Skip to main content

An Obama voter's cry of despair

By Nathaniel P. Morris, Special to CNN
updated 4:52 PM EDT, Fri June 20, 2014
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
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 8:51 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Mary Allen says because of new research and her own therapy, she no longer carries around the fear of her mother, which had turned into a generalized fear of everything
updated 3:59 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gilbert Gottfried says the comedian was most at home on the comedy club stage, where he was generous to his fellow stand-up performers
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Iris Baez, whose son was killed by an illegal police chokehold, says there must be zero tolerance for police who fatally shoot or otherwise kill unarmed people such as Michael Brown
updated 8:46 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Maria Cardona says as he seeks a path to the presidency, the Kentucky Senator is running from his past stated positions. But voters are not stupid--and they know how to use the internet
updated 10:19 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Gene Seymour says the shock at the actor and comedian's death comes from its utter implausibility. For many of us over the last 40 years or so, Robin Williams was an irresistible force of nature that nothing could stop.
updated 3:51 PM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
Soledad O'Brien says the story of two veterans told in a documentary airing on CNN shows the challenges resulting from post-traumatic stress
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT