November 05, 2008
A Global Celebration Of A Tomorrow
A Venezuelan storekeeper told The New York Times last night, "A few hours ago the world felt like a different place." Of all the words offered last night those best captured the evening's mood.
When Bill Clinton was elected in 1992, a number of liberal baby-boomers I knew got misty-eyed talking about it the next morning. They spoke of deliverance from 12 long years of Reagan and Bush and they invoked JFK and RFK.
I thought of that tonight when I walked into a SOMA club that had a shared and celebratory energy, uncommon for a place reserved for entertainment. A release from eight long years of misery under alien, incompetent leadership, a kind of Guantanamo Bay incarceration with one piece of bad news after another.
Every time I hear the airport threat level speech I think not of 9/11, which I lived through in downtown Manhattan, but the consistent manipulation of public fear, President Bush's favorite tactic. The people of San Francisco and Boulder and Manhattan deserve this night.
How can you not want to commit your own energy when you see the Biden and Obama extended families join onstage, a moment that speaks to our best efforts to hold hands across racial and generational lines? The disbelieving faces, across the country, of all those old black people, children and grandchildren of slaves, who lived through segregation to see this day. The scene from inside Dr. King's old church in Atlanta when the election was called.
People danced in the streets like it was the millennial New Year's all over again. It's still hard to believe the size of the crowds at Obama's rallies in the last few weeks. Aren't we supposed to be too cynical about leaders, about government? The money that the campaign raised was a sign of how many people wanted to contribute.
They were dancing in Kenya and Germany and Australia. "The World Enters America," said the Hindustan Times. A world that had turned its back clearly just wanted a reason to look to us again for some positive example. Whatever your suspicions may be of the global economy and the United Nations and the World Bank and the Hague, it's a better neighborhood when we can find ways to make friends.
And confound enemies - the United States did what? A black man whose middle name is Hussein? The imperialist crusaders? Winning this kind of war will do more lasting good for democracy overseas than anything we can do with a gun.
Senator McCain's speech also made one proud, a hero's words, the best of what is American. Like so many of us I've always liked him and admired him. Much was made of the liberal media's sense of being betrayed - where was the "old McCain?" This was of course in part a personal disappointment for the reporters and Obama certainly got favorable treatment from the mainstream media, but McCain did put on a new coat for this season.
Someone said last night that they thought McCain was so angry lately because he knew that he traded in some of his principles in order to win, and then they didn't deliver the victory for him anyway. A tough fighter, his campaign was hijacked by the worst sludge from the social right-wing.
The weekend before the election found his managers and supporters such as Senator Sam Brownback of Kansas clearly, casually lying to a news-hungry media about how close the election was. Tied in Iowa. A couple of points in Pennsylvania. Even Karl Rove's maps showed otherwise and the states were called minutes after the polls closed But let's generate some more fear so we can pretend to have hope. That's your best argument?
47% of the voters in this country voted for McCain. Some of those were a vote for him or for party, and others were a vote against Obama. Many are afraid of a black president and terrified of the country's demographic shifts. The worst of Sarah Palin's references to Obama tapped into that fear, and her visceral appeal to that part of the electorate is a reminder that the culture wars are not over.
The cheerful, can-do totalitarian Mormon church poured money into what looks to be a successful effort to ban gay marriage in California, so intolerance and fear are not going away. Palin said she was sorry for her comments about "real America," but it was a campaign apology. I grew up in her "real America." She meant what she said and so did those who cheered her comment.
But her argument lost last night. Who knows how much Obama will be able to follow through and what that will look like? But when you look at Obama's face and his name, when you see a global response like this, the size of the crowds here at home, and the transformative requirements of the economic and global challenges in front of us, it's hard not to see a change beyond Washington politics, but in what America is going to make of itself next.
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Very concise and great summary of reactions, analysis and hope. Good post Ray.
Posted by: Mukund Mohan | Nov 5, 2008 6:18:36 PM