Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obligatory Post-Election Post

(Following in my bloggy tradition of Post-election analysis posts).

1st Reaction
Yes! Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes! Yes!!!!

And, it needs to be added, "Phew!" (big sign of relief).
I mean, I know all the polls favored Obama, but it was close enough to keep me on biting my nails right up until the end.

And of course there was the memory of the 2004 election, when I thought America couldn't possibly re-elect George Bush, and then they did.

How that happened in 2004 is still frustrating to me. Didn't people read the newspapers? Couldn't they understand what was happening to the country?

In the same way it is a mystery to me how this election could even have been close. Red states, what are you thinking?

But alls well that ends well. This time around, the good guys finally won and the sky is beginning to look a lot brighter.

I hate to wax on the obvious, but it is quite an historic night to be an American. We've been so inoculated by the media coverage of this campaign that I think every once and a while we forget how only a few short years ago it seemed unlikely America could ever elect a black president in our lifetime.

The Campaign
I've probably not been doing as much political blogging as I should lately. Largely because whenever I find myself really upset about something, I go on-line and find 10 other liberal bloggers who've already written about it. So most of the time I try not to write an essay when a simple link will do.

But, if one were so inclined, you could write a book about all the new lows the Republican party and their right wing allies sunk to in their desperate attempt to discredit Obama. The less-than-honest McCain add campaigns, the various "swift boating" techniques, and the vicious race baiting that went on.

The infamous forwarded e-mails about Obama popped up in my inbox several times this campaign season, each time forwarded by someone who was absolutely convinced of its sincerity.
Whoever wrote this thing obviously knew they were lying through their teeth, and wrote it anyway. Probably a lot of the people who forwarded it along the way knew it was untrue, but forwarded it anyway. There's a special place in the hell of intellectual dishonesty for these people.

I'm sure when historians write about this historic election, this won't go unnoticed. So congratulations conservatives, you've just added another great chapter to your legacy. You sold your soul to the devil, and you still lost.

Where do we go from here?
8 years ago, many of us voted for Nader because we had become disillusioned with Clinton-Gore. 8 years of a Democratic white house had done little to advance progressive causes, the Democrats were beginning to take progressive votes for granted, and the theory was that there was little difference between Democrats and Republicans.

I think it's safe to say now that we're all 8 years older, and a little bit wiser. Our environmental protection laws have been gutted, our Clinton era budget surplus has been turned into a record deficit, our national debt has spiraled out of control, our army is tied down in two simultaneous foreign wars, over 4,000 soldiers have tied in Iraq, and over 5 hundred billion dollars spent in Iraq (most of which is borrowed money, because someone decided it would be a good idea to lower taxes while fighting two wars). The image of America abroad has been torn to tatters, and our economy has collapsed.
With all of this, some of us are perhaps beginning to remember what the difference between Democrats and Republicans was after all.

Democrats may be weak spineless corporate stooges, but at least they're not insane. And when you have control of the world's only superpower, it helps if the leaders aren't completely insane. And if you happen to live in said superpower, it's an even greater bonus to have sane leadership.

The motto of the Democratic party should be, "Democrats: hey, at least we're not completely insane!"

But with Obama there are slightly higher expectations than simply not being insane. He's captured the imagination of millions of people.
Of course the graveyards of politics are littered with young charismatic eloquent politicians who turn out to be total duds. Most of them were Democrats. (Both Carter and Clinton came into the white house on a wave of optimism promising change from their Republican successors).

But perhaps on this night, in spite of everything we can allow ourselves a bit of optimism. And so I admit that I, as much as anyone, have high hopes for Obama. I imagine he'll carve out a path in history, and perhaps join Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson as the greatest US presidents in history. I like to think that someday he'll be the next face on Mount Rushmore, and the next portrait on our currency. Bush has sure left the country in a mess, but if anyone can sort it out, it looks like Obama can.

But it would be undemocratic to put all our faith in one man. The spirit of democracy is not going to the polls every 4 years to elect someone who can wisely rule over us as a king, but to choose someone who will serve us and reflect our views.

In a participatory democracy (which is what we should always be striving for) the real power would lie not with the president, but in citizen groups composed of ordinary people organizing around issues they care about.

Progressives, in their hatred of Bush over the last 8 years, have perhaps been too focused on electoral politics instead of building up participatory movements and organizations. (And I admit that I've been guilty of this as much as anyone--Although in my defense it's hard to get very involved when you're living over seas).

Now that the election is over, we should also quickly make the transition from supporting Obama to challenging him.
President Clinton always gave in to which ever group put the most pressure on him. So we should make sure that we are always the group that is putting the most pressure on President Obama.

Media Mouse has been hosting and linking to a number of articles critical of Obama. I linked to some of these initially on the theory that it was good to keep your own guy honest. But once the right wing attack machine got into full gear against Obama, I made it a policy to link only to articles defending him. For whatever great or little influence this blog has on the larger culture, I figured Obama needed all the help he could get.

The truce is over, and President Obama is now fair game again on this blog.

(President Obama. This is the first time I've typed those words, and it's got a good feeling to it).

Link of the Day
Eight long years
And Sam Cooke-A Change Is Gonna Come


Anonymous said...

I liked this thought:

"it would be undemocratic to put all our faith in one man. The spirit of democracy is not going to the polls every 4 years to elect someone who can wisely rule over us as a king, but to choose someone who will serve us and reflect our views."

Sometimes it's easy to forget it.

Yeah, how did Kerry lose to Bush, right? I guess he was just that poor of a candidate. But I was just thinking the other night...if Bush HAD lost in the last election, there's a good chance that Obama would not have won this election. Viva Obama!! --brett

Joel Swagman said...

thanks for the comment B. It is easy to forget, isn't it? Especially the way the Media sometimes portrays the election as being all about the candidate's character, and not about the issues.

Unquestionably, if Kerry had won in 2004, Barak would not have even been on the ticked in 2008. Unless he had challenged an incumbent president from his own party.

But you know, I might have taken that trade off. I think a lot of damage has been done to this country the past 4 years. And I like to think Barak was enough of a rising star that his time would have come eventually.