I Still Love Obama. Love. Love. Love.
Am I the last person in America who still adores President Obama?
Just before Halloween 2008, while out for a walk, I noticed that on the front porch of a nearby house sat a row of five pumpkins, each carved with one letter of Barack Obama's last name. The election was, at that point, a week away, and I was charmed by this seasonal display of Democratic support. Then I rounded the corner and spotted the exact same arrangement: a row of five pumpkins, each carved with one letter of Obama's last name. OK, so maybe not quite as original as I'd thought but still encouraging, at least for a liberal like me living in a swing state—my neighborhood, after all, is not in Brooklyn or Berkeley but in suburban St. Louis, Mo., a state that ultimately, by a margin of 0.1 percent, didn't go for Obama in '08.
This Halloween, it was clear that if I wanted to see a row of jack-o'-bamas, I'd need to carve them myself. Where once it was impossible not to trip over Obama enthusiasm, much of it shown by people not usually all that invested in politics and in ways that went well beyond bumper stickers or pins (remember the trend of young voters unofficially changing their middle names to Hussein?), these days, not only are Tea Partiers boiling over with fury at Obama, but even Obama campaign stalwarts Shepard Fairey of the Hope poster and YouTube sensation Obama Girl are feeling lukewarm about our president: Obama Girl, aka Amber Lee Ettinger, told the New York Post in January she'd give Obama a B- grade: "In my opinion, I feel like he should be focusing a lot more on jobs and the economy."
But my own feelings haven't changed at all. Two years after voting for him, I'm just as exhilarated as Oprah Winfrey was in Grant Park on Nov. 4, 2008. You might say, to borrow the accusation frequently leveled at the 2008 media, that I've remained in the tank for Obama. The only problem is that, currently, I seem to be in the tank by myself. Earlier this fall, when even NPR hosts were making jokes that could have been borrowed from Rush Limbaugh—the teaser for a recent episode of Wait Wait … Don't Tell Me! imagined that one of the "inspiring" quotations in the new Oval Office carpet was, "At least your daughters still like you ... probably"—I felt the unmistakable loneliness of being the last one left at a formerly hopping party.
Honestly, though, I'm surprised that so many people have turned against the president. Obviously, if you've lost your job, life is tough, but did voters really believe the country was going to quickly and dramatically reverse course once he was elected? So he hasn't yet made good on every campaign promise—isn't this like being shocked that you didn't lose as much weight doing Jenny Craig as Valerie Bertinelli did, or that your new memory-foam mattress didn't magically cure your insomnia?
It's not that I can't understand voters' frustration with, for example, the fact that the Guantanamo Bay detention camp is still open. So Obama is an imperfect president—who wouldn't be? During the almost two years he's been in office, I (apparently alone among sentient voters) don't think he's made any major missteps: As far as I can tell, the economic stimulus package might not have been perfect, but it prevented something bad from being even worse. Health care reform will offer better coverage—or coverage, period—to millions of Americans, including children and those with pre-existing conditions. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is providing billions of dollars to improve education and infrastructure. And, hell, I have no idea what Obama could have done differently with the oil spill, with the possible exception of not succumbing to political pressure and so-called optics by making Sasha go swimming with him off the coast of Florida.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s fourth novel, Sisterland, will be published in June.
Illustration by Mark Alan Stamaty.Photograph of President Barack Obama by John Gress/Getty Images.