It’s rare when you know with tangible certainty that you’re in the midst of an historical pivot point. What makes Obama’s astounding election so exquisitely wonderful is that – for once – this is a good and not a tragic event. Usually such milestones are terror-filled moments, like Pearl Harbor, JFK’s assassination, or the one with which we can all relate, 9/11.
So this is special indeed.
It’s not Obama’s election alone that’s so pleasing. So many concepts that have stained our modern political era met their demise on November 4. I’m talking about ugly things like “Trickle-down Economics,” “Southern Strategy,” Identity Politics”, “Family values”, and those enraging – but effective – “soft on” taunts (soft on terror; on communism, on criminals, yadda yadda yadda). Just like that, those nasty attacks that helped elect some of the worst people to office for 60 years simply vanished into thin air, exploded.
And not a moment too soon.
OK, before I get carried away, it’s not Morning in America. We’ve still got ourselves some problems, and plenty of them. For all we know, President Obama might start “triangulating” his way to the center-right, taking with him all of this astonishing joy we found in his election, and breaking a few million hearts along the way.
I certainly hope not. And it doesn’t have to go down like that. There have been good presidents in American history who’ve done good things. No one can be all things to all people. But I think President Obama can do some good things. Maybe even some great things. For the first time in my adult life, I’m willing to gamble on American politics as an agent of social change. For friends who have known me for a long time, this might be a surprise. I’m surprised myself.
Either way, we can certainly revel in the final, long overdue demise of those tried-and-true McCarthy-Nixon-Atwater-Rove attack strategies, tactics which go all the way back to 1948, the Truman presidency, when the first “soft on communism” taunts were used to knock off the remaining New Dealers left in government. And those race-baiting, red-baiting, you-name-it-baiting methods have been used ever since to scare people into voting against their own interests. The old bait and switch. The hoodwink. The bamboozle.
For the first time in the modern era, such tactics are suddenly, wonderfully, out of gas. Dead on arrival. Why? Because a graceful, thoughtful, confident candidate chose to simply rise above the slander. He sidestepped the punches. They never landed. And it could be that they never will again. Partly we have the decentralized New Media to thank, the blogs which so effectively magnified the attacks and showed their implications, like McCain’s embarrassment when the old woman called Obama “an Arab”, or when they shouted “kill him” and “terrorist” at his rallies, or Palin self-destructing in front of Katie Kouric and the millions who watched it on YouTube. Think of it: We could have had George “Macaca” Allen as president-elect right now. The Fourth Estate may have re-emerged in 2008 as the Blogosphere.
And they helped the good guy win for a change. We’ll see what comes of it. But for now, it sure feels pretty damn good.
November 8, 2008 | Filed Under Political |