Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Election of 2008

44 years ago Irving Wallace wrote a novel about the first black president. The only way he could think of to make a black man president required an almost unbelievable series of flukes, none of which involved the man actually winning the post on his own. The Man wasn't a terrible book, but tonight it becomes a relic of a former time.

It is probably a sign of my overwhelming insularity, even in NYC, that I'd never really stopped to think about race as a factor in the election.

In fact it wasn't until one of the reporters for CBS News, a black man, spoke about calling his mother when it looked like Senator Obama would win, that I truly realized how momentous this election would be. As he repeated the story to Katie Couric I realized he was fighting to maintain his composure. That he and his mother were both deeply moved by this election. Not because of party. Not because of the economy; not even because of the war in Iraq. Simply, finally, because a black man can be president. And is.

We all love our country, even when it was headed down a path most of us thought was dangerous and wrong. We changed our own course, our own path. And we did it with a man who, 44 years ago, would have been not much more than a novelty in an election.

That's pretty cool.

26 comments:

Welshcake said...

I think it's amazing.

Congratulations to the USA. This is a moment of history. I know that phrase gets over used, but in this case it's true.

Catherine Haines said...

Congratulations to the US. I wish I were an American for one day just so I could have voted for him; as a New Zealander I am more than content to watch history happen.

Stephen Parrish said...

I'm proud of my country today.

s.w. vaughn said...

No matter what happens during Obama's term, we have already seen change come to America. We elected a president without regard to race, creed, etc. - and we did it without gimmicks, without scandal, without violence and protests and threats.

Involvement was the key to this election. People cared, and people did something. The long voting lines showed on the news represented a powerful image: we are not apathetic. We are not afraid.

We are America. At last, again, and forever.

I'm so proud of us.

Kelley said...

Our state just got its first woman senator too. It's all just so damn cool...

clindsay said...

And consider this: the plaza and steps of the Capitol building - where the first black man in history will be sworn in as President - those steps were most likely built by slaves.

How far we have come. And how far we have yet to go.

Still, I have to keep pinching myself to make sure it's not a dream.

:-)

Crimogenic said...

Your post brought tears to my eyes Janet. This whole election is so amazing, so brilliant. It's something special to feel apart of history and apart of the future of our country.

I can't help but remember when I was a freshman in high school (about 13 years ago), and my American History teacher said to a group of students that you won't see a black man elected president of the U.S. in your lifetime. He said it in such a matter-of-fact way, that it was hard to doubt him when you're 14 years old. But look at America now, moving pass race, and picking a man who understands that we need change from the way this government has been ran for the last XX years.

Susan Adrian said...

Yes. I had the exact same reaction.

Julie Weathers said...

We are America. At last, again, and forever.

When did we cease to be America?

s.w. vaughn said...

@Julie: alas, I didn't mean to imply we'd ceased being America. I got all caught up in the moment, and was being dramatic . . .

I'll just shut up then, shall I? :-)

FIONA said...

I didn't start to cry last night, until Michelle and the girls came on stage with Barak and the commentator said, "You are looking at the next first family."

WOW. This is a great country.

Southern Writer said...

I have never been more proud of our country. What a great day!

Lafreya said...

I still can't believe it. I call my sister up an we keep say "President Obama" because it is just so amazing.

Clindsay is right about the capitol and that just gives me another reason to cry. A good book on the subject is

Black Men Built The Capitol by Jesse J. Holland

Steve Stubbs said...

M.L. King said he looked forward to a day when men were judged, not by the color of their skin, but the content of their character. I seem to be the only Obama supporter who is interested in what he stands for and considers his race irrelevant. Wherever King is, I suspect he is shaking his head and saying that this society still has a way to go.

Southern Writer said...

Not so, Steve Stubbs. I don't care about his race, either, although I have to say I was appalled that from the map of red states / blue states during the election there was plenty of evidence that racism is still alive and well in the South. It was always his policies, character, education, eloquence, background, courage, honesty, and enthusiasm that excited me.

Richard said...

Racism is still alive in America and elsewhere. Look at all of you getting excited about a Black president who is not even black... but a mulatto. Color is not an indication of anything in politics or character.

What matters are policies? Do they further the essential ideas of the Founders? Does Obams advocate the Rights of Individuals to Life, Liberty, Property and the (individual) pursuit of happiness? It was those Rights, and respect for them among individual Americans, that made America great for its individual citizens.

Does Obama stand for free speech (no, nor did McCain); does he believe in truly opposing enemies who kill YOU Americans (no, nor did McCain); was his youthful background supportive of those value (no); does he dislike the constitutional "checks and balances" that keep politicians from running rampant over Americans' lives (yes); does he believe individuals should live in *service* to others (yes, as did McCain); is he prepared to threaten people who disagree with him (yes); is he prepared to twist laws to achieve his goals (yes, campaign funding by fraudulent credit card use).

All these things were made abundantly clear during the campaign. Never has their been a candidate so anti-American (in the Founder's sense) in his policies and actions. But was 'black' and charismatic.

If Obama had been white, I believe he would have lost because of the above, even with the same media support he received. Unfortunately, McCain/Palin are very nearly as socialist/statist as Obama, plus they would very likely have further torn down the wall between Church and State.

Americans had little choice in this election, which is why the popular vote was surprisingly close, given the fairly wide gap in the electoral vote. Now America needs widespread media support of its fundamental values to ensure they are not lost altogether.

As Benjamin Franklin said, of their Individual Rights based Constitution, "It's a Republic, if you can keep it."

Come on America, be more vigilant, don't lose "it" over such shallow matters as race and charisma.

Twill said...

Southern writer -

Please don't slander the south just because many of them voted for the conservative candidate, the candidate who wants the United States to win the battle to stabilize Iraq rather than just throwing up our hands and walking away.

If the races had been reversed, I doubt if many white southerners would have changed their votes on that account.

Richard said...

Twill, come on there was no "slander" from Southern Writer. If anything SW was fully on your side. Read with more care. The word "Southern" does not automatically mean "illiterate bigot."

Twill said...

Wrong multiple ways, Richard.

First, I did not imply that Southern Writer, or any other Southern person, was illiterate or a bigot on racial matters. I don't know where you inferred that at all. I specifically claimed that very few white southerners would have switched their votes if the races were reversed.

Now, whether Southern Writer is a bigot on partisan matters remains to be seen. I would hope not, but the far-left and the far-right make a habit of nasty claims about each other, and many normal people buy into them. The claim that "the only reason people wouldn't vote for Obama is racism" is one of those partisan bigotries. You can feel free to think that "all people who vote Republican are racists" if you really want to, but I prefer to minimize the poison in my own system.

Second, my point was simply that the red-blue map had nothing to do with racism, and everything to do with policies, character, etc. Some people honor service of McCain's type more than service of Obama's type. Some people think that experience is more important than eloquence when the situation is dire. Some people don't want their union voting to be public knowledge. Some people think sitting quietly in a Church for twenty years where people repeatedly make racist statements and no one notices is an indicator of character. And so on.

No need to refight the election. I'm just illustrating non-racial reasons to have voted Republican. Obama won, fair and square; he earned the job, and God bless him so he can do it well.

Just remember that, if you honestly believe in diversity, some people will make different decisions than you, based upon things you may not think are as important as they do. Vive la difference!

Finally, Obama ran about 2 percent ahead of Kerry across the boards, so there's no evidence that race had any negative effect on his candidacy at all. I know several people who used his race as a tie-breaker, voting for Obama because he was black, even though they seriously doubted his veracity and/or his policies. They are hoping that he will govern as he ran his general election, rather than as he ran his primary or as he voted in his actual legislative history.

I believe that liberalism is often "the triumph of hope over experience". (Apparently a Samuel Johnson quote about remarriage, but it looks like a lot of people are using this phrase about Obama at the moment.)

It would be nice if the hopes of the people in the general election was repaid in deed. But, if so, then the hopes of the partisans in the primary will be disappointed. Either way, good luck to us all. We live in interesting times.

Twill said...

FYI my 9:33AM post was a reply to Richard's 8:54AM post, not the earlier 11:11AM post.

For the 11:11 post, I'd have to list all the non-racial reasons to vote *for* Obama. I'll do that in a sec, but first, an aside.

Let's face the obvious, folks- about 40% of American voters will vote for the Republican and about 40% for the Democrat no matter what. And about 5-10% will vote outlier - Green or Libertarian. It's only the 10-15% in the middle that are deciding on something other than that R/D initial.

Back to Obama's advantages. This is a top-of-my-head list, and I'm probably missing some things that leftists would consider important - he promises to get us out of a messy country-building engagement that we are all tired of, he is of the opposite party from the unpopular current administration, he promises candy (tax "cuts") for everyone, he doesn't say anything specific that people can disagree with. He presents a screen that everyone can project her own hopes onto. Obama does what Kerry did, but much much better.

And, yes, he is black and most Americans are tired of Presidents all being white male millionaires. The problem is, up until now, all the alternative race/gender candidates have been Jesse Jackson-like at best, or dropped into the VP slot when all hope was already lost (Ferraro/Palin).

Also, we do have a tendency to swing based upon personality. After Nixon's criminal behavior, we wanted a moral man and got the hapless Carter.

After the malaise of the Carter presidency, Reagan inspired people and won big. Bush 41 promised to be like Reagan only less so, and held office only one term on that basis.

After Clinton's eloquence but obvious moral failures, we picked the opposite in Bush 43 - someone plain spoken and morally sound (at least in his home life).

Now, after the inarticulate Bush, we have jumped back to eloquence over substance.

This is not to state that Obama can't do the job. First indications are that he probably can. And it is highly unlikely that he will make as many mistakes as Carter. He'll probably be okay, perhaps even great.

Wouldn't that be a kick?

Southern Writer said...

First let me say that I’m just thrilled to be quoted, misquoted, and debated so often in Janet’s blog. It makes me feel people are paying attention to my opinions, love ‘em or hate ‘em.

Twill, I didn’t see anywhere Janet said we had to be nonpartisan in order to comment on this subject, so I will reply to your hopes that I am not a bigot. Definitely, I am not. Am I partisan? Assuredly. Unapologetically Democrat. This country cannot afford another four (God forbid eight) years of the Republican dictatorship we’ve endured for the last eight. And even the most remote chance of Sarah Palin becoming the leader of the free world scares the ever-living shit out of me.

I’m not sure I understand your meaning in "I specifically claimed that very few white southerners would have switched their votes if the races were reversed.” For the sake of simplifying your argument, I will stand as a representative of white Southerners. Would I have switched my vote if McCain were black, and Obama white? First, let’s clarify that Obama is not only black, but if he identifies with the black race more than another, I don’t care. No, I would not have switched my vote, because I color-blindly voted for the best candidate.

If some people voted for Obama because he’s black, just as many voted against him for the same reason. I’m not claiming that every white person who voted for McCain is racist, at all. I’m saying racism still flourishes in the South, and I saw evidence of it in the electoral votes cast south of the Mason-Dixon line.

Do you live here? Have you ever lived here? Unless you have experience with this culture, then you can’t truly know. I’ve lived in about ten different cities across the country, both large and small. I’ve lived in affluent, all-white Vail and Beaver Creek, Colorado, and literally on the streets of Los Angeles surrounded (and looked out for) by Chicano gangs. I’ve lived in Phoenix, which seems 98% white, and in St. Louis and New Orleans, which seem 98% black. I’ve experienced life with a pretty good cross-section of people, and I recognize bigotry when I see it.

Every weeknight, I am often the only white person on the shuttle bus to work, but I currently live in a neighborhood surrounded old white Southern bigots, and I cannot for the life of me figure out what they are so afraid of. Ignorance abounds here. This is basically a poor region suffering from a fundamental lack of education and heavy reliance on organized religion. My roots are here, so I know that (as a culture) Southerners live as their folks do, who live as their folks did, and their folks before them, and so on. To live in the South is like living in a time warp. This is still very much an antebellum way of life. In other parts of the country, when meeting someone, you are asked, “What do you do?” Here, it’s “Who are your people?”

When discussing Obama with various Southerners, I’ve asked them if they know what his mother did for a living, because I find it to be an important influence on a young man growing up in her shadow, and invariably, they answer, “She cleaned houses, didn’t she?” That in itself indicates a certain amount ignorance and bigotry. Do you know what she did for a living?

I don’t think Obama is elitist, but rather, is worldly, and that scares small town people who have never traveled beyond their own back yards (often the case in the South, where women are kept barefoot and pregnant). I believe it has given him the ability to step into the shoes of both the haves and the have-nots, and to relate and appeal to a large cross-section of humanity. And I’ll match Obama’s eloquence against McCain’s “experience” any day of the week. Just as we still judge people by the clothes they wear, like it or not, we also judge them on their ability to express themselves and articulate their meaning. Neither G. Dubya Bush nor Sarah Palin can string three words together, and it’s fairly obvious to the world that they’re both dumb as rocks.

To quote you once more, Twill, “Just remember that, if you honestly believe in diversity, some people will make different decisions than you, based upon things you may not think are as important as they do. Vive la difference!” On this we can agree.

Richard said...

Twill, you are quite right, you did not come out and say "illiterate bigot", and I was perhaps making too big a jump there. I was leaping to the underlying assumption behind your accusing him of slander ...on which I may have been wrong... that is the poorly thought through attitudes and associated illiteracy of some southerners that results in their being racially bigoted. Perhaps you did not really mean that but the implication your use of the word "slander" is pretty loud.

If words are to have any use, they must have precise meaning. Southern Writer was quite definitely indicating, with evidence, that race influenced the vote. You responded by calling his identification "slander"... which is "a malicious, false, and defamatory oral statement or report.

The simple point is that his statement was written, and is therefore libellous, not slanderous.

My, barely more complex, point is that your choice of words accused him of malice, dishonesty and insult to Southerners. That is a very strong accusation!

The map clearly shows the southern and central US states went red... "the redneck states". Southern Writer has a better point than the wishy washy notion that"some people" think one way, and "some people" think another way.

He does errs in suggesting he "speaks for Southerners". Whenever someone makes such a claim, I consider it time to run for the hills.

The rest of your comment I fully agree with, ever since I started reading newspapers. Your point that that liberalism is often "the triumph of hope over experience" is exactly right, and it was very definitely a far greater factor than race.

People following this discussion might find the software analysis of Obama's honesty in his speeches may find this article of interest. The man moved towards center as soon as he won the Primaries. Typically, elected Presidents do this as well. I also wonder how sobering secret information (of which Obama is now being apprised) changes the ease with which winning rhetoric ceases to motivate the new leader.

Richard said...

SouthernWriter, that was a good response! Two comments:

First, that your disgust with the Republicans is justified. They deserve to be (electorally) punished & not just because of Dubya, but because of their religiosity, for their claiming to be the GOP for individual rights and small government, while they actually go about spending and expanding regulation more than the Dems!!

Second, I believe your comments about the Dems are unjustified. My 11:11 comment, and Twill's 09:33 comment, are serious accusations about Obama's lack of substance and/or his socialist (anti-American) & environmentalist platform. He is a scary danger to, rather than a "hope", for Americans' freedom & progress. I just hope that his influencing Blacks to a more positive self image 'stcks', regardless.

The best thing he has yet said was, from 1'06" t0 1'39" in this video. :-D

Richard said...

Update:

Two days ago, Edward Cline, author of the excellent "Sparrowhawk" series, wrote:
_ _ _

"So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other."

That might have been the appeal uttered by U.S. Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to support the subprime bailout, but it is actually an excerpt from president-elect Barack Obama's victory speech, reprinted in the Daily Telegraph (London) on November 5.

Compare that excerpt with:
"The first obligation of every citizen must be to work both spiritually and physically. The activity of individuals is not to counteract the interests of universality, but must have its result within the framework of the whole for the benefit of all."

That was Point Ten of the program of the NSDAP, or the National Socialist German Workers Party, better known as the Nazi Party.
_ _ _

(my bolding)

Full article is here.

Southern Writer said...

Richard said: "My, barely more complex, point is that your choice of words accused him of malice, dishonesty and insult to Southerners. That is a very strong accusation!"

Not to worry. I didn't take it personally.

Richard also said: "He does errs in suggesting he "speaks for Southerners". Whenever someone makes such a claim, I consider it time to run for the hills."

I did not. I said for the sake of simplifying the argument, that I would stand for white Southerners -- because I am one. I am also female, thank you very much. But I agree with what you're saying. I hesitated to attempt such a huge undertaking. Of course, no one can speak for everyone, and normally I, too, would be up in arms if someone with whom I disagree claimed to speak for me.

I don't know if you're familiar with a blogger named Moristotle, but I'd like to urge you to look him up. I'm sure the two of you could have many long and interesting conversations. You remind me of each other. And if you do, please give him my best regards.

Richard said...

Sorry about the gender mishap, but you are writing under a pseudonym. ;-)

I think you are splitting hairs, "stand for Southerners" and then doing it by speaking (well, writing) isn't much different.

I agree that Moristotle is interesting. So much to read, and so little time!