Today, much of the country and her citizens awoke with a renewed sense of hope, a long forgotten emotion in the bleak national nightmare that has endured since September 11’th 2001.
Before moving forward, it’s worth a quick glance backward. The heinous terrorism perpetrated on 9/11/2001 was not George W. Bush’s fault. If anything, it was the legacy of the lax security apparatus of his predecessor Bill Clinton. More analytically, it was the result of a failed foreign policy strategy that had taken its eye of the ball since the downfall of the Soviet Union, reckless abandonment of Afghan bred fighters known as the Mujahadeen in the wake of the Iron curtain’s collapse, and increased reliance on oil and nations like Saudi Arabia whose ideals were so dramatically unaligned with our own.
And though Bush could not be blamed for 9/11 – and may even be applauded for the fleeting leadership he showed in its immediate aftermath (it would become the unfortunate defining event of his presidency that would overshadow, and largely undermine, everything else) – the buck stops with him when assigning blame for the catastrophic decision-makers that would define the last 7+ years of the American agenda. So much of a President’s job, as Barack Obama will now learn, is knowing a little about a lot of things, and hiring the right people who know a lot about one thing and then letting them do their job without misguided “gut feelings” that are predicated on nothing more than evangelical missionary zeal. Bush’s downfall can largely be attributed to his deputizing of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Ashcroft, Wolfowitz, and other cronies who decayed the Right from the inside. Not only did they warp their President’s own proclaimed “compassionate conservatism” agenda, but they imploded the entire Right’s credibility and cripple any hope of John McCain’s run for the presidency in 2008.
Today, because of Bush and his boys’ brutality on American idealism, the country doesn’t really feel like a “middle right” nation as so many of the Pundits still want to claim. Something happened while we were sleeping on our own isolated island the last two terms. The world changed, lost respect for America, moved on, and perhaps for everyone’s future benefit, largely realized that they needed to take responsibility for their own respective destinies. Still, in the wake of Obama’s euphoric rise last night a spark has also been re-ignited in the rest of the world. If nothing else, the global financial crisis demonstrates again the tangled nature of all of our existence, and America once more stands on the precipice to retake the leadership mantle and determine whether it has the confidence, desire, and resources to lead again.
Meanwhile, back to America. McCain supporters today draw analogies to the 2000 election and the disenfranchisement of Al Gore supporters (roughly 50% of the country). But there is actually little to objectively compare. Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 and surrendered the oval office only after a scandal plagued litigious nightmare that crystallized America’s failed voting system as well as exposed the corruption and malevolence of certain members of the GOP. While certainly the entire Republican party could not have been blamed for the seediness of the 2000 election, there is no doubt that George W. Bush – again perhaps through not much doing of his own – stood at the center of it and the tainted, cynical, bitter legacy that that the election bore would haunt him for his entire presidential run.
On the contrary, it appears that Barack Obama will clearly exceed 50% of the electoral and emerge from this election with nary the scandal and controversy that plagued the last two elections. While arguably short of a mandate, he definitely carries with his election a clear majority of Americans. He also has demonstrated by his victory in traditionally red states like North Carolina, Virginia, Nevada, and added victories in toss-ups like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indian, not to mention the legion of near misses in many other states, that he broke through party lines and recruited supporters that previously would never have voted for a Democrat. So today while supporters of McCain may differ ideologically with President-elect Barack Obama – and hopefully their vigorous opposition will result in balanced policy that will re-invigorate this country – their argument of extremism, that somehow the country is fractured like in 2000 and that they must brace for the worst, falls on deaf ears.
We (those of us who voted for Gore, and out of obligation for Kerry) lived through the worst already. You may not have noticed because of your blind allegiance -or perhaps convenient indifference to the far Right agenda – but you lived through it as well, right alongside us. Today, the Right, nor Conservative Agenda and all of its moralistic righteousness, is no longer in the mainstream. Still, as much hope, euphoria, and enthusiasm there is in the wake of Obama’s selection, a whisper of cynicism looms. It’s propagated by the likes of conservative talk radio and Fox News, which again in my personal opinion, does nothing to help the Rights cause with all their faux journalism and blow-hardiness.
It encapsulated itself during the campaign in sickening sound bites about who was a “maverick” or “outsider” and then McCarthy-style tried to stain Obama as a “socialist,” “redistributionist,” “domestic terrorist (even Islamic terrorist!) etc. The same stubborn misguided appeal to the right personified itself in the likes of Sarah Palin and Joe the Plumber, likable enough people but not fit for the authority they were granted them by President McCain and that subsequently sowed the seeds of his demise.
Fortunately, all of that was repudiated last night and, even if you won’t admit it, supporters of the Right should be grateful for it. Your paranoia that somehow the likes of Nancy Pelosi now have total planetary control is a disservice to President Obama and the tenacity, intelligence, and vision he has shown during the campaign. To believe that Nancy Pelosi and her cronies will now set the American agenda, as the Right and their surrogate mouthpieces are already shouting from the rooftops, wreaks of cynicism and obliterated idealism, another piece of clear evidence of just how George Bush and his gang hustled us from the great nation we so recently were.
But beyond all the politics and partisanship evidenced through the campaign, election, and immediate aftermath today, was the history that was made yesterday. It was not just our collective reckoning with our own shameful past in this country – to see the African American experience transcend its tortured slave past to become the leader of this nation – it was also the massive national uprising and triumphant outcome of a quiet mutiny that we witnessed at Grant Park, in Harlem, in all sorts of nooks and crannies across the country and the world, scenes that immediately for everyone recalled John F. Kennedy’s inauguration, or MLK’s “I have a Dream” speech on the Washington Mall.
I hope – and suspect – that it wasn’t just us “minorities” that woke up this morning, looked at our kids who have brown skin, Asian eyes, challenging last names, (or in my case “Chindian features”), and thought to ourselves: “wow, it is possible. Maybe, just maybe….” The road ahead is pot-marked with challenges and hurdles, struggles and inevitable missteps, and likely even disappointments. But that’s tomorrow. Today is hope and elation. Today is jubilation, inclusion, invitation to those rivals we fought off yesterday in hopes that united we really can stand and succeed. Today “Yes we can” is “Yes we did.” Enjoy it. We earned it.