Thursday, November 6, 2008


I've spent the last days processing the Presidential election.

I've mostly stayed out of politics in my adult life. I have too many friends across the political spectrum who are sincere, compassionate, thoughtful, intelligent and good people who want with all their hearts to make the world a better place for me to say that my poltical way is the only way. In fact, I've found that regardless of political orientation, most of us have almost identical goals --peace, strong families, prosperity, social justice, caring communities -- but simply believe different paths will get us there faster and more fully. When I understood that, I could no longer hang on to a "my way or no way" political partisanship. (As an aside, it's interesting to note that some of the people I know who are the fiercest advocates of all religions representing different paths up the same mountain would never, ever extend that tolerance or inclusive point of view to people of a different political party or persuasion.)

Despite my apolitical predilection, I got involved in this election, working as a volunteer for the Obama campaign even though I disagreed with him on several issues. I attended training sessions, made phone calls and knocked on doors, asking people to vote for Obama. This is everything I don't like to do. I also don't like to be identified with one politcial party or the other, because I dislike the stereotypes that are associated with party affiliation. I'd rather not be hated or misunderstood over something, that in the end, isn't that important. (Again, this makes me the flip side of people I know who militantly identify with one poltical party but don't want to alienate anybody by adopting a religious affiliation.)

I was not an Obama supporter initially. But even before the economic meltdown, this election seemed to matter more than most. Perhaps, for me, it was simply moving to Ohio that made the difference.

I was grateful when Obama won the election. And when Obama won Ohio, the people I was watching the returns with burst into applause.

I stayed up late to watch Obama's speech, because, as so many have pointed out, this was a historic moment.

I was a bit surprised, however, when the next day all the papers played up the election of the first black President. I'd almost forgotten Obama was black. For me, what made the election historic was the message from the voters that our country needs to head in a whole new direction.

As I watched the election drama, I was struck by the contrast between Obama's acceptance of the Presidency and Clinton's in 1992. I remember the Clintons and the Gores lined up on a makeshift stage together, smiling, holding up their arms and seeming overjoyed and connected to each other as "Don't stop thinking about tomorrow" played in the background. The atmosphere was festive, triumphant and delighted.

In contrast, Obama seemed alone, even when his family was with him. And despite the much larger crowd, Obama appeared more somber than Clinton. Maybe it's the weight of the times we live in, and how bad things are, but Obama seemed on a different plane than other politicians, less frivolous, more conscious of the enormity of the task at hand. For that moment at least, he seemed like a great President, a transcendent President, a Lincoln, a Washington, a messianic figure who could lead us out of Egypt.

That's a lot of weight to carry. He's not a messiah, but how many Americans are pinning those kinds of hopes on him?

When, alerted by the newspapers I turned my attention to him as the first black President, I began to realize what a weight that is to bear, in and of itself. He and Michelle and their daughters already seem to be replacing Martin Luther King Jr. and his family as mythic figures in the black community. When I recognized the levels of reverence towards Obama and his family, I began to fear for him. I hope he will do everything he can do to protect himself.

And while I am trying not to expect too much, I hope he can rise to the occasion and become a great leader. And I continue to be glad to have borne witness to a joyful moment around the world. But what about you? Did you vote for Obama? Do you think Obama can bring the change we need?


Ted M. Gossard said...

I concur with all you say here. I myself am a registered Independent in Michigan.

I influenced my wife to vote for Obama (she has been a lifelong straight ticket Republican), and she acknowledges my influence on her in that. But in the end, though I was going to vote for Obama, I must confess I didn't vote for any candidate for president. My mistake, as I see it now. I just couldn't do it, based on the abortion issue, which ironically I had posted on. It's partly a personality quirk I have (and I could explain that here, but won't) but it was also partly not having all the information I had, even by the day after (or maybe it was the day after that) the election. I would vote for Obama now (as I think both he and the Dems at least have an answer to reducing abortions, and the Repubs sitting on Roe v Wade should not be tolerated by voters like me- even if Roe v Wade is overturned, it may not mean less abortions at all- but there are good people on both political sides doing good works to help ladies carry their child to full term). Etc.

So that's my confession even though I posted on abortion and voting and said it is something to be put on a scale, but not a linchpin issue. But maybe in the end, due to my bent toward wanting to save every life, it was. But I was wrong then, and would be a little more wrong now, based on learning more.

So will end my long comment here, but glad Obama carried my state, Ohio, and I was pulling for him and in tears that night at 11 p.m. when they announced his victory.

Bill Samuel said...

I voted for Joe Schriner for the second time. I guess I agree with what he says in his Declaration Speech for 2012, "to continue to work within the major two-party system at this time is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic."

Joe represents a true alternative - opposing war, abortion and the death penalty, standing for major action to avert the environmental crisis, etc. He believes in simple living, and carrying out one's convictions in the way one lives one's life. He doesn't live in a million dollar mansion like the Obamas, but in a very modest home in central city Cleveland in solidarity with the poor and oppressed.

Obama has excited many, and it is encouraging that someone with African heritage could be elected President. But his consistent death ethic stance and his decision to buy the election made him unacceptable to me. And he did not buy the election with small donors as his campaign would have you believe. The Washington Post (which endorsed him) found that less than 20% of his contributions were in amounts of $200 or less. He bought the election with money from Wall Street and other corporate interests.

For many years, he has arranged his life to prepare for his personal ambition of being President. He has exercised great intelligence and discipline in this effort, and has succeeded. What's lacking is any record of commitment to principle.

His advisers are almost all people who have been intimately involved in the power structure for a long time. America will continue to be run by the same interests that have run it, no matter what the Party in power. Many of these interests regularly contribute to both of the major parties, one of many indications that the two-party system is a hoax designed to convince people that they have real choices between them. It's more like a one-party system, with two branches.

Diane said...


I hear your pain, and while my stance on abortion is quite tortured, I think in the end, there's something bigger than rationality (thank God!!) that informs our conscience during decision making, and we have to honor that. You should read Bill's blog on abortion ... I don't entirely agree with it :) but it's interesting.


I hate to say I'm with you on the one-party system and that I also share the fear that possibly Obama is a sell-out to the powers that be. I think the jury is out on that, at least, it is for me. At least, unlike Bush, he seems to have some concept of what it is to be an ordinary person. I was moved when he said, during one debate, "Michelle and I don't the money," indicating that he understands full well the realm of privilege into which he has been elevated. And his million house, OK, that's not modest, but it's earned on the proceeds of a book he actually wrote himself. And he doesn't have 12 houses, etc. etc. Also, I was moved when he said during his acceptance street that it wasn't him people voted for, it was change. There was some humility there that has too long been lacking. Maybe I'm being played along with everyone else, but I'm trying to keep up hope.

Because of living in Ohio, I simply couldn't vote for a candidate, no matter how worthy, who didn't have a chance. I felt that very deeply, and I believe we were all called to different acts during the election.

Diane said...

I meant "Michelle and I don't NEED the money"

AbiSomeone said...

Well, Diane...I did not vote for Obama -- I voted for McCain/Palin. There are lots of reasons I'm not going to get into here ... none of this process is as black/white (no pun intended at all!) as folks would like to make out.

That being said, I do hope that Obama is able to rise above his own ambition, and the ambition of those who helped put him in office, to truly embrace the mantle of MLK that is being passed to him.

I just hope that he is able to influence the rest of the Dems not to go the path that the Reps did four years ago -- waving around the term "people's mandate" as a means to bully rather than lead and reconcile. The transition team will be the first clue ... and I'm waiting a bit longer before I make any judgment.

I am proud to be part of a republic that is able to transition power in this manner. I pray that what happens after the transition makes me equally proud.

I would love to be proven wrong about my vote (time will tell), but I could not vote for the kind of change being presented by the Obama campaign.

I know some might think this a cheap shot, but I wonder whether the Obama's have considered holding off the extravagance of the redecoration of the White House. Many have called on the Bush family to dim the extravagant Christmas parties as tasteless in an uncertain economy ... seems like what's good for the goose is good for the gander.... just sayin'

Diane said...

Hi Peggy,

People of the greatest sincerity and goodwill voting for two different parties, each thinking their candidate is the better hope for achieving the same goals ... here we all are. This is why I held off so long posting my support for Obama ... I didn't want to be defined by that because in the end, it's the culture we build from the ground that really matters, and loving people no matter who they voted for.