Could you have dreamed, in 2003 or 2004, that poll data would show the public having turned further to the left than anytime since 1968? Could you have imagined record voter turnout among Democrats in primaries this year, while demoralized Republicans can barely get up off the couch from watching "Lost" to go vote? Would you have let yourself hope, back then, that young people are especially energized, and that they want nothing to do with the disaster that is the Republican Party? Especially knowing that these are party affiliations probably set for life, could you have let yourself even dream of these developments? To think of the day when to be labeled a conservative would once again be considered an embarrassment, especially for anyone under 30?
Would you have dared to imagine a tsunami of factors – ranging from sheer anger, to incumbent retirements, to economic meltdown, to the accident of twice as many GOP Senate seats up for election in 2008, to an epic 180 degree reversal in traditional fundraising fortunes, to complete despondency of the Republican base and historically high mobilization of the rest of us – that all of these will likely combine to produce the biggest congressional landslide since 1932?
And could you have ever dreamed in 2003 that five years later America would elect a black progressive president you’d never even heard of? A guy who is Kennedyesque in his inspirational qualities – to the point where many Republicans are actually attracted to him – and who can use that appeal to sell his agenda? A guy who will end the war, who will take the global warming crisis seriously, who will put economic justice back on the agenda, who will restore the country’s place in world opinion, who will bring fiscal sanity to the government, and who will respect democracy and the Constitution?
I must confess, the more I see Obama in action, the more I like him. I’ve warmed to him slowly – particularly because I’m very wary of charismatic figures, especially those with light resumes and speeches full of platitudes. But I have nevertheless warmed to him. I think he’s authentic. I think he’s smart intellectually and I think his campaign shows that he’s smart politically too. I don’t think he is running because he needs to be president to soothe his emotional deficiencies. I think he’s in it for the right reasons, an unbelievably fresh concept after decades of Clinton joyriding and Bush/Cheney kleptocracy. I admire the fact that he could have written his own ticket to serious financial success after graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, but chose instead to be a community organizer.
And as for those platitudes, they have either diminished, or else I’m listening more carefully now. Check out some of what Obama said the other night, after winning the Potomac trifecta:
We can’t keep playing the same Washington game with the same Washington players and somehow expect a different result, because it’s a game that ordinary Americans are losing. We are going to put this game to an end.
It’s a game where lobbyists write check after check and Exxon turns record profits, while you pay the price at the pump and our planet is put at risk. That’s what happens when lobbyists set the agenda, and that’s why they won’t drown out your voices anymore when I am president of the United States of America.
It’s a game where trade deals, like NAFTA, ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers to work for minimum wages at the local fast-food joint or at Wal-Mart.
It’s what happens when the American worker doesn’t have a voice at the negotiating table, when leaders change their positions on trade with the politics of the moment, and that is why we need a president who will listen not just to Wall Street, but to Main Street, a president who will stand with workers not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard, and that’s the kind of president I intend to be when I’m president of the United States of America.
It’s a game where Democrats and Republicans fail to come together year after year after year, while another mother goes without health care for her sick child. That’s why we have to put an end to the divisions and distractions in Washington so that we can unite this nation around a common purpose, around a higher purpose.
It’s a game where the only way for Democrats to look tough on national security is by talking, and acting, and voting like Bush-McCain Republicans, while our troops are sent to fight tour after tour of duty in a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged.
That’s what happens when we use 9/11 to scare up votes instead of bringing together the people around a common purpose. And that’s why we need to do more than end the war; we need to end the mindset that got us into war.
George Bush won’t be on the ballot this November.
George Bush won’t be on this ballot. My cousin, Dick Cheney, won’t be on this ballot.
But the Bush-Cheney war and the Bush-Cheney tax cuts for the wealthy, those will be on the ballot. When I am the nominee, I will offer a clear choice. John McCain won’t be able to say that I ever supported this war in Iraq, because I opposed it from the start.