What a stunning moment in journalism. A humbling moment in journalism. A proud moment in journalism. Not the mass media’s manufactured controversy, for that was deplorable—but rather the response.
Blogs, journals, online diaries, phone conversations, and emails poured into the debate from Austin to Fargo, from Seattle to Cape Cod. The media and the right wing had hoped that their efforts would exploit the average American, and pluck his or her vote away from Illinois Senator Barack Obama. They hoped that if they pushed the right buttons—the words “elite” and “values” and the phrase “out of touch”—that the large segment of simple, average Americans—perhaps some of whom include working-class Reagan Democrats—would “cling to” those very issues and vote against Obama. In envisioning this possibility, they acted exactly on the elitist presumptions and attitudes for which they espoused haughty disdain.
And why did the right wing believe it could tilt the vote by playing on the themes of “elitism” and “values?” What is “wrong” with the simple, average American?
To begin with, the simple average American’s heart is driven by a desire to sacrifice for others. He or she holds a dream, not uncommon in this wonderful country: to raise a happy, healthy and productive family. He or she can laugh during the good times, and become a deadly force to be when stirred by the impulse to protect his or her family—or homeland.
In short, the average American is fallible and simple because in his or her character is everything that makes the United States so great. We are all susceptible to fall under the influence of our cultural expectations and heroes and values. It’s this weakness of character, far more often a strength, which makes the average American look like a roosting hen to the foxes of the corporate conservative right wing.
But from the talk shows to the polls to conversations with ordinary people, it is clear that the hen house is empty. The hens aren’t hens, and they are definitely not roosting. This country is wide awake. It’s almost spooky. The reception Clinton has had since the “bitter” controversy was manufactured last week is a nearly deafening silence. In a highly publicized incident, Clinton was heckled at the American Manufacturing forum in Pittsburgh, Pa., when she tried to attack Obama with the manufactured flap.
Four years ago, when Kerry was the subject of the latest distortion and distraction issue, right wing radio talk show host, Sean Hannity, would field call after call from Middle Americans saying things like, “Well, I’m a working-class American and I’m proud of it.” They would perfectly echo the theme of his radio show. Today the calls were so few that Hannity had time to field a call from another radio talk show personality, Mark Levin, and worry about bloggers looking for the moment when Hannity slips. “How do you know that they sit in their underwear?” Hannity asked Levin of the presumed deadbeat bloggers that monitor Hannity. Can you believe Hannity takes exception to bloggers waiting for HIM to slip. A day hasn’t gone by in the last three weeks where Hannity hasn’t played the clip of Reverend Jeremiah Wright at least 87 times. Now it’s all “bitter” all the time.
Four years ago, when the debates focused on whether or not Kerry actually earned his three Purple Hearts, it was accepted as the way journalism is done. This week, bloggers moved the liberal agenda into the news. Jason Linkins deserves praise for his work rolling out several stories highlighting the atrocities of the ABC debate; also, for reporting that Hannity fed the debate questions to ABC. Linkins and the Huffington Post deserve credit for the segment Charlie Gibson did last night entitled, “Debate Over the Debate.”
But you all deserve credit and praise, too. Without you, and the articles from Steve Young, and Walter Uhler, and Dave Lindorff and Steven Leser and so many others, none of this would have happened. Thanks goes to the people who advanced these articles by adding comments at the bottom.
We cannot win anything this year without your support. It’s not what Obama should say. It’s what you should say, and write. Obama is limited in what he can say, as are all politicians, but we are not limited. We can hold forth with bombastic indictments of the media. We can be a war room. We can change the subject from distractions about Obama’s comments to the media itself, and we did it this week.
After I wrote several articles on the anti-Obama slant in The New York Times, with particular focus on Jeff Zeleny, I noticed that his blog post today had no bias toward Obama. We can hold reporters like Jeff Zeleny accountable by shining the light of truth on their actions. We can and we must because Obama never would. He shouldn’t have to.
Obama is an incredible man. I get goose bumps every time I hear him speak. That was certainly true on Thursday when he dismissed the ABC debate. However; Obama is simply a figurehead. This is our election. This is our victory. This needs to be an election for ourselves.
We can take a moment and reflect on our work this week. We pulled off an incredible upset, but we must not stop now. We must hurl ourselves, and hurl ourselves, and hurl ourselves…out of our chairs, and out of our walls, and out of our comfortable routines. We must drive and drive and still not give up. We cannot afford to slow down. We cannot afford to back down.
At the Democratic Convention in 1964, Senator Robert F. Kennedy talked about President John F. Kennedy’s respect for all of us, to whom this country belongs. As we approach the 40th anniversary of RFK’s death, and the death of his trademark idealism and hope for the young generation, it is important to revisit these words.
We lost two great lives 40 years ago, and our country has wandered in the wilderness of their absence for long enough. We’ve spent forty years in the wilderness, and no political figure has captured the spirit of RFK, until Obama came along. But the 40 years is over, and it is time for us to reclaim the fervent journey to the Promised Land.
Here are his words from the convention. They are important.