BARACK OBAMA APPROACHES MLK/MANDELA STATUS
Barack closes the deal
Some random Election Day 2008 observations.
The Standard Refrain: Egregiously long lines awaiting the civic-minded. If I thought I was going to get a jump on folks by showing up at the polls earlier than any other time in my voting life, it turns out that by showing up at 7:15 am., I was just in time to be late. The line, maneuvering along at a decidedly un-snail-like pace, was the longest I'd seen at this location since Bush/Kerry -- and I've been voting there since Bush/Dukakis.
Hope: The level of sheer, undiluted energy that persisted at my polling spot, a public school, also seemed evident around every polling location I happened upon as I made my way to work after voting. It was quite distinctive and in flagrant contrast to the dour aura that seemed to define the high-turnout Election Day in 2004 between Bush and Kerry. There is clearly a palpable difference in spirit when millions of people gather to vote for a candidate -- in this case Barack Obama -- rather than against someone which seemed to be the force that drove Kerry voters to the polls in 2004.
Witnesses to History: A group of middle school students, both black and white, clearly awestruck by the sheer volume of voters and the easily discernible energy we produced are sneaking peeks at the crowd from a classroom window above. After briefly disappearing for a few moments they re-emerged with a hastily-written "Obama" sign fashioned out of notebook paper.
The Act: A mother, accompanied by her pre-teen daughter, proceeds from the polls with arms wrapped around one another's waist. Their glowing, black faces both exhibited Publisher’s Clearinghouse winner-type smiles, seemingly out of satisfaction, pride, accomplishment, and hopefully, from a clear understanding of the historic nature of the act they'd just carried out. Shortly after that scene, a similar one was noted as an older cane-wielding African-American woman slowly exited held ever steadier by the additional assistance of her adult son. They both carried the same look of satisfaction, glory and accomplishment exhibited by the mother/daughter duo. Meanwhile, a very young mother, perhaps scarcely out of her teens and pushing a stroller, quietly awaited her turn while occasionally fidgeting with her infant daughter. She was later overheard saying this was her first time voting.
Some observers might suggest that these otherwise routinely innocuous events extend, on this occasion, beyond the realm of the noteworthy in the minds of many African-Americans and other minorities. They would be right. Taken in a certain context, they seem to illustrate the uniquely historical nature of a paradoxically subliminal, yet overt coming of full circle. Examined further, they reveal a reinvigorated and more clearly-defined generational/historical lineage that was strengthened, if not rediscovered through the participation of millions of African-Americans in an endeavor that many had come to accept as audaciously unthinkable regardless of the generation from which we came of age: a bona fide opportunity to consider a compellingly pertinent African-American from among other presumably similarly-qualified candidates for the highest office in the land.
As we all now know, these evident Obama supporters awoke the following morning to the maximal satisfaction of knowing that because of their November 4, 2008 endeavor, the audacious was no longer unthinkable. With their help in addition to that of millions of other African-American voters nationwide, Obama had won in an electoral landslide. Black President!
But it needs to be pointed out that Obama won, not in large part because of blind support from a solid, but politically unsophisticated voting bloc of hyper-partisan, race-conscious African-Americans who, in deciding which candidate to choose, placed Obama's race over both the content of his character and what the other side argued was a lack of experience.
Not so. With all due respect to John Hanson, Barack Hussein Obama will soon become America's 44th President simply because he was demonstrably the better candidate by far and thus more deserving of the office. Like much of America, and indeed, much of the world, African-American voters perceived this and voted accordingly. The fact that Obama's heart pumps African-American blood is simply immaterial.
This issue requires addressing because of pre- and post-election rationalizing by bewildered elements within the vanquished party currently in full face-saving/ass-covering mode. For many of these folks, Arizona Sen. John McCain's loss was simply the product of a charismatic lightning rod of identity politics converging with a disastrously-timed economic collapse. This rational eludes the fact that they supported an almost tragically ill-suited candidate who ran an astonishingly inept campaign against a smart, well-organized Democrat. It's fairly simple. Barack Obama fashioned and implemented a brilliant and ultimately successful election strategy against a party noteworthy for an uncanny ability to continuously "win" elections in spite of its inability to properly govern once their victories are attained.
In pointing this out, I'm not overlooking a longstanding political premise which holds that typically, the party in power during hard times undergoes political backlash divulged through protest votes against its candidates at the first available opportunity. Thus, there's no question that a large percentage of white voter support for Democrat Obama was steadfastly entrenched in a "throw the (Republican) bums out" school of thought obviously rooted in the economic collapse.
Also not being ignored is the obvious fact that for many African-American voters, a fair amount of Barack's political appeal rests upon an almost alarming reservoir of personal charisma that with this historic achievement, propels him toward a sainted realm occupied by the likes of Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King, Jr. Yet, for African-Americans, this was no protest vote against the Republican, white or any other establishment per se. Certainly not in the way that past black electoral support for the Reverends Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton or even Shirley Chisholm may arguably have been construed. Ditto for Carol Moseley Braun; Lenora Fulani; and to a far lesser extent, Alan Keyes.
Indeed, the endeavor of near-universal African-American support for Obama extends far beyond just personal charisma. It is solidly well-founded and upheld by a sustained flow of irrefutable evidence -- the stately manner by which he represented the U.S. during excursions abroad or his composed debate performances, for example-- which confirmed that this candidate was thoroughly up for the job in ways that are also thoroughly obvious.
African-Americans -- as was unquestionably the case with the tens of millions of his white supporters, including many influential Republicans -- saw Barack's mettle proven through his conclusive intelligence, astute organizational skills, and a serenely confident and comfortably knowledgeable display of presidential temperament and awareness. He demonstrated not only the intellectual capacity to appropriately conceptualize the presidency, but also an ability to easily convey that understanding to the electorate, both black and white.