Reclaiming America’s Best Aspects
Wednesday - May 28, 2008
Change. Change. Change. We want it. We want it bad. What you’re seeing on the national scene in the electrically charged presidential campaign is proof of that. But the ascendancy of Barack Obama is only the most visible sign of the people’s hunger for a different, cleaner and - dare I say it? - nobler America.
We have sensed for a long time that we were losing much of what makes us, and by us I mean this great country of ours, so unique. When we are at our best we are brilliant, fair and honest. When we are at our best we tolerate other people’s viewpoints and welcome all ethnicities and religions. We are the richest nation, and yet one of the most generous. We are innovators and pioneers and independent thinkers. We seek challenges, we reach for the stars.
When we are at our best we do not rush to war, we do not resort to torture, we do not spy on our citizens and we do not allow our leaders to hoodwink us into believing or behaving less than honorably.
When we are at our best we take care of our planet. We do not censor scientists. We rescue citizens devastated by disaster.
When we are at our best we stand for the highest ideals of humanity- equality, democracy, decency, opportunity - and we fervently believe in our principles and ourselves. When we live up to our ideals people around the world believe in us and respect, love and envy us.
Well - we want it all back. All of it. We want the honor, the idealism, the status and the moral high ground. We want to be the best again.
The amped-up Democratic primaries illustrate that multitudes of Americans feel the same. I do not believe Hillary Clinton lost because of a deep hatred of women in this country. Yes, misogyny reared its head and sure, there were attacks lobbed at her based on her gender. But look at all the millions of people who voted for her. Hillary was more than a candidate, she was a symbol. The Woman Who Would Be President. She would finally break the highest glass ceiling in the land. She stood in for all the women who fought and are still fighting for an equal place in the boardroom.
But Obama is a symbol, too. The Candidate of Change. His own mixed-race heritage, his call for racial and political unity, his insistence that decency can trump dirtiness even in a hard-fought campaign-this kind of change appeals to those who yearn for a return to our better selves.
The most telling moment and, I believe, the crystallization of the differences between the candidates occurred during the scuffle over the gas tax holiday. Clinton and McCain for it, Obama against. People sensed the inherent dishonesty in the proposal, the pandering and the cynical manipulation of their emotions and needs. Obama stood firmly against it even though he desperately needed those lower-income voters. He stood on principle and it took political courage to do it. People saw that, and they respected him for it. Clinton was still playing politics as usual. Obama was not. In the end the Agent of Change trumped The Woman.
I know they’re saying the race for the nominee isn’t over, even though it is. I know some are saying Democrats are now too divided to prevail in November. I don’t believe it. And I can’t wait to see what happens next.
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