Thursday, August 09, 2012

The President Spoke to Me

POTUS Just For UsI read a list the other day, 9 Things You Didn't Know About the Obamas. Most of them were things I did know, like the fact that Michelle Obama considered delaying her move to the White House until the end of the school year, or common sense items like Mrs. Robinson saying she'd declined being interviewed by Oprah because she liked to browse the Filene's Basement near the White House in peace.

The 9th item on that list is a story about a woman introducing President Obama before he signed a bill to strengthen sexual assault laws. She, a survivor of abuse, broke down at the lectern while telling her story. POTUS came out from the wings, placed a hand on her back, and waited with her until she was able to finish her story. From some angles it's surprising that I even noticed this. I mean, he does this sort of thing all the time. The famous fist bump with the custodian picture, the kid who wanted to touch his hair, responding humanely and appropriately in the moment is his greatest strength, it wouldn't be too shocking if we'd all gotten used to it by now.

I did notice, though, and at first I cackled to myself and had some extremely uncharitable thoughts about Mitt Romney. I don't like the guy. In fact I think that he's dangerous to me and people like me both on a personal and a political level. Still, what leapt to mind weren't things to be proud of. "You wouldn't catch him going out and helping a crying woman. He'd probably shove an aide out there to whisk her off stage. Wouldn't want to get contaminated by all that girly emotion. Hell, he might even offer her cash to get the hell out of the way!" Then I turned a corner and thought, "That's not fair, he wouldn't do any of that. He wouldn't be there in the first place."

That's the bald truth, he wouldn't even be there. Romney isn't interested in lifting up women. Hell, he isn't interested in women at all. While I'm sure he's addressed women's groups during his campaign, it comes with the territory, I've certainly not seen much published on the subject. I can't imagine him supporting survivors of domestic violence. He hasn't shown an ability to empathize with people who have less money than he has so I can't imagine that people with less penis will be any easier for him to get at.

Last week I took some extremely respectful guff from someone on Facebook. We'd never engaged over politics before but this friend has some high emotion over the I Built That controversy. She thinks it was wildly disrespectful of the president to ask that business owners acknowledge other contributors to their success and it has made her genuinely upset. Admirably not upset enough to use multiple exclamation points or call me names or threaten bodily harm to anyone who opposed her. We engaged and I politely refused to get angry at the idea of acknowledging those who have contributed to my own success and finally we let it pass. Then I posted a protest video by women who clean for a major hotel chain and we were off to the, perfectly civil, races again.

Important Marketing PartnershipWhile this woman never explicitly came out in support of Mitt Romney I now believe that is where her vote is headed. If that's what she really feels is right then it's her vote to use as she likes and I support her as long as she uses it. Not voting will set me off like a bottle rocket, even more than voting against my interests. After our conversations last week about jobs we've had and income brackets we are in and knowing that she's a woman I can't help but ask my one huge nagging question from this and all other political campaigns. Why are people like my friend so emotionally connected to candidates like Romney when those candidates are perfectly blunt about disregarding her needs? To my knowledge she's not someone who will easily get by without social security or medicare. If she has children I don't think she'd be able to educate them in private institutions. I can't imagine it will be helpful to her to pay more in taxes. If her current story is anything like the stories she and I found were parallel earlier in our lives then she will make good use of the Affordable Care Act rights for women's health care. So why does she support a candidate who is actively dismantling these services? The things he endorses, like tax breaks for people making mid six figure salaries, do not, I believe, apply to her.

I was at Blogher for some of the weekend. At the last minute an announcement came that President Obama would give a live video address to the assemblage on Thursday afternoon. Knowing that not everyone would have arrived by that point and that in a group of 5,000 there would be a sizable split in candidate support I was both surprised and excited to see how full the ball room got as we waited for the big screens to fire up.  Elisa Camahort Page emphasized that both presidential candidates had been invited to speak to the entire group. While there were people from the Romney camp speaking in a couple of sessions during the conference Governor Romney had decided not to take advantage of the opportunity to address the conference directly and as a whole.

Obama's address was a little like the list of 9 things I might or might not know about his family. It was short, the bullet points were clear, and much of the information was not new to me. However, by taking even 15 minutes to direct his message to the Blogher crowd he reinforced for me the feeling that he's a force for good in the country and the world. Not a perfect force, no one is perfect, but a good one.

He spoke briefly about the Blogher publishing network, proving the speech wasn't canned. He spoke of the importance of women in society and in this election, taking care to include his mother-in-law in the estrogen count of his family. Then he reiterated his successes in legislating for women, kicking off with the Lily Ledbetter act and wrapping up with the Affordable Care Act provisions that had gone into practice the day before. He spoke simply and directly and about things that are pertinent to my hopes and fears for the future.

Don't get me wrong, it wasn't a historic piece of oration. It didn't change my life or even my political views. What he did, though, was voluntarily come forward, put his hand on my back, and make sure I knew he cared if I was OK. That sets him apart from other candidates and makes him worthy of my vote.

I thank Elisa Camahort Page, Jory Des Jardins, and Lisa Stone, the founding pillars of Blogher, for providing this opportunity. A moment of clarity in the sea of willful disinformation of an election year is a priceless gem.


  1. I've been reading your blog since the Women's Colony days. I never comment. But damn, I wish I lived next door to you. I nod my head along with most all of your posts. Down here in the Deep South (Atlanta qualifies as deep south, right?)it seems I am the lone democrat. My tongue is raw from the biting. I hate arguing politics.

    Am I paying more attention this year or does the willful disinformation seem so much worse than in years past? I don't remember my head spinning quite so much.

  2. The next best thing to living next door to me is commenting more often! Just kidding.

    Atlanta definitely qualifies and kind of scares the heck out of me even though I have fantastic democratic, liberal, creative friends living and working down there.

    I don't know if it's worse this year or I'm just paying more attention or I'm more scared or what. I hope it all goes a safe and sane way but I'm having trouble being optimistic. From this point forward I figure my job is more to get people voting than to try to convince anyone to vote a certain way. Fingers crossed!

    Thanks for sticking with me. The Colony gifted me a lot of wonderful people.

  3. Also, dude, you have a camera phone and love to take pictures. How come we don't get the pleasure of your company in the photo challenges? We'd dearly love to have you join.

  4. and an amen from next door

  5. i'm a nonsupporter of Mittens, as well, but a second-term Obama honestly scares me.

    i'm not voting for either of them. Gary Johnson (and his Pen of Veto) will probably get my vote.

  6. Former Colony writer here, though under a different name. I'm fascinated by BlogHer, but not enough to actually go.

  7. I didn't know that story about Obama. And I appreciate learning it.