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Archive for November, 2008

However any of us may have voted, few can deny that Barack Obama is a phenomenal and inspirational public speaker; his acceptance speech on Tuesday night took millions of people on a wild ride from somber reflection to unbridled optimism, along the way taking in patriotism, the love of family, and the willingness to reach out to all of humankind in search of a better tomorrow. There were few dry eyes left in Grant Park that night, and no small number of tears shed across the nation and the globe.

His speech managed, despite its brevity, to evoke Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., among others, and left a feeling that Obama truly wishes to set the bar that high and intends to meet it.

It is perhaps fitting, though, that Lincoln is receiving the lion’s share. One of the high points of Obama’s speech recalled the words of the Gettysburg Address, where Lincoln said: “this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom […] government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” A fellow President from Illinois, Lincoln paved the way for African-Americans to take their rightful places in American society, a process which many consider to have had its culmination on Tuesday night. Also of note is that overtures to Lincoln bespeak the wish for greater bipartisan cooperation; for a Democratic President-elect to so honor the founder of the Republican party is a massive step.

As the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth approaches – indeed, it will be shortly after Obama takes office – it is all too appropriate that the chosen theme for the Inaugural Address is “A New Birth Of Freedom”, and that Obama will face the Lincoln Memorial as he takes his Oath of Office.

Considering the power of his acceptance speeches, both for the party nomination and for the Presidency, I can’t wait to hear him speak on January 20th.

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The dust is finally settling. Democrats now have the White House, and majorities in both Houses of Congress. If you’re bothering to read this, you undoubtedly know what happened in your neck of the woods, so I’m not going to re-hash the results themselves.

Nor am I going to talk at length about the crucial factors that made the difference; suffice it to say that a more organized campaign, a massive get-out-the-vote operation, the economic collapse, a nationwide feeling of Bush fatigue and, yes, race all played hefty roles.

I will say this: I have for a long time had a great deal of respect for Senator McCain. Unfortunately, Candidate McCain wasn’t even the same man, and lost a great deal of that respect as the campaign wore on.

What is far more important than all of the above is what the result actually MEANS for the country. We have, in our President-elect, a man with a great deal of intelligence and charisma, but a notable lack of experience. This is offset by the vast experience Joe Biden brings to the table, and the immensely long list of advisors from whom Obama will hopefully solicit opinions before making his decisions. However, the ultimate authority in many situations will lie with Obama. I desperately hope that he has the wisdom to listen to the advice he is given.

I also desperately hope that Obama’s presidency is a successful one; if not, it could be a substantial setback for subsequent “minority” candidates. The weight of expectation now thrust onto his shoulders is immense, considering both his quasi-messianic status among devotees and the fact that he is inheriting two wars and an economy in crisis. The definition of “success” for the next four years may well be simply a matter of not screwing anything up too badly, but I very much hope to see more. It’s not going to be an easy term, for him or for us, but I do have hope that better days are in store.

I have seen two separate writers, both of whose opinions I greatly respect, refer to the job of President as Persuader-in-Chief. Indeed, it will not be Obama’s job to make the laws (hence the separation of the executive and legislative branches) but he will nonetheless have a role in shaping them. The charm and charisma so often displayed during the campaign may indeed be his most valuable asset as he asks members of Congress and foreign leaders for their support on specific initiatives. A smile and a handshake from “That One” could be as effective as the Majority Whip will be.

One area in which I fervently hope that the Democratic Party make bold steps forward is GLBT rights. Over half the states in the Union now have bans in place on same-sex marriage, and some of them ban or restrict the adoption of children by same-sex couples. However you slice it, this IS discriminatory – a subset of the populace is being denied rights which the rest enjoy. This is not particularly different from the long-gone classification of black people as three-fifths of a person, nor from the restriction on voting rights to men only. I do not contest that the legal frameworks of the nation and the individual states allow for such bans, but I cannot, and will not, accept that they should ever be enacted. Personally, I feel that banning anyone else’s marriage threatens my own far more than allowing it ever could. I also do not accept the argument that allowing same-sex marriages will culminate in people being allowed to marry their pets, or whatever the latest idiocy is. I believe that if you are able to give your informed consent to a marriage, you should be allowed to enter into it, regardless of gender, gender identity or sexuality. 

Another area is lobbying reform. When lawmakers are being offered inducements in return for their votes on legislation, the best interests of the nation are no longer being served. If the special interests are not a factor and members of Congress can vote with their consciences instead of their pocketbooks, we might see real accomplishments.

Due in part to Obama’s race and in part to the polarization of the country, many people have raised the horrific specter of another presidential assassination. We can all pray that this does not transpire, for I do not believe it would do anybody any good. However, it does reinforce the single piece of advice I would give to President-elect Obama, and would ask that he heed above all else: govern each day as though it is your last. Don’t think about re-election in four years, think about what you can do each and every day to make the United States of America better for all its citizens. I believe that four years of operating in this manner will do infinitely more good than eight years without.

Another blogger I read came to these shores with his family while he was still a boy. Last night, his father texted him with the words “THIS is the reason I brought you to America.” Let’s not have that faith – that hope – be in vain.

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Democracy calls!

So here we are. Super Tuesday is just hours away, and all Americans who haven’t already taken advantage of early voting systems are called upon to do their civic duty.

The vast majority of pundits, bloggers and party insiders believe that Obama has this election in the bag, and the only remaining question is how big the margin of victory will be.

This may tempt some people to stay home. Why vote, if the outcome is already a foregone conclusion?

Don’t let yourself think that way; even assuming your vote wouldn’t make the difference for Obama (and it might), there are down-ticket races where one vote could be crucial. My wife and I live in a state which is so far into Obama’s column that it’s almost falling out the other side, a state in which neither Senate seat nor the governor’s mansion is up for grabs – even a congressional district that the Democrats have tightly locked down. But the state Senate is another story. The Republicans have control of the State Senate by one single seat, and our district has a chance to change that. So why stay home? There’s still a difference to be made. Even if you have to get down to school boards, town councils, the small stuff. It’s still important. There’s a reason these things are put to a vote as well as just the Presidency.

 

So yeah. Get out and vote. And remember, it doesn’t matter who you vote for, as long as you vote for Obama. 🙂

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