As I was watching Hardball with Chris Matthews last night I couldn’t help but see the dust-up between Pat Buchanan and Mike Paul; a black Republican strategists. The exchange between the two highlighted the current state of influx for the Republican Party and the deep divisions that are becoming more pronounced with each passing day. What many are missing is not that the Republicans lost; it is how they lost and why they lost that should be examined. I am not sure that they have the willingness or the humility for self-examination and without self-examination there can be no change. The struggles within the Republican Party are not new; it is just that they were able to mask them behind their “cultural wars” and false patriotism. Now that those rhetorical arguments have been ignored by the electorate the party is being exposed for who they truly are.
The true nature of the Republican Party has been and remains exclusionary versus inclusionary. Rather than wanting to expand their base they want to continue to cling to a shrinking version of an America long since past. Listening to Pat Buchanan one is reminded of why the Republicans are becoming a regional minority party. Mr. Buchanan characterized the Latino and minority voters who by the way are the fastest growing block of voters as being “big government” proponents because they are looking for hand-outs. This is an insult to all of the hard working immigrants and minorities in this country and represents the type of insensitivity that was so evident in the last election. As Mr. Paul tried to suggest the country is changing and the Republicans need to change. Pat Buchanan’s answer was to stick his fingers in his ears and pretend it is still 1964. If this is going to be the Republican answer to the changing demographics in America then their fate is sealed.
I have heard the argument that we need the Republican Party to regroup and become a strong opposition to strengthen our democracy. While I agree that we must have other alternatives to one party rule that doesn’t necessarily mean it has to be this party. If a party becomes irrelevant and opposed to change by its own design then another one will rise to replace it. Anyone remember the Whig Party, the Know-Nothings, or how about the States Rights Party? We have a long history of parties rising and falling in America and today is no different. There will always be an opposition party no matter who is the majority or governing party. When a party loses touch with the electorate and the important issues of that electorate then they deserve to become extinct like all other organisms that do not evolve. They may continue to press their agenda but if that agenda is not considered relevant by those who are being asked to support it in a democracy then the people will seal its fate.
America is changing and there are many Republicans and some Democrats alike who find that fact frightening and will continue to cling to their fears and try to stoke the fears of likeminded people, but make no mistake the genie cannot be put back in the bottle. We cannot turn the clock back to the “good old days” when power was concentrated in the hands of a few white men only nor should we. If the Republicans want to continue to run their national campaigns on issues like fear, abortion, and gay-marriage they have every right to and I for one will support their right to do so. However, if the electorate decides that those issues no longer resonate then the Republicans will have a choice to make. They are obviously not at the place where they are ready to make that choice. They continue at least publically to reiterate the same tired rhetoric that has failed them in recent elections. Let the ice age begin. Unless they have a plan to deport all minorities, immigrants, and people who accept diversity not as a necessary evil but as a desired outcome then they shall go the way of the Bull Moosers and good riddance.
The Republicans have maybe two more election cycles to either reach out to more Americans or become insignificant as a national party. They will always have their regional, cultural, and ethnic issues and the voters that these type of arguments appeal to. The problem is that this blocks of voters is becoming smaller and smaller. If anyone is willing to see beyond the numbers there is a gradual but perceptual shift in the American electorate. The problem with many Americans whether they be pundits, political experts, or the general public is that we refuse to accept something until it is right in our faces. It is this lack of foresight that allowed us to believe that there would be no consequences to invading Iraq, spending money like a drunken sailor, or removing the regulations on the greediest among us.
What the Republicans have to come to grips with is that it is not the face of the messenger that counts, it is the message stupid! So whether it is Colin Powell at the UN or Gonzalez at Justice if the policies are whack dressing them up with an acceptable messenger doesn’t make them plausible. Crap is still crap no matter who is spewing it.
Friday, November 14, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Faith is a very big part of my life. And putting my life in my creator's hands - this is what I always do. I'm like, OK, God, if there is an open door for me somewhere, this is what I always pray, I'm like, don't let me miss the open door. Show me where the open door is. Even if it's cracked up a little bit, maybe I'll plow right on through that and maybe prematurely plow through it, but don't let me miss an open door. And if there is an open door in (20)12 or four years later, and if it is something that is going to be good for my family, for my state, for my nation, an opportunity for me, then I'll plow through that door.”
This will be my last Sarah Palin essay until she does something more newsworthy than picking her nose. The only reason I am writing this one is because as a Christian I couldn’t allow her public plea to God to go unchallenged because it highlights and typifies to me the error of the Western Church in general and the modern western Christian specifically. Let me first state that it is my belief that no group of Christians have done more to divide the Church and inject heresy into the Church than modern day Evangelicals. It is their fundamental belief that God’s message to them is uniquely their own and that is the reason we have so many churches and so few Christians. Christianity in America is devoid of its humility and has been replaced with our glorification of the individual. This is not an indictment against Christianity, but against those who have hijacked it to espouse their gospel of greed, war, and self-importance. There are many who claim to be Christians, but who do not follow the teachings of Christ.
In the Western Church God speaks to everyone through everyone. This is contrary to Church history, throughout the history of the Church God has used certain people to deliver His message. The problem is when everyone speaks for God there is a tendency to get the message confused and mixed. Today anyone who has a storefront can claim Divine intervention and become a mouthpiece for God. The problem is that if everyone is speaking for God then who is listening? We have all these leaders and so few followers. The other thing that it does in addition to diluting the Word of God is that it also dilutes our resources, our workers, and our mission.
The problem I have with the Palin statement is two-fold. The first is in the structure of the prayer although it is indicative of the way many pray today. When asked by his disciples about how they should pray Jesus provided them with the following. The Palin plea ignores the first tenet of the prayer that Jesus provided and that is that God’s will be done. I’m not sensing the will of God here; it appears more to me like the will of Sarah Palin. The sad part is that many Christians would not even be able to understand the difference. In her plea we have her family, her state, her nation, her, and of course the Republican Party but where is God? Like so many Christians of today what Ms. Palin wants to do is to provide God with her plans and then have God initial here and here and sign at the bottom. Rather than praying to be included in God’s plan we want to include God in our plans. According to Ms. Palin God has pretty much decided that she should be President, now it is just a matter of when. Let me think the last person who said that God wanted them to be President was George W. Bush and how did that work out for the country?
The second problem I have is if the door is open why would you need to plow through it? Normally if the door is open I can just walk through it or if the door is closed then it is probably not a door I should be going through. If I have to plow through the door then chances are it was closed for a reason. However if I am running on self-will then it doesn’t matter whether the door is open or closed I’m going through. My belief is that if God opens a door it isn’t cracked, it is wide open. But of course this really isn’t about God opening doors is it? This is about the ego and arrogance of a politician that wants certain people to believe that she has been chosen for some high calling. The question then becomes chosen by whom? How many times have we witnessed self-proclaimed prophets and leaders that have neither been prophetic or shown leadership? Whenever someone tells me that God has chosen them to do something whether it is to be President or to be my wife I immediately become suspicious as do I think many of you. It is not that I don’t believe in Divine intervention or guidance it is just the ones who usually proclaim it the loudest are usually the ones that don’t have it.
If Ms. Palin really wants Divine guidance maybe she should pray instead of what God can do for her what she can do for God. Why some people believe just because they invoke the name of God that this somehow exalts and legitimizes their personal quest is beyond me. I read somewhere that you will know a tree by its fruit. What fruit are you harvesting Ms. Palin? And if you don’t win will that also be God’s plan. New rule: Athletes, politicians, and sports teams can no longer use God for their personal agendas.
“You can safely assume that you've created God in your own image when it turns out that God hates all the same people you do.” - Anne Lamott
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
When Vice-President elect Joe Biden first broached the subject of President-elect Barack Obama being tested in the first few days or months in office by rogue elements in the nefarious underworld of terrorist states and “Axis of Evil” residents the McCain campaign and the RNC couldn’t wait to tout it as some sort of backside endorsement of McCain and his experience. My belief is that while there could be those who may rattle sabers to get a reaction from the new President, the reaction from the world has been one of refreshing good-will even from those elements who were considered unapproachable by the Bush administration. The truth is that President Obama will be tested in the early days of his administration, but it won’t come from those predicted by Biden.
The new President will and already is being tested not by external terrorist, but by internal dissent from the losing Party. Since the election what few Party leaders the Republicans have left have been on a non-stop effort to diminish and tarnish the election of President Obama. The marginalization of President Obama has begun. I guess it isn’t enough to disenfranchise and marginalize millions of American voters since that strategy has failed their next line of attack is to marginalize the election itself. I can understand trying to find a silver lining in the clouds but this is ridiculous. According to these home grown rogues the American electorate did not sign on for any wholesale changes in how the government does business. The fact that they have lost millions of voters obviously has escaped their attention. Another minor detail they have failed to notice was that this election was more than a referendum of George W. Bush; it was a repudiation of the Republican brand. The country has turned the page, but the Republicans have not. They want to continue the same practices that caused them to lose Virginia, Ohio, and North Carolina.
Rather than rolling up their sleeves and joining with the rest of us in seeking out what we can do to help this nation, they have already begun to dictate to the next President what he will and won’t be able to do. In the same breathe they talk about bi-partisanship and obstructionism as if this is what the American public voted for. I don’t think so. The choice is simple: lead, follow, or get out of the way. Stagnation and hindering are not opinions in today’s America. The quickest way to ensure that the Republican Party will become a fringe Party is to continue this false narrative of what this election signified. I thought it was just a campaign tactic but now I am convinced that they truly believe that if they say something enough it is either true or will become true. I hope that the Republicans do try to obstruct the new policies and legislation of the President-elect and the Democrats. With the country in free-fall I want to see how they spin doing little or nothing to help middle-class America after offering up 700 billion to the banks and CEO’s. I can’t wait to see how that socialism argument flies with 10% unemployment and millions of foreclosures. Maybe they can talk about abortions or same-sex marriage that ought to help comfort those suffering during this depression.
The true test of the relevancy of the Republican Party will be in their response to the crisis and their willingness to support efforts to fix it. Now, more so than at any time in recent memory President-elect Obama has a bully pulpit, he has mobilized millions of Americans to believe in and expect change. I would not want to be a Republican slowing down any relief for those suffering the most from this crisis. My guess is that they really don’t get it and despite their “Country First” rhetoric they would allow the country to suffer if they thought it would allow them to return to power sooner. We shall witness first hand if the Republicans really are willing to put demagoguery aside for the greater good of their countrymen and if they don’t they will remain adrift in the wilderness of American politics. If they underestimate the political savvy of Obama or the desire for change as they did in the election they will pay dearly. They will create a generation of Democrats that will insure the Democrats majority status for years to come.
The President-elect’s first test will not be from the “Axis of Evil”, but from the “Excesses of Evil”. I guess it isn’t enough to be the authors of the biggest economic meltdown since the Depression through negligence, greed, and tax-cuts for the wealthy, now we want to compound the problem through obstructionist’s tactics. Please Mr. Boehner and Mr. McConnell do try to block the much needed relief for middle-America; let’s see how that works out for you in 2010. The long-term future of your Party is at stake, I hope you don’t misread the public on this one it will cost you big time. This isn’t the 90’s we are now in uncharted waters with grave dangers for all. I hope you choose wisely.
Monday, November 10, 2008
“In record numbers, Americans voted on Tuesday for a skillful presidential nominee promising change, but "change" should not be confused with a license to raise taxes, drive up wasteful government spending, weaken our security, or give more power to Washington, Big Labor bosses and the trial bar. Americans did not vote for higher taxes to fund a redistribution of wealth; drastic cuts in funding for our troops; the end of secret ballots for workers participating in union elections; more costly obstacles to American energy production; or the imposition of government-run health care on employers and working families.” – John Boehner
Did this guy see the same campaign and election that I saw? In the campaign that I saw President-elect Barack Obama laid out in no uncertain terms what his agenda was and what he wanted to accomplish. There were no hidden innuendos or code words; he stated as a matter of fact what he felt the government’s role was and how he planned to implement that role. And despite Mr. Boehner’s claims to the contrary, the majority of the American public voted to accept this candidate and his agenda. We have seen for the last two election cycles the electorate’s repudiation of the Republican ideas and their tactics and yet they continue to believe that nothing has changed. Many of them feel that the reason they lost was because they weren’t right of center enough. If this continues this Party will be replaced by another one and they will become strictly a regional and rural Party.
My belief is that the Republicans in the Congress are going to become obstructionists as they were during the 90’s. They are exposing to the American people that they are devoid of original thought and so rather than propose they merely condemn. In the current political climate I don’t think the people are going to be responsive to that type of politics. I just hope the Democrats do not respond to this election as they did after the 2006 election with fear and trepidation. If the Republicans goal is to remain adrift in the wilderness then this is the way to do it. Mr. Boehner wrote of Republican ideas to solve the economic crisis but from what I and many of my fellow citizens heard trickledown economics is not going to sell. I think the majority of people are tired of being trickled on, I know I am.
Maybe I am crazy but I thought if you ran on a platform and you won by an impressive margin then you get to enact that platform. Mr. Boehner obviously feels that the margin of victory wasn’t convincing enough. What he refuses to see is not necessarily in the raw numbers of how many, but in who voted for whom. The Republicans may have won the cultural debate but they have lost the intellectual debate. Many of the so-called Reagan Democrats and moderate Republicans voted for President-elect Obama. He won in the 100,000 income group, the 200,000 income group, and with the suburban voters. I have never agreed with the Reagan Democrat lie, those voters are just socially conscious Republicans. If it were not for the die-hard Southerners who many as we know voted on issues besides competence in this election, the rout would have been unprecedented.
President-elect Obama was able to forge a new majority that resembles more of how America resembles. The country is changing and someone forgot to tell the Republicans. President-elect Obama won the Latino vote, the advanced degree vote, and the urban vote. America is becoming darker, smarter, and more urbane and the cultural warfare argument has lost its appeal among these voters. What the Republicans don’t realize is that there are more “other” Americans than there are “real” Americans and that base is shrinking all the time. It’s funny how the Republican apologists have settled on two causes for their defeat and they are the economic downturn and Governor Sarah Palin. I disagree on both counts. While an impending depression does have a tendency to hurt the incumbent party I don’t think that the downturn in and of itself caused the campaign melt-down of Senator McCain. Many point to his small lead in September that vanished with the news of the melt-down. This idea completely ignores two very important facts. The first is that the policies of the Republicans led to this debacle. It wasn’t like this was the result of some unpredictable calamities. The second is that it ignores the response of Senator McCain to the crisis. As far as Governor Palin is concerned granted she was a Hail-Mary but let’s face it McCain was going to lose anyway. This was not the election for two pasty old white dudes to win. That was not what the country was looking for.
So it is my hope that Republicans continue to live in their alternative reality of phony outrage and crisis’s while we continue to offer the new America “a change they can believe in”. I use to think these people were bad people but that is not the case. They just don’t get it and I am not sure they ever will.
Friday, November 7, 2008
It is amazing to me how the Republicans and all of their right-wing friends are trying to minimize the total repudiation they and their policies received at the hands of the electorate. According to these “objective” viewers there was no political realignment. The fact that Obama carried states that hadn’t been carried by a Democrat in years and put into play states that had been lost to Democrats for a generation does not mean that there was a redrawing of the electoral map according to these illustrious men. Their goal is simple to try and keep President Obama and the Democrats from enacting any sweeping legislation, instead hoping that they stay small and do little if anything. My guess is that they hope by trying these scare tactics and keeping the Dems thinking small that in four years if they accomplish little or nothing the Republicans can highlight how a majority Party did nothing to help the voters that elected them.
The Republicans contempt for the intelligence of the American people is infinite. It was only a few years ago that a man who garnered 271 and 286 electoral college votes in two successive elections had a mandate to suspend Habeas Corpus rights, expand government with giveaways to his cronies, and privatize Social Security with their blessings. So I guess based on their logic you only have a mandate and realignment if it meets their criteria and supports their agenda. This talk is why they are becoming more and more irrelevant. I am all for enlisting the support of all Americans for the monumental tasks that we face, but you don’t just get your butt kicked and then try to drive the car; you are lucky to be in the car! What these clowns refuse to see is the same reason they have lost touch with the majority of the American voters and lost the election. When it comes to the major issues facing the American public, they’ve got nothing. This is not the country they thought it was and they can’t accept it.
If I were advising President Obama and the Dems I would advise them to go big and go fast. Strike the iron while it is hot. I would begin with a stimulus package for the poor and the middle-class. I would force the banks to use the bail-out money for what it was designed for to make loans, not to buy other banks. I would then resubmit the SChips healthcare program for children. I would propose funds for states and local governments to ride through this economic crisis and to begin to do the badly needed infrastructure repair. I would look to pass the union registration legislation. I would begin to realign our armed forces to reflect the true nature of the dangers we face. I would invite the UN back into Iraq and give them some real authority to help and stabilize that government. I would then send my diplomats to embark on a worldwide tour to reassure the world that we do respect the world and want to be a part of it again. I would state unequivocally that the United States does not condone torture against anyone. I would enact a 10 year energy plan to make us completely oil free by 2019. I would reinstate and expand the Pell Grant program to help families pay for college for those who are willing and qualified to go. After consultations, I would develop a program to provide healthcare for the millions of Americans who currently don’t have it.
I know that this is a lot to chew on, but we have to remember what George W. and his greedy assed friends have left us with. We must mitigate the vastness of this Depression that we are facing, not wait until we are in the middle of it but while we can make a difference. I also understand that this still leaves plenty of other badly needed things unaddressed, but that was only the first day. We must not allow the naysayers and the small minded to diminish the scope of the critical programs that we need. Of course there will be shouts from the Right about the deficit and big spending liberals, but we must remember we have tried it their way and it didn’t work. A temporary allowance of deficit spending in the middle of a “recession” is not abnormal. Of course they would want us to do nothing because they will be able to ride out the storm and they could use the pain of those who would truly be suffering to rise back to power.
We also have to remember that this generation cannot sustain suffering. If this were a couple of generations ago we would just roll-up our sleeves and get it done, however this generation has not known suffering and hardship and frankly I don’t think they could handle it. They will require more support and coddling than their grandparents. So, there is much to be done and doing it piecemeal is not going to do it. We must strike hard, strike large, and strike fast…
Thursday, November 6, 2008
It is now officially over. The name calling, the fear mongering, the divisive tactics, the shopping sprees and most importantly Joe the plumber’s fifteen minutes of fame. If McCain had won could you imagine the exposure this guy would have received? He would have been credited with McCain’s victory and maybe would have been offered a cabinet level position. He would have written a book about nothing, he would have made a record about nothing. Let’s face it the guy himself was fond of saying that he knew nothing. America has spoken and the winner is…That One! And the loser is the politics of the past still fighting the cultural wars of that past.
The true winner though is not Barack Obama. The true winners are too numerous to name, but I will name a few. The true winners were Ann Nixon Cooper; the oldest black voter and Sister Cecilia Gaudette; who hadn’t voted since Eisenhower both of whom are 106 years old and both stated that Obama’s win would begin the process of change that both have been waiting for. The true winners are the billions of people throughout the world who along with millions of Americans who all held their collective breaths on November 4th to see if America would fulfill its own promises of freedom and equality. The true winners are our children both black and white who can now dream of a better world no longer shackled to the past by generations of missed opportunities and unfulfilled potential.
The election of Barack Obama will not magically eliminate the centuries of pain and fear that was America before November 4th, but what it has done is to provide hope that we as a nation have made progress toward the ideals that this nation was founded on. As we celebrate though I am reminded of a quote by Kate Caro; President of the Liberal Women’s Network. She stated at their inaugural dinner that “Women will only have achieved true equality when there are as many mediocre women in positions of power as there are mediocre men.” You can fill in the word women for any number of groups seeking equality in America. I found this quote interesting in the context of this election where we have the President-elect completing his undergraduate work at Columbia and then going on to earn his law degree from Harvard where he was the first black president of the Harvard Law review replacing a President who by his own account was an average student at best while attending Yale undergraduate school and earning an MBA from Harvard. By all accounts George W. Bush was not a particularly ambitious man and prior to becoming Governor of Texas was not a very successful businessman. George W. Bush is the definition of mediocre.
So while we have made some progress does anyone doubt that if Barack Obama had had the same educational and personal background of George W. Bush that he would have even been considered for the nomination? I seriously doubt it. So until we have the day when a mediocre black or female is elected to the highest office in the land as so many white men have been based on some other criteria than qualifications then we have a ways to go. Remember that even Senator John McCain was no intellectual giant. The true winner in this election was intellectual curiosity. The thing that troubled me the most about the McCain/Palin ticket was not that they didn’t know anything, it was their contention that knowing in itself was bad. That somehow true virtue laid in ignorance and based on all the red on the election map we have some work to do in that area. With so much of the world exceeding us in educational standards the last thing we need to be promoting to our children is ignorance is bliss.
The true winners are all of those black Americans who fought alongside their white counterparts for the right of self determination in this new world from the old. The real winners are all of those Americans who recognized the injustice of enslaving one another and fought to conclude the practice and preserve a nation. The true winners are all of those Americans who witnessed the injustices of Jim Crow America and left their families and homes to protest the exclusion of a whole race of people from daily American life. The true winners are all of those men and women who died for the freedoms that so many of us take for granted. The true winner is the Constitution and all of those who seek a more perfect union. The true winners are all of those who were not able to live to see this day when all of their hard work and sacrifice culminated in that bright shining moment of the election of Barack Obama.
Many people have asked me as a black man what significance does this election play in how I see the country. I am always torn in my answer because while this was a day of immense pride for me as a black man, it also made me proud to be an American. It allowed me to feel vindicated for the hope that I held on to despite all of the naysayers and cries of foolishness. For the past eight years I think for many Americans it was hard to be proud of our nation, I think some of the pride is being restored as we see the world celebrate with us in this historic moment. We must not forget that this is just that; a moment. I think men like Jeremiah Wright and his white counterparts weren’t afraid that America would not be able to elect a black man President their biggest fear was that America could and then what? To those who have become embittered and enraged hope is like kryptonite. America has spoken and the winner is…That One!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Now that we are seeing the numbers and the trends from the election, I think I can finally go public with an idea I had two weeks prior to the election. As many of my colleagues and news media types were debating the “Bradley Effect” I was telling all who would listen that there would be a reverse effect. The reverse Bradley Effect is when white Republicans and independents would tell pollsters that they would not support Barack Obama and then got in the voting booth and did in fact vote for him. I guess their black side over-ruled their white side.
It is one thing to suggest such a phenomenon it is another to provide evidence of such. I do not only believe that Obama gained among the higher middle-class normally Republican voters I also believe that his race allowed some Republican suburbanites to take part in an historic moment by helping to break down the racial barrier for the Presidency. How can anyone Democratic or Republican after watching the McCain campaign make overt attempts to keep the nation divided not be moved to strike a vote for freedom and unity of an ailing nation. I have spoken with moderate Republicans who stated that given the eventual loss of McCain and the “real America” branding of the Republican Party by Governor Palin they were able to in good conscious to break with the Party and vote Obama. General Colin Powell was the beginning of the exodus of moderate Republicans that abandoned the sinking ship that is becoming the Republican Party.
Senator Obama not only got the majority of the 100,000 dollar income group, but also the 200,000 dollar income group. These voters have notoriously supported the Republican Party since the days of Reagan and despite the McCain camps socialism alarms the majority of them switched to Obama. Last night was a great night for the Democrats but more importantly it was a tremendous night for President Obama. I think this election began as an anti-Bush campaign but as the campaign continued it became less of voting against Bush and more about voting for Obama. Even though last night’s overwhelming victory for Obama was a complete and total repudiation of the Bush years even by some Republicans, it was more than that. I think we should not completely focus on the negative aspects of this election but look to the positive opportunities that this election provides us. For the first time in a generation we have the opportunity to put the past political, cultural, and social wars behind us. In order to do this we will all have to kill our sacred cow issues and begin to seek common ground. What can we agree on in all issues?
Regardless of the issue whether it is abortion or the war there are ideas that we can agree on and begin to work out from there. I think we all can agree that there are too many abortions in America. Okay from there what can we do to reduce that amount? We have to take the demagoguery out of these issues and look to come together to seek solutions. For too many years we have chosen partisanship demagoguery over common sense. Rather than basing our acceptance of ideas on the merits of the idea and what is right for America regardless of who proposes it, we have been focusing on the source of the idea. We have the opportunity to marginalize the intolerance that has too often led to so many of our problems being embedded and mired in inactivity. We are still fighting the same issues year after year with no solutions. In a democracy no one is going to get everything they want exactly the way they want it. We must learn to compromise.
Last night could be a do-over for America. Once again we have the good will of the world and amongst ourselves similarly as we did after the 9/11 tragedy. We have the opportunity to use this time to reach out not only towards each other but to the rest of the world. The world has been holding its collective breath waiting for this election and the result was more than they could have expected. But this period of good-will is not eternal but will be based on the policies of the new President. If President Obama does not change the policies of the last administration it won’t matter what race he is or what symbolism this election may have signified. President Obama should very early in his administration make a gesture to the world either through his selection of his cabinet or with a gesture of goodwill through diplomacy. Wow, wouldn’t that be a novel idea diplomacy instead of unilateralism; cooperation instead of isolationism. I think in the end the American electorate had had enough of the obstructionist politics of the past and chose some redemption and hope over fear and divisiveness.
Just in case there was any doubt in the new America green trumps black. Thanks to the bankrupt policies of the Bush administration and the financial meltdown Americans showed that they were willing to trust someone with a plan regardless of their race. This has not always been the case. According to pollsters last night was suppose to be a long night with an election that was expected to be too close to call. “The Mac is back!” If Barack Obama had underperformed the poll numbers we would have been inundated with the “Bradley Effect” theories and calls of closet racism. Since he outperformed the polls then there has to have been a reverse “Bradley Effect”. Many of those polled who responded with support for the white guy actually voted for the black guy. It won’t be long before the job of pollster goes the way of blacksmith. Rather than this election vindicating them it further exposes the inherent flaws of the process. Remember the week before the election when the McCain pollster publically leaked their internal memos and numbers showing a “tightening” of the race?
While the election of Barack Obama does not signal the end of racism or partisanship it does demonstrate that the American public has developed a pragmatism and a willingness to move pass some prejudices of the past. How many could have predicted that there would have been a reverse “Bradley Effect”? I remember posting an essay on the major liberal blogs stating how I felt John McCain had lost this election and it was met with derision and requests to have it deleted. I even predicted that the election would be called at 10:00PM CST again many feared “jinxing” the results to speak of a victory let alone a resounding victory. We have traveled a long way as a nation and yet we have many miles to go before we sleep. Faith and hope has won out over fear and that is something we all can celebrate.
Now that the most historic election in American history has ended, can I speak honestly about the campaign? Even though I was able to recognize early on that this campaign was going to end the way it did (link) I have always been concerned about the makeup of the Obama campaign as well as some of the tactics that were employed at the state and local levels. I allowed myself to believe that because Obama had to rise above the race issue he surrounded himself with a staff that was primarily white not only at the national level but at the lower staff levels as well. I remember telling my parents that the reason I thought Obama was going to win was because the staff he employed at least the ones that I had met were whites that were non-traditional politicos. Many had not taken part in an election in many years, if ever.
Let me state that I believe the Obama campaign ran a near flawless campaign and have rewritten how national campaigns will be ran in the future. They have destroyed the old model and created a new model. They have with the help of George W. Bush and the economic crisis taken the cultural war off the table as a way to divide the electorate. They have built on the Howard Dean electronic campaign model as well as and the 50 state model. I don’t think every candidate will be able to use this campaign model we have to remember that Obama was a unique candidate who was able through his oracle skills to be able to allow many Americans who had given up on the political process to once again hope and believe.
Now with that being said here are my concerns from the campaign. The first was the lack of blacks on the staff of Senator Obama. All of the major policymakers and spokespersons were white. What I am about to say will cause many blacks to go up in arms, but I have never been the type of person to bite my tongue. The heavy lifting in this campaign for the first black President in America was done primarily by whites. Black folks while they supported Senator Obama at the polls in unprecedented numbers over 98% according to many polls, the leg work was organized and done mostly by whites. Anyone who volunteered locally for Obama’s campaign can attest to this fact. I bring this up not to offend or to drive a wedge between the two groups, but many of us are familiar with black candidates who have been surrounded by white handlers who were not as sensitive to the issues facing black America as maybe they should. I am not saying this will happen with Obama but I am saying this is a concern that troubles me. This is not an indictment of Senator Obama’s blackness and I have never felt like blacks had to pass a litmus test to be black as many old guard civil rights era people seem to do.
What Senator Obama recognized was that in order to win he had to run a different type of campaign. Unlike Jesse Jackson he did not run as the President of black America, but the President of the United States of America. By the way was I the only person who’s skinned crawled when they showed Jesse Jackson at the Grant Park victory celebration crying? What a hypocrite. Many of the whites who voted for Jesse Jackson were voting for him because he was black not because they felt him qualified. I use Jesse Jackson because he is the person many people compared Senator Obama’s campaign to, unfairly I believe. Rather than advance the issue of race as a qualifier Obama transcended the issue.
The second concern that I have is the local and state tactics that were employed by the Obama campaign during the registration, contact, and get out to vote efforts used. Many times the Obama staff ignored the local officials who had been past warriors of previous Democratic campaigns and created their own networks to bypass these officials. Many of these officials have expressed concern and dismay at what they considered to be a slight by the Obama campaign. I remember reading an article about local officials who were not overly enthusiastic about how they were being marginalized by younger and whiter Obama staff members. Now while this may be sour grapes it could have a lingering effect on the next electoral cycle when maybe the Obamania may not be as strong as it is today and the Dems will have to once again rely on those offended officials.
I hope now that the campaign is over President Obama’s team will reflect a more diverse population. It would be a shame if the first black President doesn’t include blacks in leadership positions and that the worst President in history had more blacks in his administration in positions of leadership than he does. It is said that winning heals all wounds and this resounding win will dismiss a lot of the old notions concerning not only campaigns but the country as a whole.
Monday, November 3, 2008
After tomorrow there will be plenty of talk from political pundits and talking heads that are probably a lot smarter than me about what went wrong for John McCain and the Republican Party. Despite the latest predictions by the McCain camp that he is “surging” this election will be called by 10:00PM CST for our next President Barack Obama. So as we await the results of the most historic election in our nation’s history I would like to offer the Republicans my take on what went wrong.
This election would have been difficult to win for the Republicans in the best of circumstances, but I think there were two over-riding issues that spelled the eventual defeat of the Republicans. One could have been avoided; the other was a runaway freight train that many underestimated and still do. Many people will say it was the economy that was the McCain downfall but I don’t buy it. While the economy has helped to highlight McCain weaknesses and vulnerabilities they have only helped to increase the lead Senator Obama already had. There will be those wing-nut Republicans who will claim that McCain wasn’t tough enough on Obama as evidenced by the last second Reverend Wright commercials that have been appearing thanks to the RNC. Again this is ludicrous considering that the more McCain went negative the more his poll numbers fell.
The first issue and I think the one that could have been avoided was the McCain that came out of the primaries and the Convention was not John McCain. In order to secure his Party’s nomination John McCain had to change from the independent thinker and likable guy to the ideologue and far right-wing champion. Remember who he was running against in the primaries? The guy’s that gave him the most trouble were Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney both were tacking hard right. It was during the primaries that John McCain lost himself and became someone else, someone barely recognizable by those who knew him before and liked him. All of his previous positions were “transformed” (flip-flopped) to appeal to the ever more rabid Party base that the Republicans are becoming. There were the Bush tax-cuts, torture, and immigration to name a few. While his campaign stated that he became more enlightened the rest of America didn’t see it that way. The final anti-McCain decision was Sarah Palin. The real John McCain would have chosen Joe Lieberman as his running-mate.
John McCain coming out of the convention wasn’t running against Barack Obama; he was running against John McCain. This is not to say that either John McCain would have won the election, but at least he would have been true to himself and the American public would have sensed that. Watching this John McCain campaign was at times excruciatingly painful to those who respected him in 2000 during his Presidential run. He never looked comfortable and his campaigning often times looked laborious and agonizing for him. The miscalculation of his handlers was that he could run as a maverick at the same time he was running as a base candidate and the two could never be reconciled in the candidate’s mind nor in the publics. It was this contradictory campaigning that prevented them from presenting a coherent message and instead settling for gimmicks.
The second and I think larger issue was that the McCain campaign fell into the same trap as the Hillary Clinton campaign fell into and that was they underestimated the electorates deep desire for change from the past. This required more than just a change in faces but more importantly in the tone and tenor of the candidates. This blunder was evidenced in the failed strategy of the McCain campaign in the first two months concerning experience. The McCain camp wasted valuable time on a strategy that became moot once they selected Sarah Palin as VP nominee. For some odd reason the McCain camp felt confident in a strategy that had failed the vaulted Clinton machine, I guess they figured they could do it better but the results were the same. They never had a true understanding of the depth of the Bush debacle in the minds of voters. They ran the Bush campaign of 2000 that defeated McCain never realizing that the country had tired of this sort of slash and burn tactics.
They underestimated the degree of discontent not only from Democrats but moderate Republicans and Independents as well. This was the year for McCain to have run his campaign from 2000 and not Bush’s. The change dynamic trumped the experience, Commander-in-Chief, and scary black man arguments. Instead of incorporating the change meme the McCain campaign chose to run a base campaign in a change year. As the economic situation became more and more volatile and perilous it only went to reinforce the instability and lack of coherency from the McCain team. Because he was running a base campaign Barack Obama was able to tie John McCain to George W. Bush and once he was able to do that thanks to McCain’s help this election was over. Since he was required to change his previously held “maverick” positions to shore up his base he began to talk and act like George W. It wasn’t a hard sell to complete the transition from Bush to McCain.
Then of course there is the candidate himself, Barack Obama has always been believed to be too soft to handle the rigors of a Presidential campaign or that he was too cerebral to connect with the voting public. However, after 8 years of a guy who people felt comfortable having a beer with wrecking the country that criterion was no longer as important as it once was. People realized that maybe that guy sitting next to me on the bar stool may not be the guy I want handling the country in a crisis. The Obama team ran a masterful campaign avoiding the missteps that befell many of the other campaigns. The McCain camp had to manufacture gaffes to feign false indignation and try to rally the base, again running a base campaign.
The bottom line is that John McCain lost this election badly because he lost himself. You can’t run against yourself and win.