I’m a Republican, and I cried while watching a retrospective about Obama’s presidency the other day. No, these were not the tears of joy I expected to have upon the exit of this Administration. These were real, sudden, sorrowful tears.
Obama had won me over.
I never expected it. After graduating college, I got my dream job at a conservative magazine writing snarky blog posts about the hope-and-change candidate. I attended the 2008 Republican National Convention, where I experienced the elation—and rapidly, the devastation—of my party nominating a woman on the ticket for the first time.
On Election Day, despite serious reservations about Sarah Palin’s qualifications, I reluctantly voted the party line before party hopping around D.C., posing with cardboard cutouts of the candidates and hoping to meet up with a friend who eventually became my husband.
We didn’t meet up until a few months later, but the night did change my career and my life.
“Perhaps the best thing President Obama can do for the economy, then, is to buy his wife some new clothes and watch American women clamor to copy her style and help declining retail sales,” I wrote in January 2009 when covering the inauguration and the First Lady’s fashion prowess and D.C.’s rebirth as a “cool” city.
I did not know just how great Obama would be for the economy, for the growth of the Nation’s Capital, for freedom—and for me, in very personal ways.
Healthcare was one issue that did it for me. Obamacare could literally save my life. Around the time the Affordable Care Act passed, I learned I have the BRCA-2 gene mutation, which means I have a 45 percent chance of developing breast cancer and 17 percent chance of developing ovarian cancer by age 70, compared to 12 percent and 1.3 percent, respectively, for the average woman.
Before Obamacare, I wouldn’t even publish that sentence for fear of being dropped by my insurance company. Today, I can’t be denied coverage because of my BRCA status or any future cancer diagnosis—and the law requires insurers to cover genetic tests for BRCA gene mutations as preventative care, so other women can access lifesaving screening, too.
Suddenly, I’m afraid those with preexisting conditions may have their care put at risk. I can’t imagine the fear of those who don’t have other options for healthcare, and especially women who rely on Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screening, among many, many other services, now that the organization is under attack.
I also can’t imagine what undocumented immigrants, minorities, and the LGBTQ community, to name a few, feel when they hear rhetoric from President-Elect Trump and his supporters. A new era is coming, and I don’t feel good about it.
As the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor from Romania, and a human being, this rhetoric makes me worry about what’s ahead in the post-Obama world, especially as the crisis in Syria worsens. Last summer, I visited the Topography of Terror in Berlin, the memorial at the former headquarters of the Nazi Secret State Police, which seeks to explain how such a horror could happen.
As the timeline at the exhibit clearly explained, it happens when politicians embrace nationalist, xenophobic, racist rhetoric about immigrants, about “the others.” The Third Reich rose to power by, to put it in familiar words, promising to make Germany great again.
After my visit on June 11, 2016, I officially became a Hillary Clinton supporter.
The Obama Administration didn’t do much about Syria, but I wasn’t willing to take a gamble on a candidate who ran on banning immigrants based on religion or country of origin.
My entire adult life has been shaped by the Obama years, my “coming of age” both personally and politically. I’ll miss the Obama family. I wonder what will happen to D.C., which has experienced such growth.
I’m not quite ready to call myself a Democrat, because I still hope the Republican Party will remember that many of us joined because of our belief in the power of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government. But Obama—a free trader who fixed the economy, killed Osama bin Laden, enacted a healthcare plan nearly identical to Republican Governor Mitt Romney’s, and led the nation to embrace more personal freedoms—embodies my values more than the party that seems to care more about what we do in our bedrooms and bathrooms than the greater good, and more than the populists taking power on January 20th.
As we prepare for the inauguration, I’m reminded of two quotes, from two great American leaders. “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves,” wrote Abraham Lincoln in 1859, the year before he was elected the first Republican president.
“In the party of Lincoln,” said Ronald Reagan at the 1984 Republican National Convention, “there is no room for intolerance and not even a small corner for anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind. Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots.”