Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Obama Victory....

....I know there is some saying about not counting eggs before they are hatched, but one would be deluded to think John McCain is going to win (short of some ripoff or underrepresented closeted racism of whites). Barack Obama is going to win tonight.

What is the significance of this campaign? Personally, I was conflicted by Obama's campaign. He ran as a progressive in the initial stages, but early on in the primaries muted his views on the Iraq War, while sounding like Teddy Roosevelt looking for the cavalry to go into Pakistan. But for the fact he was running against the embodiment of evil to the New Deal legacy of the Democratic Party (the Clintons), I would not have considered voting for him. Well, I broke down and voted for Obama in the primaries, as a Democrat, mostly to defeat Hillary and get some measure of revenge on that de-regulation/free trade-loving husband of hers. I cannot understate the satisfaction I felt at watching her lose, especially after the manner in which she openly race-baited Senator Obama (the most openly divisive presidential campaign in the Democratic Party since George Wallace). Even more than the cynicism of her campaign, though, I will never forget the manner in which Hillary (as First Lady) campaigned members of Congress personally for the passage of the Welfare Reform Act. Hers was always a feminism borne out by generational loyalty of older white women without a care for the issues that really mattered to feminism as a whole (not the least the poor women who were thrown to the street thanks to the passage of the Welfare Reform Act). Her style of politics, much like her husband's, has been permanently put out to pasture, and for that I will always have Barack Obama to thank.

That said, I still had my difficulties voting for Senator Obama in the general election. It is hard to be a progressive and get excited about Democratic candidates in this country in the last couple of decades. We almost always lose. Worse, the ones who claim to think like us almost never do (Clinton on NAFTA, GATT, the Defense of Marriage Act, etc.). Sure enough, as I expected and hoped would not happen, Senator Obama began his lurch to the right, on capital punishment, on surveillance, on foreign policy (especially with regards to the unilateral use of force in Pakistan). Even on the one issue I agreed with him the most, Iraq, was overruled by his refusal to really campaign on the issue. And the Wall Street bailout which Obama supported as vociferously as John McCain, George Bush and the Congressional Democratic leadership (the same Democratic Congressional leadership who attempted to throw Dennis Kucinich under the bus by bankrolling a primary opponent because of his insistence on introducing articles of impeachment of George Bush).

A few things basically brought me around to Barack Obama. One, as much as I dislike many of the corporatist policies of the Senator from Illinois, and have no illusions that he will be that much better than John McCain, he is at least not John McCain, the man who declared his desire to stay in Iraq for a hundred years, who once compared bombing Belgrade to a form of urban renewal, and who increasingly (once he realized that he was going to lose) chose to go down the route of a negative and nasty campaign (i.e., Bill Ayers, the Palestinian professor that Senator Obama once rubbed shoulders with, bringing back the Jeremiah Wright issue in Pennsylvania on the eve of the election, etc.). Watching the manner in which some of the McCain/Palin speeches became hate rallies was almost entertainment in itself, but for the death threats and sight of angry middle-aged white people whining about socialism. Second, McCain nominated a vice presidential candidate who can be described as the only person I have ever seen as dimwitted and dangerous as George Bush (be it her inability to speak or answer questions in complete, discernible sentences, views on dinosaurs, abortion [even in cases of rape and incest], advocating our going to war against Russia over the fate of a Quisling Eastern European state like Georgia, on just about everything). The thought of someone like Sarah Palin even being close to our nuclear codes is truly frightening. The scary part is after Senator McCain loses tonight, she will become one of the lead Republican candidates for the 2012 campaign (and this campaign is going to cost over $2 billion, the next likely much more, and require the exploratory committees to form sometime right after inauguration day in January 2009).

Third and last, our Supreme Court which, for better or worse, has an inordinate say in what constitutes rights in our society. Abortion, the death penalty, gun control, most every hot button issue, the US Supreme Court, since the rise of the incorporation doctrine, have a vital influence. It is a court filled with old liberals and one that is only one vote short (in what we know of their views) of overturning Roe v. Wade (if an abortion case comes before the court). Considering McCain's pick for VP, it is obvious what kind of candidate he would choose for any court opening (so beholden is McCain to the religious right [it is a long way from his 2000 "agents of intolerance" speech in Virginia]). Not that Senator Obama would pick great justices, but I am certain they would not be of the mind that an invisible man in the sky will zap them for refusing to equate embryos to human beings.

One positive outcome of this election will be the manner in which the elevation of an African American will have on the future changing demographics of the US. What is happening in 2008 is the future of this country. In many ways, this is the revenge of 1968. The Democratic Party's coalition of women, minorities, and liberals has finally won out. It took four decades for the demographics to catch up. Whites will be a numerical minority by 2050 (if not before). Tonight's result will be the RIP for Nixon's Southern strategy. Never again will Republicans be able to win national elections by race-baiting and scaring whites to vote them into the majority party of this country. They will have to change and expand their electorate.

I still believe over time, if the Republicans are smart, they will try to appeal to Latinos (ironically, one of the smarter endeavors of Karl Rove during his time as President Bush's electoral muse). However, that means whites in the Republican Party will have to get over their phobia of immigrants. There is no guarantee of this, but after they lose a few elections it will finally occur to them.

As for what this will do for the issue race, it is an overstatement to say that the election of one African American to a position of authority is going to change everything. It will certainly change perceptions, in a positive way, domestically and internationally, and this is important, but it is not going to change bad policies, particularly the war on drugs (with young black men being the main targets of our government), the problem of racism with local law enforcement, or even basic economic justice (unemployment, poverty, issues that still impact peoples of color in this country). That is not going away with the election of Barack Obama. Whether or not Senator Obama, as President, will try to do anything to positively impact his own community is still not known. He ran as a fusion candidate and barely paid attention to anything going on within the African American community, except when forced, thanks to Sean Hannity and Hillary Clinton, because of his ex-preacher (hardly my idea of addressing the real issues).

This election is historic in another way. The first ballot I ever casted, at 17, was for Jesse Jackson, during the 1988 Democratic presidential primaries. For those who recall, Jackson won some early primaries, and it even looked, for a short time, that he may be able to win the party's nomination. He tried to run a multiracial campaign, going to Appalachia, supporting strikers, and attempted to form a white-black, working class coalition. It went down to failure, of course, as Hart and Dukakis successfully made Jackson look like the "black candidate" (my introduction to political disappointment with the Democratic Party). If anyone had told me in November 1988, after Dukakis was thoroughly defeated by Bush, that in two decades an African American liberal Democrat would be elected President, I would not have believed it. That threshold has been broken. It is a harbinger of what is to come, and it cannot be anything but a positive for my country.

No comments: