Editor’s Note: LZ Granderson, who writes a weekly column for CNN.com, was named journalist of the year by the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association and is a 2011 Online Journalism Award finalist for commentary. He is a senior writer and columnist for ESPN the Magazine and ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter: @locs_n_laughs
LZ Granderson: In Chicago, Obama directed faith-based group to help displaced workers
He says Obama not perfect, but his early choices showed will to help those in need
He says there are good reasons for another term: Jobs numbers, housing prices
LZ: Romney shows up in home states in election; Obama has record of helping others
The Developing Communities Project is a faith-based, nonprofit organization formed when area churches wanted to help people hurt by the 1970s steel plant closings on the South Side of Chicago.
It offers job training and literacy programs.
It’s working with Loyola University and area municipalities on an infrastructure project designed to address the region’s growing population and create jobs.
And its first executive director was Barack Obama.
That’s right, the man often accused of being a Muslim spent years working for a Christian organization. The man who supposedly only wants to give handouts to people spent years empowering them through education. The man Republicans accuse of only caring about himself spent his entire adult life helping those less fortunate.
True, his first term as president has not come without its disappointments.
He said he would cut the deficit – he hasn’t.
He said his administration would not be politics as usual and then he played politics with immigration reform and gay rights.
And Gitmo is still open.
But before he was president or senator or even an Illinois state representative, Obama was a young man with a degree from Columbia University who could have done just about anything he wanted, and he chose to go back to his adopted home of Chicago and help poor people.
A politician’s record is not confined to what he or she does in office. That’s important, but it’s an abbreviated version co-authored by consultants and edited by poll numbers.
To really understand a candidate, voters have to look at the original, unabridged manuscript, the record he or she began writing before realizing someone else might read it.
I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 because he wasn’t George W. Bush.
I didn’t vote for him out of racial solidarity or because he gives pretty speeches.
I voted for Obama in 2008 for the same reason why I voted for him in 2012 – his record. And his time as a community organizer is part of that of record.
Sure, I could rely on numbers to present a strong argument for a second term. About this time four years ago, the country lost 159,000 jobs, the country’s ninth consecutive month of job loss. Last week we learned we created 171,000 jobs, the 25th consecutive month of job growth. Regardless of party, I would think that would be seen as a good thing.
I could also point to the death of Osama bin Laden or the currency collapse in Iran because of the sanctions that he’s led.
But to fully understand why I voted for Obama, one only needs to look at this quote from author H. Jackson Brown Jr.: “Our character is what we do when we think no one is looking.”
When no one was looking, Obama was a humble community organizer fighting for poor Americans who had lost their jobs. Four years ago, his critics mocked him for that. Today, we see a lot has changed about him … but not that. He is still fighting for those Americans who are hurting, and it gives me a measure of peace knowing that the person in charge of making tough budget cuts has a record of working with people who are hurting.
I’m sure Mitt Romney is a decent man, and he’s given millions to his church. But I can’t shake the fact the self-proclaimed “son of Detroit” did not come around the city when it began to struggle in the 1980s. The great “job creator” did nothing for the city when it was hemorrhaging jobs in the 1990s and to this day he only seems to come around Detroit during election time.
If this is how the “son” treats family, I can only imagine the disregard he holds for strangers. Actually I don’t have to imagine. I watched the 47% video. The one that was taped when he thought no one outside of the room would be listening.
This is why he’s trailing in Michigan and Massachusetts, the two states to which he’s most closely tied. It’s not because he’s Republican. The three Massachusetts governors before Romney were Republican, while four of the past six governors in Michigan were Republicans, including his father.
He trails because the people there know him.
They know his record. His real record.
Not the manicured version he presents on the campaign trail, but the unabridged version he began writing before his life in politics began. The version all future politicians script with the decisions that they make.
I’m not wearing blinders. I know Obama is just as flawed as Romney. He’s a politician. How can he not be?
But at the end of the day I’d rather have President Barack Obama in the White House, someone with a record of being about the work of helping others before he was in office, than Mitt Romney, someone who has a record of talking about it once he got there.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of LZ Granderson.