I’m so proud of America. I’m proud of America for nominating a woman, for nominating a Catholic, and for nominating a maverick senior citizen. And, of course, I’m proud of America for nominating a biracial African American for president. But all that was mere prelude to what Americans did yesterday.
It’s not just that America elected a black president. Given the political landscape in the country today anyone who ran as a Democrat for president should have won, and won decisively. But Americans didn’t just elect Barack Obama they embraced him. In overwhelming numbers whites, blacks, Hispanics and others came together from small towns to big cities, from New England to California, from Iowa to Virginia and declared emphatically that this is the man they want to lead our nation through these perilous times.
I, myself, had been holding back. I’ve suffered from ‘blog writer’s block’ throughout the primaries and the general election. In the primaries I knew from the beginning that I wanted to see Obama and McCain nominated, but largely because I opposed Hilary (and especially Bill) and all McCain’s Republican opponents. Once they were nominated I decided to stay undecided as long as possible. I liked both candidates personally and thought that once people picked a candidate they lost their ability to find flaws in their choice and virtues in the opposing candidate. I thought either one might make an excellent president, or not. I had serious reservations about McCain being a Republican who needed conservatives to support him. I had serious reservations about Obama’s lack of experience, his association with Rezko and Wright, and most important to me, his position on how to ‘end’ the Iraq war (by rapidly withdrawing our troops). But I had psychological issues as well. Perhaps these are best addressed in my other blog, but I’ll briefly express them here.
I liked the idea of an African American president (although I don’t like the idea of hyphenated Americans, but that’s another story). I enjoyed seeing the enthusiastic supporters Obama had, especially among the young and minorities, including young members of my extended family. I would argue with some of my family members, especially my bright, eloquent and passionate nephew Bryan Spatz. Another nephew worked long hours as a full-time staffer for the Obama campaign. My daughters Rachel and Laura were also for Obama and seemed to care more for him than they had ever cared for a candidate before. Even when I disagreed with some of their views I didn’t want to change their minds about Obama, I just wanted them to carefully consider the issues. In fact, I secretly hoped I would also be able to support him, especially since I had never voted for a Republican president.
Yet, seeing myself as a moderate, independent political blogger I hid behind the guise of being non-partisan, while I quietly admired the enthusiasm, hope, idealism, and optimism of these young people and of so many of the Obama supporters. It took me back to my teenage years when I felt the same way, or even stronger, about John F. Kennedy. But I could not, would not, believe in Obama. I had my logical reasons. For example, I’m was extremely disappointed that he said he would except public financing until it was convenient to change his mind and then he lied about the reasons for the change. (I consider public financing the greatest election reform in my lifetime and fear it will not survive Obama’s decision, but perhaps it just needs to be reformed.) I asked myself if I would vote for him if he were a WHITE liberal from Chicago with a mere 8 years in the corrupt Illinois legislature and only three years in the Senate, mostly running for president. Anyways, my point is not to resurrect these issues, but to note that I, like all Americans, had excuses why not to support Obama, but these weren’t my real issues.
I decided to wait until after the conventions, see who they both selected as their vice president candidate, and then see if I could still remain undecided and critique them both ‘objectively’. This plan became undone by the selection of Sarah Palin. I couldn’t support her or the man who selected her. So now my excuses for not supporting Obama began to unravel. When he defeated McCain in each debate I began to become aware of the real reasons I wasn’t supporting him.
I was scared. I was afraid that if I really believed in Obama he might be taken from us, like John, Martin, and Bobby. I didn’t think there was a causal relationship between my belief and those dire consequences, but it did seem like that the best men with the most passionate followers are most at risk. Or, perhaps Obama would turn out to be a huge disappointment, like William Jefferson Clinton, the only presidential candidate since JFK I really believed in. Even TJ’s reputation has been unfairly smeared in recent years, another disappointment. I was letting myself become cynical and fearful – and I didn’t like it. But gradually over the last few weeks I began to let my guard down.
Then last night as I sat in front of the TV and the tears began to flow down my cheeks I knew I was ready to care again, ready to cautiously hope, and ready to believe in a new leader. It’s time to risk the possible loss and disappointment. I will open my mind and heart to this wise and good man. I will risk trusting him. He will not be perfect, he may even have his Bay of Pigs, but I will still believe in the change he will bring. I will declare that with President Obama – YES, WE CAN!
One final point – people sometimes ask me what TJ would think about some modern issue. I avoid answering, believing it would be too presumptuous of me to claim to know. But this time no one needs to ask and I’m willing to say. TJ would be SO VERY, VERY PROUD OF AMERICA.
Some men are born for the public. Nature, by fitting them for the service of the human race on a broad scale, has stamped them with the evidences of her destination and their duty. 1803