As America slowly climbs out of the dank, shadowy pit dug by 40 years of neoconservative, supply side policies — made even gloomier by George W. Bush’s coup d’état and subsequent eight-year-long disastrous rule — it’s easy for progressives to feel discouraged and overlook how much Barack Obama and his fellow Democrats have actually been able to accomplish. Although our president isn’t nearly as liberal as many of us would like, he’s an astute politician who plays a long game, and who has managed to get a lot done in areas that we progressives care most about, including civil rights, economic recovery, fighting poverty, healthcare reform, consumer protections, education, finance reform, energy, and the environment. On top of that, Obama’s no slouch in the foreign policy or government/fiscal responsibility arenas — for which Republicans have traditionally claimed superiority.
Even before publicly embracing marital equality during his celebrated interview with ABC News’ Robin Roberts on May 9th, 2012, Obama has championed civil rights for women, gays, Latinos, and other Americans, in addition to providing inspiration as our first African-American president.
(1) The Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay Act For Women: Named after a 70-year-old retiree who sued Goodyear Corporation for pay discrimination, this long-overdue amendment to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 establishes that the statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit for pay discrimination resets each time a new paycheck is issued. According to Obama, who signed the legislation on January 29th, 2009, the legislation sends “a clear message: That making our economy work means making sure it works for everybody … there are no second class citizens in our workplaces.”
(2) Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act: Passed in honor of two young men who were brutally murdered — the first for being gay, and the second for being black — this legislation explicitly protects people from hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, religion, color, gender identity, or disability. At a reception commemorating the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, on October 11th 2009, Obama said, “You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits — not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights.”
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