It would be remiss of me to fail to recognize the occasion of one of the most historic elections in American history. Such a time as this demands nothing less than a retrospective glance at the events which have brought us to this moment. My recollections follow.
The primary season
Democratic contender Hillary Clinton enters the race with the expectation of certain victory. She is chagrined and alarmed to find herself challenged by newcomer, Barack Obama, who quickly outpaces her. She leaves no verbal trick in her political bag in her attempts to best this adversary. The more spectacular of her verbal missteps include:
[On talk of Obama being Muslim] “There is no basis for that…as far as I know.”
[On discussing why she would stay in the Primary race though trailing badly] “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.”
[Citing an Associated Press analysis to support the viability of her candidacy though trailing badly] “[The analysis] found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me.”
Barack Obama stumbled badly as well–Jeremiah Wright lives on in our memories. I must say that the brouhaha over Wright had the effect of getting me to tune in. I had less than a care about the Democratic contenders before the JW flap. After the JW affair, though, I was interested. Obama’s response was princely. It moved us collectively forward in our dialogue about race in America.
After reading a magazine profile, I realized that, had I a chance to re-vote, I’d cast my (then Republican) Primary ballot for Mike Huckabee. I regret my better-the-devil-you-know vote in McCain’s favor.
Post Primary Season
After hearing Obama give his North Carolina primary victory speech, I became infected with hope and magnetized by his magnetism. My newfound fervor, for a Democrat in particular, troubled me. Maintaining my objectivity was extremely difficult when my senses were being bombarded with linguistic weapons detonated by a handsome man’s charm. I decided to stop watching and listening to Obama and to stick with written reports and transcriptions of his speeches.
John Edwards, one of the final three Democratic presidential hopefuls, publicly confesses that he cheated and lied, but insists that the kid is not his.
Hillary’s female supporters resist reconciliation with Team Obama. PUMAs (“Party Unity My Ass”) start a movement.
Hillary, eyeing 2012 and/or 2016, is a good, though understandably bitter, soldier throughout the Democratic Convention.
Obama chooses Biden, and not Clinton, as a running mate. What I know about Biden at that point in the election cycle:
A couple of months previously, during the heated Primary season, President Bush addressed Israel’s Parliament and, without using names, decried Obama’s position on certain foreign policy matters. It was a wholly inappropriate forum for such a strike. Sen. Biden’s response: “This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset … and make this kind of ridiculous statement.” Plainspoken. Direct. On point. From a seasoned politician, no less. I liked it.
The choice of Biden didn’t jive with the Candidate of Change, but the solid, everyman background of Biden did add reassuring experience to balance the ticket.
McCain chooses Sarah Palin as his VP. Upon first hearing I think McCain may yet win be back. I heard: Gov of Alaska, moose hunter, mother of 5, energy expert who fought corruption on the way up, champion of special needs children being the mom of a son with Down’s Syndrome.
After the initial trumpeting of Palin, though, the public learns that her eldest daughter, 17, is expecting a child and is also expecting a marriage. That Palin’s education is patchy; that she hasn’t spent much time at all beyond U.S. borders; that she is open to book banning; that she delivers vitriolic speeches; and, most damning of all, she seems not bright.
Nonetheless, Palin brought a younger, female, solidly conservative, outsider’s freshness to the ticket, which energized the race.
McCain attempts to co-opt Obama’s brand and portray himself as the maverick agent of change that this country needs.
Obama attempts to co-opt McCain’s brand and portray himself as a bi-partisan facilitator of legislative action.
Biden shows himself to be a debater par excellence, when, with the utmost cordiality to Palin, he skewers John McCain. The most magical moment of the VP debate occurred when Biden trumped Palin’s working-mom card with his own tragic-single-dad card. Brilliant. (Yes, I’m cynical enough to believe that every sniffle and tear was made for TV).
Obama reveals that he is a smoker.
McCain reveals that he does not know how many homes he owns.
I listened to Debate One on my car radio as I rode home from church. It seemed pretty close as to who won, with McCain having a sharp edge. Watching the post-debate analysis at home, I was surprised to learn that vast majorities of viewers thought Obama won. I watched the debate replay and marveled at the difference that facial expressions and demeanor make to the spoken word. Our perception shapes our hearing.
McCain, trailing badly in the polls shifts his campaign focus and goes negative. He paints Obama as a friend of domestic terrorists.
Obama, leading with help from a devastated economy, continues to follow through with his incredibly well planned and executed election strategy.
General Colin (“The Godfather”) Powell endorses Obama. Says he is troubled by the direction of the Republican Party.
Which brings us to Election Eve.
From my porch, McCain’s politics are petty, he lacks vision, he promulgates fear, loathing, and distortions of the truth. I do not trust him; he’s proven a lack of trustworthiness on issues that are vitally important to me. As my friend Debs said, better care is taken in selecting a dog-sitter than he took in selecting a VP. What happens to America if Palin has to step into the breach?
Nor is Obama an ideal leader. He has done nothing noteworthy as a legislator to date. In the middle of the greatest economic crisis of our generation he offered us silence–until it was safe–and then said the easy things. I do not trust him. He is an African American with no African American ties beyond his wife. Who is his tribe?
I do believe that Obama is the smartest man at the table. I am terribly impressed with his campaign. There was forethought, planning, innovation, strategy and execution beyond compare there. I do have confidence that having gotten himself, Barack Hussein Obama, to this point against the likes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain, formidable and politically pedigreed opponents, that he will competently, possibly exceptionally, lead this country into the next era. I’m voting for an African American Democrat for President of the United States of America.
Election 2008. A first for America. A first for me.