Thursday, August 28, 2008
Si Se Puede Barack
Lucy, Mitch, and I watched Barack Obama's nomination acceptance speech tonight. Lucy didn't watch all of it because we had to get in a little Sesame Street before bedtime. But it was music to my ears to hear her saying, "I want to watch Barack Obama!"
I have been listening to some of the speeches from the Democratic convention as I drive home from work in the evenings. There have been some great speeches. But tonight it finally sunk in what an incredible opportunity we have with this election. Finally, after more than 200 years, we can fulfill the promise of America. We have claimed for so long that anyone can be president. We have claimed the Horatio Alger myth of economic, political, and social success - of pulling yourself up by your bootstraps. And for once, especially now, it would be so great, so amazing, so affirming, if we could have a president who was NOT an old white guy. No offense to the old white guys, some of my closest friends are old white guys (my dad, little jimmy, and many others). But haven't you had your turn for the last two hundred years? Isn't it time to say, "Hey, I think there might be other people out there in our nation of 200 million who might be able to do the job. Maybe a non-white guy, or a non-white woman, or a woman period. Maybe we should let someone else take a shot."
To be perfectly honest, I don't even care if Barack Obama is a terrible president. I don't think he will be. I think he will be an AWESOME president. More on that later. But even if he was a totally ineffective president (think Jimmy Carter, sorry Jimmy, I love you, but history suggests perhaps you weren't the most effective president...), he would still be someone other than an old white guy as president. His presidency would still affirm the best feelings we have ever had about America, but were afraid weren't true. A Barack Obama presidency would say, "Hey, we are the country we always thought we were!"
So why do I think Barack Obama will be a great president? First, he isn't afraid to tell the truth even when that truth is unpopular. Case in point. Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain supported rescinding the gas tax while all of America was freaking out over high gas prices. This despite the fact that every economist on earth agreed that this move would do absolutely nothing to lower gas prices. What did Barack Obama say? He said something along the lines of, hey, I'm sorry but that idea isn't going to work. This isn't an easy problem to solve.
Second, I think his youth and newness to the government is an attribute in his favor. As a young, unseasoned, but enthusiastic government servant myself, I think there is a lot to be said for people who are new to the business and are still idealistic and think big things can be done. As Van Jones said,
"I want to break people out of their cynicism, because the level of cynicism that we have been indulging in is a luxury that we cannot afford. It is indulgent to live in the richest, most advanced technological society in history and say, “We cannot do it.” We have the best shot of anyone at solving the big problems. We have technologies that thirty years ago people couldn’t have imagined: the Internet, laptop computers, cellphones. You and I have better computers on our person than the U.S. government had when it landed a man on the moon. Everyone you know is a walking technological superpower by the standards of thirty years ago. To be playing helpless and throwing up our hands when we haven’t even tried to solve these problems is totally unacceptable to me." (Van Jones Sun Interview March 2008)
It is time for an realistic optimist. Not an ostrich head in the sand idiot like some current presidents who shall remain nameless. But also not an overly experienced, potentially jaded guy like John McCain either. And that's not even touching on pro-choice, or whether you think people who make millions of dollars are still inside the middle class or whether you think tax breaks will really solve our health insurance crisis. (come on John, that is your solution? really?)
That's enough for now. I will write more about Barack Obama in later weeks as I figure out what I am going to do to help his campaign besides buy a bumper sticker and put a sign in my lawn. For now, let's just say "Si se puede." And please, America, for once in my freaking life, could we be on the right side of history on this one? If we pass up this opportunity to live up to our promises, I might have to start looking for a different homeland.