Hopes and Guesses

So, I started supporting Obama back in late January/early February of this year. I wasn’t that enamored of any of the candidates on the Democratic side, and since Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt weren’t running on the GOP side, I hadn’t decided to back anyone yet. However, I started hearing more and more about the Obama campaign’s organizational skills and how he was fairing in the face of the oncoming Clinton-naut. He had more offices in more states, he was spending his money well, and to my admittedly jaded ears, his message of “hope” and “change” sounded genuine (something I believe I developed an ear for over the years). So I did some more research and talked to some more folks and ended up voting for him during the Virginia primary with nary a regret or backward glance.

Since then, I’ve become more and more impressed with him both as a candidate and a human being. Now, as many know, I’ve been involved in politics on some fairly intimate levels for going on 28 years now (that’s right, I was 10 when I started — go “Carter/Mondale Re-election Campaign!”). I’ve met Presidents, Vice-Presidents, Governors, Senators, a Congressperson or two (Hi Mom!), state legislators and right on down to the local county supervisors and school board. I not only know politicians, I’ve grown up with (and been raised by) them. I don’t say this to impress, after all no one knows better than I how ‘normal’ 99.9% of these people are. I’m merely establishing that my “oh, wow!” threshold is fairly freaking high. And the fact that my own mother is cited by many across the Commonwealth as a pretty damn good speaker should be taken into account as well.

So when I say Obama is the most transformational national candidate we’ve seen in almost 50 years, its with some amount of experience and knowledge backing that up. And what a lot of people seem to be interested in right now is what that means for an Obama White House and the nation. While it’s impossible to know, I can make some guesses.

Nastiness ahead

The mud-slinging you’re seeing from the batshit-crazy right wingers is not going to magically disappear on Nov. 5th. You think William Jefferson Clinton had it rough? Hah! You ain’t seen nothing yet. And just to be clear “batshit-crazy right wingers” are not the same thing as thoughtful conservatives who I can agree to disagree with (I know a surprising number of them, as a matter of fact). No your batshit-crazy right winger (BCRW) is someone who actually believes that Obama is a secret black-nationalist Muslim Socialist who will eat your baby. Unfortunately, there are quite a few of those as well, and they’re basically going to be in a “The End Times are coming M*F*, so no holding back now” mindset once Obama places his hand on a bible as he swears the oath of office.

The good news, as Hillary and McCain can attest, you come after this guy and you just end of looking silly and pathetic. Reagan may have been the “Teflon” President, but Obama is going to be some-nano-technology-nonstick-material-they-don’t-even-have-a-name-for-yet President. Hell, he’ll probably inspire someone to invent it and then they’ll name it after him. Should sound something like “Obamamantium.”

One Party Rule – ah, yeah, I don’t think so

Oh, and this “one party” govermental rule that the GOP is trying to scare people with now — not going to happen. While its true it looks like the Democrats will have control over the White House and Congress, this is not equitable to GOP control over everything. One party rule with the GOP = bad, one party rule with the Dems = good. Why the double standard? Because the GOP, even at its most fractured, finger-pointing, and directionless low, is still more organized and able to move in lock step than the Democrats on their most organized day ever.

By our very nature, and at our best, Democrats are a lose amalgamation of people with similar interests working towards a roughly common goal. In reality, that translates into the situation where if you had 100 Democrats locked into a room and you required 51 of them to work together to get out, you’d have a room full of 100 Democratic skeletons. Sorry to disappoint Limbaugh and his ilk (though if they support Palin, perhaps “ilk” should be “elk”?), but Obama may be “liberal” according to the GOP and the MSM (it’s funny, I’ve never seen him at any of the secret meetings), he will manage the country from the center, and Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi are going to have their hands too full with just trying to keep people in line to be able to muster anything like the overwhelming force that would be needed to enact any real kind of sweeping change. So relax — as Will Rogers famously said — I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat.

And if I’m wrong, the GOP has until the next mid-term elections in 2010 to get their act together and make their own push for change. But you know what, I don’t think it will work. I may be too closely imitating Charlie Brown trying to kick that football, but I think the Democrats can stop repeating past mistakes and really move in a new direction this time, and I genuinely believe it will be “post-partisan” as only a President Obama can make it.

The Obama Administration

Reagan and Obama will be bookends on this most recent period in our history. If you look at Ford and Carter as a sort of historical caesura after Nixon and Watergate, Reagan was the start of the new “modern era.” After his two terms in office and the decades between then and now, people have really sort of forgotten that he was elected almost entirely due to an atavistic pulling away from Carter and his scent of failure, rather than any support for Reagan. People talked of Carter at the time as “the worst President ever.” Gas was expensive, the economy was in the crapper, and people were simply afraid — sound familiar?

But while Reagan and Obama share some common stylistic and historical themes, the differences are pretty stark too. Reagan’s administration was the product of his cabinet coming up with ideas and Reagan selling them to the American people (much like he had sold cigarettes on TV, decades before). Reagan was an actor (notice I didn’t say “just an actor”) and while he was clever, he was not an intellectual heavyweight. Obama on the other hand brings together the gifts of the orator with the gifts of the intellectual ( Bill Clinton was supposed to have filled that role, but he also brought his own moral failings which soured the whole thing). Do I believe Obama is perfect? Hardly — but I do trust him to be aware of his own weaknesses and to ward against them (something President Clinton never succeeded at).

So on the day after inauguaration, will it suddenly be “morning in America” again? God, I hope not! But what I do hope for is that my fellow Democrats will not expect Obama to be a panacea for all their ills (real and imagined) and will actually listen to him when he says we will need to make compromises to move this country forward. And I hope my opponenents (and friends) on the right will give Obama the benefit of the doubt and be willing to come together like we did in those days after 9/11.

We can either complain about our government, or we can fix it.

Sort of sad that Bush’s own presidency is the sort of disaster that requires that sort of response, but I think its true. Not so much for his policies (thought those have been pretty god awful) as for how his administration has poisoned the well of Washington. Its been a long time since working for the government was regarded as anything other than a backwards welfare system for people who couldn’t make it in the private sector. And while Reagan and his running “against Washington” started that particular ball rolling, Bush/Cheney took it to the next level, and I hope it will be Obama who marks the change of direction in the historical pendulum. JFK inspired an entire generation into government service, just as FDR and WWII had done earlier in the 20th century — its time the best and the brightest heard and answered their nation’s call to service.

When I decided to back Barack earlier this year, it was because I honestly believed he was the only one that was idealistic enough to believe that he could bring the change we need, smart enough to do it well, and a good enough leader to get the country behind him (other than the BCRW mentioned above). Everything I’ve seen from he and his campaign has deepened that conviction. As I said before, he’s not perfect, but I firmly believe that four (and hopefully eight) years from now, we’ll all be able to look back on ourselves and Nov.4th and know without any regret that we made the right decision in electing him.

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