Vote Obama, But Don’t Stop There

Sarah Palin has been traveling around what she calls the Real America – the “pro-America” parts of the country, where they “grow good people” who “fight our wars.” These are the Real Americans, Sarah tells us. Real Americans know that Barry Hussein Obama is a Muslim, and therefore by definition a terrorist – and not only that, but he wants to take your money and give it to lazy bums on welfare. Real Americans work hard, and they don’t like high-talking, homosexual socialists taking their money and giving it to black and brown people.

As Sarah explains, Real Americans are “always proud of their country.” Even when that country has been torturing men in secret prisons, or when it is unable to protect or rescue its citizens from natural disaster, or as it strips those citizens of their civil rights – even then, Real Americans are proud.

Real Americans were listening when the president beamed into the Republican convention to tell them that the “Angry Left,” like the Viet Cong before them, would never break John McCain’s spirit. The smirk that the president wore then mirrored the mockery of Rudy Giuliani, who sneered that “only in America” could a person with a background in “community organizing” – whatever that is – actually make a serious run at the presidency.

That’s why they didn’t see this community organizer coming.

The Republican Party and their idea of the “real” America is so far off base it’s startling. One only had to look at the sea of white faces at the convention to recognize this. America is changing. The white immigrants of the 19th and early 20th centuries are being joined by the legions of brown, black, and yellow immigrants of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Less of our gay friends and family feel the need to disguise themselves. Yet despite some feeble attempts to adjust to reality back around 2000 (remember “Compassionate Conservatism”?), the Republicans have remained insular, intolerant, and fearful of change.

Compare this to Barack Obama, who has built a formidable coalition spanning across race, gender, age and sexuality. He has brought back to politics an entire generation that had become apathetic. I am excited to vote for a president who is of more than one culture, who has lived in more than one country, who has experienced poverty and yet has begun to amass wealth.

It’s true that Obama has had much help from the hapless Republicans, but consider that he had to build this coalition within a Democratic Party already in possession of a Messiah – the only two-term Democratic president of the last seventy years – who tried passing the torch to his wife, a seasoned pro with a passion for power and the Rolodex to bankroll it. Obama hasn’t taken on his own party?

A Sorry State

The challenges facing the country are enormous. Each situation is a complicated one, with many sides. Lots of people need to be brought into discussions to find the best way forward, and I trust Obama to find those people, get them together, and work towards an agreement. McCain has shown that he cannot even control the basest instincts of his party’s worst elements. He does not have the foresight (at best) or the control (at worst) to prevent his party leaders from spending $150,000 on clothing for his VP nominee while she preaches the Hockey Mom Ethos in small towns across America. He has let his campaign be overrun by barbarians.

Back when I wrote about the similarities between this presidential race with the Fear and Loathing of ’72, I was worried that something akin to the Eagleton disaster would swallow whole the galvanizing movement I recognized in the Obama campaign. As it turned out, it was McCain who made a grave misstep in the selection of a VP – but let it be remembered that history unfolds first as tragedy, and then as farce. For while McGovern was caught unawares when Eagleton disclosed his mental illness to the nation, John McCain should have seen this coming, and avoided it entirely. Instead, his first major decision as a national candidate showed he either put politics above the interests of the country, or he was too weak to prevent his underlings from doing so. Neither shows the makings of a president.

John McCain showed steely nerve during his time as a POW. He deserves our respect, but not our vote. Once a champion of reform, an outlier in his party willing to challenge its established wisdom, upon assuming the mantle of leadership he has rejected his previous enlightened positions on torturing terrorist suspects, dealing with illegal immigrants and keeping religious fundamentalism out of public policy. And then the markets crashed, and John McCain was exposed as a man unable to command authority.

November 5th It Begins

Some people ask, What is change? They dismiss it as rhetoric. Well, of course it is rhetoric. Obama is still a politician. For me, though, change should mean a president and a Congress willing to listen to the people with an open mind, and to try new ideas. It means a willingness to communicate with the enemy, to enter into tough negotiations, using leverage to get what we want. It means a forward-thinking public policy that plans for thirty, forty years down the road. It means public-private partnerships that work to shape the future we want. Obama represents all these things to me, and that is why I’ll be voting for him next week.

But I won’t leave it at that. I expect to see Obama cruise to a landslide victory on Tuesday, and I’ll be staying up watching the returns, drink in hand. After that, however, we have to carry on. This war is not going to stop itself. Obama will be under great pressure to see Iraq through to “victory,” and he’s explicitly promised to widen the war in Afghanistan. Americans cannot sit back and become complacent, expecting a change of parties to improve their lives unmonitored. There is serious damage that needs repairing, and we can’t let our new representatives forget. Democrats swept to power two years ago with a mandate to end the war; it didn’t happen. Don’t be fooled again.

No rights in this country’s great history have been granted by government, they have only been won by organized people’s movements fighting for them, and continuously defending them. Governments that abuse their power must be thrown out, but those ushered in on a wave of reform must be held accountable, lest they become drunk on their new powers. Go to the polls on Tuesday, but after that, fight to keep them honest. That’s what real Americans do.

Posted in essays | Tagged , ,