Wednesday, November 5, 2008

I try to keep politics out of it, but...

I felt an overwhelming sense of relief last night when the election was called. It was like the reverse of 9/11 for me, as I watched the towers fall, safe at home, because I worked the slacker 10am shift in midtown then. It was a "this can't be happening" gut feeling, because I'm so cynical that I kept expecting an October surprise, or a nutjob with a rifle, to remind us what America is really like.

Obama ran a fantastic campaign, and so many first time voters swept in like those lame deux ex machina ghosts at the end of The Return of the King (obligatory movie reference!) It felt great, so many people I spoke to just felt proud to vote that day. It's not that we elected the first Hawaiian, the first black man, the first guy whose name ends in a vowel, or someone whose parents immigrated here after 1776; but that we voted for someone who appealed to our hopes, our better nature, instead of our fears, prejudices, and doubts.

I liken it to 1927 after the Louisiana flood; it was a horrible time, when the National Guard held sharecroppers at gunpoint, to demand they keep working while the landowners fled. When the flood was over, blacks migrated en masse to cities like Chicago, where they could register to vote with less hassle, and they helped sweep the incumbents (Hoover) out of office with their votes, and FDR was brought in. With the great challenges ahead, President Obama has the chance to learn from FDR's mistakes. Since we are already in a war, perhaps we can reap the economical benefits of withdrawing from one, and see a real "peace dividend."

Maybe our military can concentrate on the successful anti-terrorist operations that our Special Forces are doing in the Philippines, and were doing in Afghanistan at one point. The monetary sinkhole of Iraq can be sealed, or at least become another Korea, which is more likely. We can force the health care industry to give us what every other major nation expects. Of course taxes will rise for some; we just gave $700 billion to the ruling class for their gambling addiction. We went from owing less than a trillion to now being indebted to China and other t-bill gobblers for nearly 10 trillion dollars, an unimaginable sum. It will take decades to undo the damage, but we can never forget.

Change is difficult, and I don't expect much in the next four years. But it will be nice to have someone in the Oval Office whose intelligence can be respected, who doesn't shame us before the international community, and has an active interest in capturing Osama bin Laden, even if it's a symbolic victory at this point. I have always loved my country, though I've rarely been comfortable with our enormous government. We're easily led due to our ineffectual media and education systems. Hell, I'll admit it. I didn't vote for Kerry. I was afraid back then too.

I hope Obama learns from Clinton, that even with a friendly Congress, that leaning a little toward the center might help in the beginning. He has big ideas, but the lobbies are incredibly powerful, and we've been poisoned by the spectre of "socialized medicine," so it will still be a hard sell. Yet it must be done; we cannot tolerate families in emergency rooms because regular doctors and immedicare won't see them without insurance. It is more costly than the solution. It's difficult to pursue happiness when you can barely pursue healthiness.

But most of all, I'm looking forward to the laughs. We have a big-eared sort of nerdy black guy (he bowled what, a 35?) in the White House. Urkel is running the country. But at least if we laugh, we won't be ashamed that we elected him. And he won't choke on a pretzel, I hope. The other source of humor will be the sudden fantasy from right-wing white males who suddenly feel victimized again, as when Clinton was in office during the "political correctness" reverse-witch hunt. I was hoping Rush Limbaugh and Michael Savage would have heart attacks, but I look forward to their apoplexy. But most of all, I hope that in 2012, we'll be able to have an election that isn't about the '60s. Obama's election might put a nail in that coffin for good. Let's hope.

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