Six years ago, when President Obama first took office, the United States was in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. Unemployment was heading towards nine percent.
Barack Obama walked into the Oval Office to find the previous administration had left a budget with a projected deficit of $1.2 trillion. He knew things would get worse.
The Dow-Jones industrial stock averages fell to less than eight thousand as he delivered his inaugural address.
Obama might well have quoted Gerald Ford, who once told Congress “The state of the union is not good.”
Six years later, unemployment has fallen to five point eight percent. The Dow has more than doubled. Inflation is negligible. The war in Iraq is over, and the Afghan war is winding down.
For the first time in American history, we have something close to universal health insurance. There is absolutely no doubt that President Obama saved the U.S. auto industry, and probably saved Michigan from a new Great Depression. It was no accident that he visited a Ford assembly plant near Detroit yesterday, as he revs up for his annual State of the Union speech.
That doesn’t mean Obama has been perfect. I am deeply troubled by this administration going after reporters for doing their jobs. I am unhappy that the president seems to be putting provincial Chicago concerns ahead of the need to stop Asian carp.
And I often wish he’d sound more like John Kennedy and less like a pedantic law professor. That having been said, given his record, you might expect Obama would be hugely popular.
You might even expect talk that the amendment limiting presidents to two terms ought to be repealed. But instead, this president has been the target of a steady stream of hatred, disrespect and congressional obstruction out of all proportion to anything else I’ve ever seen.
And the reason, of course, is racism.
I cannot “prove” that in the way I can show that unemployment has fallen. I can’t prove that George Clooney is sexier than I am either, but I know perfectly well that both things are so.
Racism is much like what Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said about pornography: I know it when I see it. The good news is that it hasn’t infected everyone. Obama’s approval rating is 46 percent, which sounds bad.
But at this point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan’s was only 48 percent. George W. Bush’s was 36.
Obama is the only Democratic candidate for president in the last seventy years to get a majority of the popular vote twice. But racism is being openly tolerated by the Michigan Republican Party. On New Year's Eve, Michigan’s Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema, well-known for nasty attacks on gays and Muslims, posted a shockingly racist article on Facebook.
It said that most blacks can’t reason, control their emotions or speak English well or without swearing. Top Michigan Republican officials said that there’s no way to remove Agema from that job.
Well, find one.
I’m not sure why Republicans think they can ask for people’s votes when they have as their national representative an openly racist, hate-filled bigot.
Actually, I am a little afraid of the answer.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. You can read his essays online at michiganradio.org. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.