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January 7, 2008

Let's Not Get Carried Away

Don’t get me wrong. I’m happy for Obama, encouraged that he won Iowa, and will be even more so if he takes New Hampshire. I think an Obama win is more than symbolic. It actually speaks to huge changes in American culture since the 1988 campaign of Jesse Jackson, most importantly the ability of white Americans to allow themselves to be led by black Americans, one of the leading indicators that multiculturalism has gained significant ground in the last 20 years (disregarding for the moment those pesky Black unemployment, incarceration and education disparities).

Good news aside, let’s not get carried away. People have been raving about Obama’s victory speech after Iowa. But when I hear Obama speak, it’s the same political pabulum that George Bush spews. Just take a look:


You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that's been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States... We are choosing hope over fear. We're choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America.


I know how to unite people. I don't like the politics of pitting one group of people against another, the politics of pointing fingers.


For many months, we've been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism... Hope is what led a band of colonists to rise up against an empire; what led the greatest of generations to free a continent and heal a nation; what led young women and young men to sit at lunch counters and brave fire hoses and march through Selma and Montgomery for freedom's cause... Hope—hope—is what led me here today – with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation.


We are entering a season of hope... A hopeful society gives special attention to children who lack direction and love... A hopeful society comes to the aid of fellow citizens in times of suffering and emergency... A hopeful society acts boldly to fight diseases like HIV/AIDS, which can be prevented, and treated, and defeated.

Sure, when Obama speaks of change, and of bipartisanship, I think he actually MEANS what he says. But his stump speeches still lack substance. It's depressing. Take away the fact that he’s exciting because he’s smart (we haven’t had smart in the White House for seven years) and Black (we haven’t had Black in the White House ever), and he’s just another salesperson. I’m not sure there’s really much philosophical difference between Clinton and Obama, nor in their pandering, which they seem to do in equal measure. I am indeed inspired by WHO Obama is, and what’s he’s been able to achieve so far in this campaign. But I also need to be inspired by WHAT he says and does. And I’m not feeling him yet on that. Not that I’m feeling Hillary on that either, but I’m just saying: This shit is, and will continue to be, mad high-school popularity contest, with victory going to the candidate who has the smell of a winner.

If I were to vote for Obama at this stage, it’s more because he symbolizes change, rather than because I’m convinced he can effect it. But after eight years of George W. Bush trashing the United States and squandering our treasure, even a symbolic victory will do wonders.

--Dan Charnas

Posted by dcharnas at January 7, 2008 11:05 PM

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