Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Election Whoopee

For The Wave: Politically Unstable (column)

Election Whoopee
by Norman Scott

There's a lot to be said about the election. I know people are thinking about the race issue. Since so many people are touching on this issue with more eloquence, I'll leave that to others. I am thinking about other issues. A smart guy in charge (Clinton was too but seemed to have other things on his - er - mind.) A connection to the young people that reminds me of the way we felt in 1960 seeing the glorious John F. Kennedy replace Eisenhower. (We used to race home after school to see his press conferences.) An activated army who got involved in politics. Expect to see a new, inspired generation of people who hopefully won't get fooled again.

I haven't cared all that much about the politics as usual for quite a while, having voted 3rd party in all but one or two elections over the last 25 years. Yet last Sunday I got up early and drove to Allentown, PA to spend a few hours working for Obama. Witnessing the massive ground game as people from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and other places poured into a basement Obama headquarters on the outskirts of town made it worth it. And made me feel just a little less dread about losing PA, which I felt was the key (stone) state. It did turn out that way (along with the Buckeye state and about 30 others.) And hanging with like-minded people, whom I had to look for under rocks in Rockaway. Some of the awful letters in The Wave didn’t help. Thank goodness for the good sense to endorse Obama.

The conversations I engaged in with people who came up with so many irrational reasons to vote against Obama had been discouraging. The emails came in daily disparaging Obama for being the next Hitler and looking to set up a police state and being a terrorist Manchurian candidate. His "associations." Remember how he was going to paint the White House black?

They always made sure to disavow that race was an issue. Yet they were so over the top on a candidate whose policies were not so far off John Kerry and Al Gore and Bill Clinton. Very talented, but a fairly traditional politician. An impeccable personal history. Exceedingly bright. Amazingly disciplined. Self-controlled. Calm. And logical and orderly in his thinking. Did I say exceedingly bright?

Growing up poor, both black and white, married to a working class gal. Both had used their smarts to rise to the top of society. How could all this not only be ignored, but be disparaged?

Some element of racism, latent or not, had to be in operation. I can just imagine what they were thinking as they saw people dancing in the streets in Harlem last night. Will they secede from like half the nation did when another candidate from Illinois was elected 7 score and 8 years ago?

I purposely watched Fox last night, which had done its share in scaring people. Suddenly commentators were talking about how Obama was really a centrist and was surrounding himself with Clinton era advisers. I mean Warren Buffet the terrorist? Duh!

Will Obama turn out to be a great president or a failure? An FDR or a Herbert Hoover, who had an even lower approval rating than W?

It could go either way. When you think of great presidents, they seem to emerge only in times of crisis. Think there are just a few lurking?

FDR ran for president with a very different agenda than he ended up enacting due to desperate times. He showed the kind of flexibility that was needed. Policies that had a major impact for generations.

The problem I have had with Republicans is that they are driven by a narrow ideology that has helped put us into this mess. Like if you breathe government action, you are a socialist. But when it takes forms of socialism to bail out millionaires, why go right ahead. It was this sort of thinking that led to handing over billions to banks that should have had the requirement to be used as loans to free up credit but instead is being held onto by banks to buy other banks. One day soon we will have only 3 or 4 banks in this country.

The only thing I have to fear is fear of Obama's dependence on the same old, same old Clinton people, who come out of places like Goldman Saks when we need some truly radical thinking. Bill Ayres, where are you when we need you?

It is worth hearing from the left on the election. Here is George Schmidt, who is based in Chicago, posting on ICE-mail, where some vituperative attacks on Obama have taken place by both the right and left.
One of the strangest things to watch the past couple of months was how the "left" deployed towards the finish line on Obama. We've reported, early and often, that he was one of the most brilliant politicians ever to come out of Chicago. Now everyone knows that who has been paying attention. What happened yesterday in places like Pasco County, Florida (where I spent some time long long ago living and working out at a gym in New Port Ritchey) and Southwest Ohio was simple:

Chicago precinct work linked to the Internet.

Once you have a very very very good candidate (and Obama was one of the best bourgeoise candidates we've ever seen come out of Chicago politics; Harold Washington was another), a lot of the job is what is called "the ground game." After the AFT convention, I was miffed (that Obama snubbed both AFT and NEA) and worried (that the snub would leave huge parts of white America without the infantry for the ground game the final weeks before the election).

Now it's back to work.

Most of us here think the world is a happier place this morning because of what those of us who voted in the USA did yesterday. A large number of our neighbors went down to Grant Park last night and haven't been seen since. As someone said, this is the world's biggest (Chicago style) block party.

To have helped smash white supremacy on the level it existed in the USA in one lifetime has been a wonderful moment. And we have, indeed, helped smash it with what has been done the past year, culminating in the past week.

I have three sons, one of whom is 19 and in college, and the other of whom are seven and four. All three, at their levels, understood that something very important was happening yesterday (and leading up to yesterday).

As to what's going to happen next (especially for K-12 education)?

The one thing we've learned from Barack Obama over the years (remember: some of us have known him since he was in the Illinois Senate) is that you can't predict the next policy thrust -- only that it will have been very carefully thought out and very well planned (example: the last six weeks of the campaign organization, from TV ads to precinct work across the entire country, from suburban Indiana to the vastness of Montana).

It's worth savoring today. Our children are very happy. Coming from a time when my father's best friends (all brave men who had fought to defeat Nazism on the ground in France, Belgium, Germany and Austria) referred to Jackie Robinson as "Black Jack" and use to cheer the Dodgers with a cheer of "Run N_____ Run!" I'm very glad my own sons are coming of age in a different world. My Mom and Dad were among the few people in Linden, New Jersey who explained to us why we shouldn't use the "N" word back in the 1950s, while also explaining that the people we knew who did use it were good people (and brave; these were men who had "served" in combat in World War II) but limited.

Today, even in the most segregated parts of the USA (and Chicago has some of the most intensely segregated parts of the USA) that Jackie Robinson era racism is simply out of fashion. And given what things look like now, it's unlikely it will make a comeback, despite all the exertions of Sarah Palin and those mobs she luridly fired up at the most base level.

George N. Schmidt
Editor, Substance

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