Wednesday, November 5, 2008

An America I Can Believe In

In what has to be the most historic election in a generation, Barack Obama has become the president-elect of the United States. It is hard to imagine how such an unlikely candidate had such a meteoric rise to success. I will be the first to admit I questioned Obama in the primaries. Initially I was a Kucinich supporter (a long shot, but one of the only beacons of true progressivism in a party bogged down by greed and avarice). After his withdrawal I changed my loyalties to Clinton. Having met her personally and believing that she had the strength, experience, and political capital needed, I felt she would also be the best to face whatever Republican was chosen. Now, unlike many Clinton supporters, I never fell into the rancorous denouncements of Obama and genuinely felt that either would do a reasonable, centrist job as president. I felt safe with either of them but not particularly inspired. Sure they were both historic candidates in a year the Democrats stood a good chance of actually winning, but it is always hard for me to vote for centrism. This country has been governed by the fifty-one doctrine for too long (playing to the middle in an attempt to eek out the election with just enough votes). This doctrine has often meant proving who was the most centrist, the most moderate. As a leftist progressive, this placation often struck me as dumbing down the election, and also hindering a genuine vision of a better future. I began to see that Barack Obama was trying to transcend the old language of elections. He spoke to the youth in a way that didn't seem placating or insulting. He gave people the opportunity to inform themselves on complex issues and expected that they would respond. He called for national service, in a country that is facing hard times and an uncertain future. He made me believe.

It is hard to sum up how amazed I am looking at the electoral map in today's Washington Post. Seeing how many states ended up blue and how many of the red states are closer than anyone could have imagined even two years ago. I was amazed to see Obama do so well in my home state, Montana, a rural homogeneous state. It makes me question my own and many other cynics' interpretations of the possibilities for a sustained grassroots movement in America. Many first time voters must feel empowered by the success of their campaign of choice. It will be important to keep these citizens involved in the process as it moves forward and to get them to understand that democracy is not just voting. Only through a sustained national movement can real change be accomplished. I feel optimistic about politics for the first time in a long time, and I am really excited that I will be in the middle of it.  Heather and I are already making plans to be at the inauguration. It will be exciting to play an important role in the health care debate and to have the real likelihood of actual reform. It is a historic time, and a great time to be in Washington D.C.  As one person who always had a hard time believing in hope, I say this with complete conviction: Yes, We Can!

No comments: