Posted by: coloradokiwi | February 7, 2008

Welcome back, America

At the risk of jinxing things and calling it all too early: we are poised for greatness, I think. There are stirrings of a real democratic movement — and by “democratic” here I am referring not to the party but to democracy. We have here not merely a horse race, not merely a selection of seemingly good candidates on both sides (although I profoundly disagree with the Republican candidates on several issues, all of them strike me as far better all around than Bush). We have a populace who are engaged, who are getting their voices heard. To whit:

Yesterday I was listening to “The World” on NPR. First some Barack stuff: everyone’s interested, and his being elected would dramatically alter impressions of America in two different ways: (1) Europeans are skeptical of our ability to elect a black prez; proving them wrong would send a HUGE signal. (2) It’s been pointed out many times that just his face, in addition to having had a Muslim Dad from Kenya, already bridges huge divides throughout the developing world, particularly the Middle East.

Now, something else I heard on “The World” that got me a little verklempt. First, the foreign correspondents they interviewed waxed romantic about how from the outside, our system is still a magical thing, the aura of great American democracy. Sure, there are strongmen and party leaders, but the primary process here is still WAY more democratic than the vast majority of the globe, including much of Europe. And wow, what turnout: previously in Colorado, about 15,000 people would show up for primaries — Tuesday night 120,000 people went to caucus. And this is being repeated everywhere across the nation. If this trend continues, just imagine the turnout in the general! No matter who’s elected, this is a booster shot for our democracy. Secondly, people abroad are fascinated by the characters: a former First Lady; a mixed-race, mixed-background man who makes magnificent speeches; a bass-strumming Baptist preacher; a war hero; a straight-edge Mormon with a haircut and style straight out of 1950’s American sitcoms*. God damn, put it that way, and John Mellencamp songs almost don’t seem terrible.

We can all be very cynical about the process, and deservedly so. But seen from a little bit of distance, this is truly a great thing we are a part of right now. It is in fact potentially an unprecedented thing that we are a part of right now, and worth repeating to our grandchildren.

I only hope that we can tell our grandchildren this: after years of war, division, strife, and the crumbling not only of America in literal terms, but also the crumbling of the very idea of America, the people came out in droves to the polls, and created a mandate for our government to change its ways, our ways, the ways of the world. It won’t happen in one election, but this can start it.

For the first time in a long time I look to my country and I am hopeful. I see the potential of it, that burning ember of ideals that has not been completely quashed by greed and fear. How ironic that the Bush years that nearly extinguished that flame may have provided nearly ideal conditions for it to rekindle.

* And now we are Mittless.   What on earth will Flip the Dolphin do now?

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Responses

  1. fast forward 8 months:

    after years of war, division, strife, and the crumbling of america, the people find themselves in another shitty election where they sheepishly choose from among 2 candidates (clinton or mccain), each of which represents little more than a slight deviation from the status quo of the past 20+ years.

    while trying to decide which candidate they dislike the least, a mumbling voice inside their collective head that once spoke of new hope and change slowly dies along with the idea that america had a chance at saving herself.

  2. Well first, I’m not so sure Clinton has sealed this thing. In fact I think she looks to be in trouble. It will depend on how large Obama’s next few victories will be, and whether he’s able to stay close or even win PA, OH, and TX. That’s a whole other blog entry, though.

    I don’t necessarily disagree that Clinton and McCain — and even Obama — represent the status quo. But let’s not be too cynical: all three have espoused to move on energy, the environment, immigration, and several other domestic issues (the Dems will also move on healthcare).

    The thing I’m trying to point out is not that the candidates themselves represent any kind of sea change. I’m trying to point out that electoral banality has helped to create this status quo, and in this election, the electorate is energized and coming out in force. Although I’m as cynical as the next person about what “change” would actually entail, I think the crucial first step is widespread civic engagement, and that is currently happening.

  3. I know the OP is a little old by internet standards but as election day gets closer the title only seems more apt. http://welcomebackamerica.org/


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