Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes We Did

Everybody's happy. everybody's jumping. On the world scale, at the very least 80%. Every single one of my blue-state Republican family and friends voted for him. My 80-year-old father and his wife wrote: "hooray, we watched the dramatic win here on Maui. It surely would have been fun to be in Chicago at Grant Park. Now let us begin."

The World joy will be hard to stop.

And it will be hard to stop everybody's work. The Seven Million who worked for Obama. The four years of endless efforts in precincts all over the country to have an actual fair vote in which everyone is counted.

On the show she does with Elizabeth Robinson on KCSB, "No Alibis," Avery Gordon said it was also sad that everyone worked so hard just for a fair election, the meager baseline of formal democracy. Sharon Hoshida pointed out the victory for bottom-up organizing in general.

Both of these are true. Community organizing was the big winner Tuesday night. Even if organizing job 1 was to count the votes correctly. wow!

Obama's greatest strength is not his "intellect" and "character" as has been touted by beltway folks. These are very good. But his real genius is understanding the power and the intelligence of the streets and corners where people live, talk, think, and act.

His best line in his acceptance speech:
I know you didn't do this just to win an election and I know you didn't do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead.
His second best line:

will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree.

Obama's win was a win for the grassroots - again, its brains and power - and a win for someone who unlike nearly any other national politician and pundit I can think of, learned how to listen.

This also means people will be able to talk back. There will be discussions. There will be multiple sides, international differences exchanged, and no prefabricated victory for the power-associated view.

This sounds simple, like a dumb-level pluralism. But in the context of American politics, it is huge.

That is because We-Obama defeated the two principles that have allowed the Right to rule three decades of US national politics:
  • before the election, do not debate. Throw the other side out of the debate (liberal abortionist gay- marriage supporting terrorist-loving pacifists who hate America).
  • during the election, suppress the other side's vote
The absolutely awe-inducing lines, the endless discussion of voting minutae, the national care for the voting booth defeated the second. And something else defeated the first- the sperading perception of the sheer failure of the rhetoric and the deeds of polarization to fix the country.

You could see it in the red counties of western Virginia and eastern Indiana in the way McCain and culture-war Amazon Palin polled 10-15 points behind the Bush of 2004. The casting out of the political thought of the entire post-1929 period had visibly ceased to work.

While looking for something better, people looked to Obama because he does get it - the labor, the ordinary effort, the regular intelligence, and how change comes from that. My friend Virigina, American in Paris, got me to read the Yes We Can section in the Nov 4 speech again and she is right about how good it is.
Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldn't vote for two reasons -- because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that she's seen throughout her century in America -- the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when women's voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.
There are storm clouds on the horizon for We-Obama:

Obama's Clintonomics
Obama's Clinton people.
The hardship that was already there.

Amy Goodman got one of the best quotes of the night, from a woman at an Obama rally in Chicago:
I feel that I want to hang a flag. That I'm a part of the United States. And that we matter. All of us.
That's the core of the victory right there. "we matter. All of us." That will be the source of all the change to come.


SurferGirl said...

The Ann Nixon Cooper part of his speech touched me deeply as well. As a French woman, I always keep in mind that we got the right to vote only 60 or so years ago, right when my mom was born...
I am quite proud of the US right this moment... :)

jkl said...

I know that you'd been skeptical of Obama in previous blogs, but I agree with you on this. As of now, I have just two friends who remain emotionally unmoved by the events of the past few days.

Chris Newfield said...

yes you two! I think its more Obamans than Obama - the voting lines were the single most inspiring thing I've seen in US politics for a while. Now the reality of the Clinton Continuum approaches like an alien probe. The shadow of Larry Summers is upon us! people are going to have to push back all the time - in fact Obama promised his supporters in his victory speech that we were going to disagree with him quite a bit. Still, I'm happy! chris