this country looking like it did in the 1920s. (And not the "Let's have some fun, play some jazz, and watch some flappers," kind of 1920s. It's the "Why do so few people have so much while so many people have so little?" kind of 1920s.) We're not all being forced to face Mecca five times a day, and despite constant claims to the contrary, the president has done nothing to confiscate weapons. (My advice to him would be to get going on this project since he has less than three years to subjugate the Constitution and get hundreds of millions of weapons rounded up).
So the political right, normally associated with the wealthier side of the United States, should be quite happy with the president. Their wealth has grown significantly and none of the horrible things predicted about an Obama presidency have come to pass. He is, however, still half black.
From the left, the president has done some positive things promoting equality and justice and has offered millions of Americans the chance to have the same protection for their health as we mandate for our cars. The Affordable Care Act will finally enshrine access to health care as one of our basic human rights. While it is impossible to say how well the Affordable Care Act will work, we do know that the sooner the right gets over the thought that the Affordable Care Act actually might work and lets the program get rolling, the sooner millions can have access to badly needed health care.
But the president's nearly five years in office have not been perfect either. Domestic surveillance remains a sore point for both the left and the right. The inability to come to some reasonable solution on the proliferation of ultra-lethal weapons within our borders remains an unsolved problem. The use of force both within our borders and abroad without regard to international law is a major frustration. And he is still half black.
Mark Pontoni lives in Petoskey and is a former business owner and currently works as a high school teacher. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and not necessarily of the Petoskey News-Review or its employees.