People are lining up all along the interstates and byways trying to catch a glimpse of the CIC. He is stopping by Twelve Bones, a local barbecue rib joint for I believe the third time in four total visits to Asheville. Some residents hope he decides to settle here after he leaves office.
Not everyone is happy to see him. The local Tea Party, PETA, and a host of other left and right-leaning groups protested near the entrance of the Linamar Corporation plant where he gave his speech. Representative Patrick McHenry, who represents my district, had this to say about the President’s visit:
“Once again, President Obama is flying down to North Carolina to push his economic agenda. The last time he touted his economy in NC, he visited Freightliner in Mount Holly. Six months later, they announced over one thousand layoffs. No matter how many times he says otherwise, President Obama’s policies are hurting small and large businesses in North Carolina. His barrage of tax hikes and new regulations is stifling economic growth, not encouraging it.”
Predictable fare from the Party of No. During his speech at the plant, he reiterated themes from his State of the Union Address last night. He advocates for a living wage that would ensure that no one working a full time job will live in poverty. He calls for bringing industry back from overseas and educating a workforce that will fill those new job positions.
The North Carolina that Obama is visiting is not the same state he saw in 2011. Republican-led gerrymandering has led to a super-majority in both the state House and Senate, as well as a new Republican governor. A recent study determined NC to be the second-most gerrymandered state in the Union! The effects of this new power structure in the state is evident: The GOP is determined to reject additional federal funds for expanded Medicaid, a move that will leave nearly a half million people uninsured and place an already struggling social safety net in crisis. Fracking permits are set to be issued before the environmental implications are reviewed and property owners across the state may have no say in whether or not drilling occurs on their own land. This “conservative” legislature has brought to the forefront the very meaning of individual rights and personal autonomy as is set forth in the Constitution.
I stayed home for this visit, but back when he was campaigning, I was privileged to witness him speak to a crowd of many thousands. It was his usual stump speech, but though I had heard a variation of it a few times, I was still struck by his empathy, his poise, and his charismatic presence. Yes, it did feel like he was “The One.” The one who could finally make headway on affordable healthcare and put in place some protections against predatory lending. The one who might consider the plight of the working poor and the middle class as he deliberated his policies and direction.
Many of his promises have so far been unfulfilled. Guantanamo Bay is still open, though the President did at least TRY to shut it down. The Patriot Act and the NDAA threaten our civil liberties, in my opinion. I am disappointed that those who condoned and authorized POWs to be tortured were never brought to justice, likewise the corporate raiders who caused the financial crisis. I think that too many innocents are dying from drone attacks.
The president is not perfect, but I have a sense that he is a good man, and a thoughtful man. I am encouraged that he is not backing down on gun control reform. I am glad that he has come out in favor of marriage equality. He is a pragmatist, who perhaps doesn’t get things done as quickly as some of us might like. But we are not in his shoes, up against a vociferous opposition hellbent on destoying any proposal he puts forth, without consideration for those of us who will be hurt by this obstructionism. I am glad he has four more years to set this country on the path to recovery and prosperity.