Today is Barack Obama's 50th birthday. He's my first president who is younger than I am (I'm 52). I was tempted to vote for John McCain for this reason, but came to my senses.
Like a lot of liberals I haven't loved everything this president has done. But I also have a lot of empathy for him. I know first hand how hard it is to govern a big, diverse constituency. You need to truly listen to everybody, not just your most ardent ideological brethren, and sometimes what those diverse voices say actually makes sense. Being president or governor or mayor tends to be a moderating experience. (OK, we're still waiting for that moderation from our current governor.)
So, while I think the debt limit deal he struck was awful, while I would have preferred an even bigger stimulus package followed by another one, while I would have liked a single-payer health care system or just a simple expansion of Medicare to everyone, while I would have liked to see a full-bore attack on global climate change and a courageous stand in favor of gay marriage, I still support this president.
I do in part because the other choice would have meant no stimulus and therefore a deeper recession, it would have meant no attempt at all to fix health care, there would have been continued denial that climate change is caused by humans or even a threat, and there would not be even a prospect for change at the national level on the biggest civil rights issue of our time.
But I'll work for the president's reelection for a more fundamental reason.
At the end of the day, no matter the issue, Barack Obama still tries to appeal to the best parts of all of us: to our intelligence, our compassion and our sense that we are one nation. And that contrast with his potential opponents is stark.
The reality of American politics, like the song says, is that you can't always get what you want. I wish my president were a more full-throated progressive, but his history and who he is and what he does and the fundamental message that is Barack Obama is still an inspiration.