Early Reflections on the Obama Era

(Last Updated On: October 11, 2016)

by Jeff Sykes

“The heart has its reasons which reason knows nothing of… We know the truth not only by the reason, but by the heart.” – Blaise Pascal

In the Year of Our Lord 2008 I did not think that Barack Hussein Obama was fit to be the President of the United States of America.

I was wrong. I spent most of 2007 and 2008 attempting to create a name for myself in grassroots Republican Party campaign politics, volunteering on multiple congressional campaigns against Brad Miller and then embedding myself in the church service known as the Rockingham County Republican Party. But I digress.

I did, in fact, aggressively campaign for John McCain in 2008. My logic was that he was a war hero and a battletested politician that, for all his many faults, would be a good steward of the nation’s resources as we struggled through the growing pains of the early 21st century.

Much like Burke’s argument against radical change—which once was the intellectual bulwark of conservatism—I felt that the Obama candidacy was an expression of the radical disappointment most Americans felt in the first decade of the new century when war and terror replaced the broad horizon of possibility so many of us anticipated on Jan. 1, 2000.

This is a confession so please bear with me and don’t get lost on tangents.

I spent most of the summer of 2009 actively campaigning against the Affordable Care Act. In fact, the idea of government-run healthcare was the specter that haunted me in late 2008. It even led to the last passionate disagreement I had with my mother.

She had forwarded an email stream between herself and another typist with the deposition firm she worked for up until her untimely death in October 2009. The other woman was trying to convince my mother to vote for Obama despite our family being solid Republican voters in North Carolina for at least three generations.

My mother wanted me to help her understand the questions the woman was throwing at her. She included the woman’s email so, being the prick that I am, I replied all with my answer. The woman had ended with the exhortation to my mother that “Obama is going to give us healthcare!” I latched on to that with a diatribe about the Democratic Party’s “gimmie” culture and succinctly made an ass of myself in my best Rush Limbaugh fashion.

Suffice it to say my mother was very unhappy with me, as was the norm in our relationship, and she replied, “OMG do you mind?!? I did not ask you to reply to her. What is your problem?” From there we devolved into an angry shouting match and I don’t think we spoke again until Christmas.

My mother, you see, was one of countless millions of Americans who could not afford health insurance. She was employed her entire adult life but was let go from her job at a law firm in her mid-50s and never quite could get another job. She went back to the deposition firm she’d worked for in the 1970s and got steady freelance work but no benefits.

In my narrow-minded view of the world I spent the summer of 2009 campaigning against the very thing that could have prevented my mother from dying in October of that year from a stroke at the age of 61. She had high blood pressure left untreated because she could not afford the maintenance medication and was too stubborn to seek government or other assistance.

I spent six months crying and trying not to throw myself under the next dump truck that passed by on NC 87 outside the warehouse where I was employed. I quit being a conservative during that time. How could I have been so stupid as to fight the very thing that could have saved my mother’s life?

In the end, Obama did not “give anyone healthcare.”

But he tried. He fought for the thing he believed in and for that I began to admire him. I dare say I disagree with most all of his policies but I grew to admire the man.

Politics was once known as “the art of the possible” but today can be summed up as “how can I block the other side?” For that, we suffer as a nation and are failing future generations.

But not Barack Obama. That man has fought for the possible for eight years.

I can’t recall how many times I’ve listened to him give a speech and shook my head saying “My God but that man is a leader. He can speak for me anytime.”

My beloved grandmother died during the first Obama term in 2012 as well, except that she lived to be 89 and survived one major stroke and about five mini-strokes, called TIAs, because when she retired from RJR Tobacco Co. she did so with full retirement and medical benefits.

I can’t help but wonder what relationship my mother and I could have developed over 28 years of adult understanding.

“When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”

I believe now that Barack Hussein Obama is the greatest and hardest working president of my lifetime. He’s unquestionably the most inspirational. He inspired me to grow up.

As I’ve watched the Republican Party fall apart at the national level and become a laughingstock, nominating a buffoon for president based on the support of countless millions of dimwits who will believe anything wrapped in a flag and the Bible, I can’t help but mourn for the future of America. Those types of people do not listen to reason. Reason is the foundation of a just society.

Is Obama perfect? Far from it. But he has fought to lift up the nation against incredible odds. For that I believe his legacy will be one of greatness. !