President-elect Obama . . .
I'm daring my own heart to write these words, to let
hope's preview ignite me for an instant. Despite all my reservations
(Afghanistan) and all my fears (how will they try to undermine his presidency,
or prevent it by theft?), I can't help but feel history pushing at me and
all of us as we vote, or try to vote, on Tuesday.
Yes, the significance of this election rises out of the
nation's past: Barack Obama's articulate, courageous campaign
represents the farthest reach of the civil rights movement, and a beginning of
the psychological healing of our national legacy of racism. But even more
significantly, this election speaks to the future: It's about the
creation of a new constituency and the careening, dying sputter of an old one.
And the Democrats finally have a candidate who unabashedly
addresses this new constituency, rather than one who panders, ineptly, to the
The brimming international excitement about Obama -- who
drew a crowd of 200,000 in Berlin, a crowd of 100,000-plus in Denver (two days
after McCain drew 3,000 in that city) -- which I feel myself with a
ferocity that overwhelms my reservations, is the global whisper that the time
has come . . .
The time has come not just to reclaim the world from the disaster
of the Bush administration, not just to end the multi-trillion-dollar war in
Iraq, not just to stave off further shredding of the Constitution, not just to
restrain the reckless greed of the financial community and restore some
semblance of a social safety net -- beyond all this, the time has come for
America to lead the way in building the foundations of a lasting peace based on
fairness, cooperation, eco-awareness and global interconnection.
I say this with a wary eye on the unraveling, angry, "us
vs. them" constituency that the McCain-Palin ticket continues to stoke,
with the seeds of hatred and no-nothingism they have scattered pretty much
blowing back in their faces.
"You know the other night in the debate with Senator
Obama," McCain told a crowd in Cedar Falls, Iowa, "I said his
eloquence is admirable, but pay attention to his words -- we talked about
offshore drilling and he said he would quote 'consider' offshore
drilling. We talked about nuclear power. Well, it has to be safe, environment,
blah, blah, blah. And the fact is . . ."
The partisan crowd interrupted McCain with cheers -- yeah,
it's us vs. the eggheads and global-warming nags -- but beyond his
immediate listeners, as his words spread over the Internet to a global
audience, McCain morphed into an idiot, answering the fancy-talkin' young
guy from Harvard with "blah, blah, blah," trying desperately to
appeal to the dregs of human thoughtlessness: robo-candidate, reaching for some
reptile nub of the white backlash that has sustained the Republican Party for
McCain and Palin, God love 'em, have set a new low, at least
for politics in my lifetime: a new low in lack of seriousness, a new low in
smear and hate. They have brought the Bush Doctrine home, with rallies that set
"real Americans" against the rest of us and summon up the ghost of
Jim Crow. In Clearwater, Fla., Palin tried to link Obama to Bill Ayers and
domestic terrorism and wound up fomenting it herself, when someone in the
audience shouted, "Kill him!"
And Fighting John McCain, speaking at a VFW hall in Murrells
Inlet, S.C., answered a question about sending a message to Iran by parodying
the Beach Boys: "Bomb, bomb Iran." Later he said he was just joking
with a bunch of vets, and if you don't like it "get a life."
To which I say, wow, even George Bush's "decisiveness"
can't hold a candle to the recklessness of John McCain. The only person I
would less like to see in charge of national security is Sarah Palin.
"The size of our challenges has outgrown the smallness of
our politics," Obama said this week as he began the final push of his
long campaign, and to these words I hear myself utter a silent, soul-deep
The type of politics to which he refers is the us-vs.-them
variety suddenly coming up short for the mocking Republican ticket, which still
thinks it can ignore us and speak only the language of war and fear. But there
is a new, ethnically and globally inclusive constituency that Obama understands
he has to listen to and help solidify. Thus in Denver he chanted "yes we
can" with the crowd in Spanish -- "si se puede" --
and helped unify a country that's sick of being divided.
I urge everyone who is sick of the smallness of the political
debate, sick of being shut out by us-vs.-them politics, sick of the narrow,
unworkable range of options with which the nation would continue to meet its
challenges if McCain manages to pull off a miracle (or something else) and win
this election, to join me and vote for change and expanded political horizons.
I repeat these words: President-elect Obama. This is the starting
point we can achieve next week.