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Friday, January 04, 2008

New Hope

It’s a new year, and I have a new haircut, which makes me feel a little lighter. But the real reason I am brimming with hope this morning is that Barack Obama won in Iowa with record turn out, especially among young and new voters. The fact that his victory was sound in a state that is 95 per cent White only adds to my optimism about his prospects in the rest of the country. (For why I am now capitalizing White and Black, read this post.)

Of course Obama’s victory does not mean that racism is a thing of the past, or that the great disparities in wealth and power than exist in our country will disappear if we elect a Black president. It is important that we not buy into that illusion. But it does indeed seem to be a “new day,” as the candidate said, at least in terms of electoral politics. This seems to be confirmed in Philadelphia, which just got a new mayor in a race that broke the old mold of racially divisive elections in our town, ending with a Black man winning with an unprecedented 83% of the vote.. The fact that Michael Nutter will be inaugurated next week—the guy I wanted to vote for from the beginning but was told didn’t have a chance—only adds to my optimism about 2008.

Balancing optimism and realism is tricky business. We can’t forget the real challenges that face both these men, the real and historic problems faced by our city, and our country. But I don’t think people ever find creative solutions without optimism and the hope that things can be better. I’ve always said that the thing that makes Barak Obama different than previous Black candidates for president is not his grooming (Remember Chris Dodd’s stupid comments?), but the fact that he is the first Black candidate to believe he can actually win. This struck me months ago when Obama wrote an editorial for the Irish Edition, a Philadelphia monthly that my mother subscribed to for years. He made a compelling case for why the Irish would appreciate his approach to immigration and other issues, a pitch I don’t think Jesse Jackson ever bothered to make. The article struck me as exceedingly smart, and optimistic.

Perhaps it is Obama’s optimism that propelled him to victory last night. I know I’m sick of feeling hopeless about the world, and I suspect I’m not alone. Although I still have criticisms of The Secret, I think it is basically right in this respect—things will never improve unless we believe they can.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm trying to get excited about Obama's win, but I was really pulling for Edwards. I think he's the Chaka Fattah of the presidential candidates: the only one who's really talking seriously about the wealth gap, and ending the enormous privilege that the rich and powerful currently enjoy in our political system. And I feel about Obama somewhat similar to how I feel about Nutter: I really appreciate and believe his clean, open government rhetoric (less pronounced that Nutter's), and am glad that he's not totally the establishment party pick, but he's a little too "centrist," to borrow a MSM term, for my liking.

Obama's post-partisan talk sounds a lot like GWB in 2000. While I think he would obviously not be the horrific international disaster that Bush has been, we need more than "Let's just all get along." Nice sentiment, but the fact is that there are radically divergent views in this country. I want a candidate to stand up and articulate views that I support, say why they're the right ones, and why other views are harmful.

PS: It was Biden, not Chris Dodd, who's poorly chosen words about Obama got blown completely out of all proportion. But those white, East Coast Senators all look alike, right? ;-)

11:28 AM  
Blogger Eileen Flanagan said...

OK, Thomas totally caught me out mixing up two white male senators. (There are so many of them:)) I am properly chastened, though I suspect my slip reflected the problem the rest of the electorate was having seeing those two clearly in the shadow of the "celebrity" candidates.

As for Obama, I understand what Thomas is saying and sympathize somewhat. But what I heard him say in the debate last night was not "let's just all get along" as in "let's get along with the drug companies and corporate lobbists," but let's engage average Americans so we can shift the political landscape. I have a sense that he and I do not agree on everything, but that his positions are close enough to mine for me to feel hopeful. One example was an interview I heard some months back where Obama said, "I'm not against all wars; I'm just against stupid wars." Well, I thought, that's not exactly my position, but it's a big improvement over the current administration. I'll take it. That's another reason I favor Obama. I think he won't be as trigger happy as Clinton might be, eager to prove her "strength" throught the arm of the US military.

9:08 AM  

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