Skip to main content

An Obama voter's cry of despair

By Nathaniel P. Morris, Special to CNN
June 20, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Nathaniel Morris: I voted for President Obama twice, sharing hope in possibility of change
  • He says Obama has had worthy efforts thwarted by GOP obstructionism
  • Morris: Obstructionism can't excuse Obamacare website woes, drone attacks
  • Morris: Obama's 2008 campaign memoir is a sad reminder of what might have been

Editor's note: Nathaniel P. Morris is a second-year student at Harvard Medical School.

(CNN) -- I'm reading a terribly sad book these days. It's a book that I thought would uplift me during the doldrums of second-year medical school, and renew in me a sense of hope. It's called "The Audacity to Win," and it's a memoir of Barack Obama's 2008 presidential campaign.

When I'm finished with my patient write-ups at night and get into bed, the book returns me to a time when politics inspired millions and speeches could take your breath away. The election turned out to be a landslide, and news anchors paused to reflect on the historic nature of the hour.

My classmates cried with joy, and my parents saved every newspaper they could find. A young team of visionaries was headed for the White House, and the nation was ready for change. During Obama's transition to office in 2008, he had an 82% approval rating. There was something in the air.

Nathaniel Morris
Nathaniel Morris

And then I close the book. Cutting to the present is a rude awakening, like snapping out of a dream. It's hard to remember those days of optimism -- they seem a distant memory, a sad reminder of opportunities gone by. Change indeed happened, in the years since I cast my first ballot. It was simply nothing I could have imagined.

I credit Obama with great and varied accomplishments, from the passage of the Affordable Care Act to our military exit from Iraq, the end of "don't ask don't tell," to the killing of Osama bin Laden. Moreover, I believe that partisan obstructionism has upended too many efforts to push our nation forward: immigration reform, a public option for health care, and closing the base at Guantanamo Bay, among others. But, after the countless times in which I have found myself defending the Obama administration to colleagues and peers, I've reached a limit to the explanations that I can provide. I've reached a point of political despair.

Panel: Obamacare roll out 'embarrassing'
Ted Cruz's dad said what?

Republican obstructionism cannot explain allowing the bugging of foreign leaders, nor having drones strike innocent children overseas. It cannot explain having the National Security Agency collect data on the private lives of Americans, nor prosecuting whistle-blowers who reveal government wrongdoing. It cannot account for assassinating Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen, without a trial, nor shirking public funding and spending limits during presidential campaigns.

It cannot justify the findings of a report that says the White House's efforts to silence the media are the "most aggressive ... since the Nixon Administration".

And, most recently, it cannot excuse the failure to design a functional website more than three years since the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.

I don't know if this is what I should have expected. If, at 18 years old, I was supposed to figure out that governance may contradict the political campaigns that precede it. Obviously, elective office isn't a predictable course, as the opposing political party and random events, such as the Newtown massacre, will shape our public conversation. Yet, of all of the examples that I have listed above, they largely seem to be of the administration's own choosing. That is what troubles me most of all.

I voted for Obama again in 2012, but not because I was excited by his candidacy. Mitt Romney presented a confusing and unrefined alternative who could not seem to lock down his policies or his positions. I felt that a second term for Obama, free from the pressures of future elections, would fulfill the hope that we had heard of for so long.

Still, as Obama's approval rating sank below 45% this week, returning to 2008 through that book has become that much harder. It makes me yearn for the many promises that disappeared.

This week I was reading the portion of the book describing how Obama suffered a huge loss to Clinton in the Pennsylvania primary. At a post-mortem campaign meeting, he told his staff that they needed to get back on track and stay true to the purpose of their cause. " 'I want us to get our mojo back,' he said. 'We've got to remember who we are.' "

It's five years later, Mr. President, and I couldn't agree with you more.

Note: A previous version of this article referred to "the failure to design a simple website"; it's been updated to reflect the author's view that he should have used the term, "a functional website".

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion.

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Nathaniel Morris.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2108 GMT (0508 HKT)
The NFL's new Player Conduct Policy was a missed chance to get serious about domestic violence, says Mel Robbins.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
The slaughter of more than 130 children by the Pakistani Taliban may prove as pivotal to Pakistan's security policy as the 9/11 attacks were for the U.S., says Peter Bergen.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1600 GMT (0000 HKT)
The Internet is an online extension of our own neighborhoods. It's time for us to take their protection just as seriously, says Arun Vishwanath.
December 16, 2014 -- Updated 2154 GMT (0554 HKT)
Gayle Lemmon says we must speak out for the right of children to education -- and peace
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 1023 GMT (1823 HKT)
Russia's economic woes just seem to be getting worse. How will President Vladimir Putin respond? Frida Ghitis gives her take.
December 17, 2014 -- Updated 0639 GMT (1439 HKT)
Australia has generally seen itself as detached from the threat of terrorism. The hostage incident this week may change that, writes Max Barry.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2020 GMT (0420 HKT)
Thomas Maier says the trove of letters the Kennedy family has tried to guard from public view gives insight into the Kennedy legacy and the history of era.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1456 GMT (2256 HKT)
Will Congress reform the CIA? It's probably best not to expect much from Washington. This is not the 1970s, and the chances for substantive reform are not good.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 2101 GMT (0501 HKT)
From superstorms to droughts, not a week goes by without a major disruption somewhere in the U.S. But with the right planning, natural disasters don't have to be devastating.
December 15, 2014 -- Updated 1453 GMT (2253 HKT)
Would you rather be sexy or smart? Carol Costello says she hates this dumb question.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 2253 GMT (0653 HKT)
A story about Pope Francis allegedly saying animals can go to heaven went viral late last week. The problem is that it wasn't true. Heidi Schlumpf looks at the discussion.
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1550 GMT (2350 HKT)
Democratic leaders should wake up to the reality that the party's path to electoral power runs through the streets, where part of the party's base has been marching for months, says Errol Louis
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2123 GMT (0523 HKT)
David Gergen: John Brennan deserves a national salute for his efforts to put the report about the CIA in perspective
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1426 GMT (2226 HKT)
Anwar Sanders says that in some ways, cops and protesters are on the same side
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1439 GMT (2239 HKT)
A view by Samir Naji, a Yemeni who was accused of serving in Osama bin Laden's security detail and imprisoned for nearly 13 years without charge in Guantanamo Bay
December 14, 2014 -- Updated 1738 GMT (0138 HKT)
S.E. Cupp asks: How much reality do you really want in your escapist TV fare?
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1828 GMT (0228 HKT)
Rip Rapson says the city's 'Grand Bargain' saved pensions and a world class art collection by pulling varied stakeholders together, setting civic priorities and thinking outside the box
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 2310 GMT (0710 HKT)
Glenn Schwartz says the airing of the company's embarrassing emails might wake us up to the usefulness of talking in-person instead of electronically
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 2233 GMT (0633 HKT)
The computer glitch that disrupted air traffic over the U.K. on Friday was a nuisance, but not dangerous, says Les Abend
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 1740 GMT (0140 HKT)
Newt Gingrich says the CBO didn't provide an accurate picture of Obamacare's impact, so why rehire its boss?
December 13, 2014 -- Updated 0040 GMT (0840 HKT)
Russian aggression has made it clear Ukraine must rethink its security plans, says Olexander Motsyk, Ukrainian ambassador to the U.S.
December 12, 2014 -- Updated 0046 GMT (0846 HKT)
The Senate committee report on torture has highlighted partisan divisions on CIA methods, says Will Marshall. Republicans and Democrats are to blame.
December 11, 2014 -- Updated 1833 GMT (0233 HKT)
It would be dishonest to say that 2014 has been a good year for women. But that hasn't stopped some standing out, says Frida Ghitis.
ADVERTISEMENT