Last night on the third day of the Democratic Convention in Philadelphia, the city where, arguably, American freedom and democracy were born, at least for white men, an American president of Kenyan descent faced members of his own party, and the American people at home in their living rooms watching television. Easy, composed and "in his element," President Barack Hussein Obama made the case for his would-be successor, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. It was a remarkable speech, filled with soaring rhetoric and common sense logic much to the delight of Democrats all over the country.
I have to say it. The man still has it -- in abundance. That Obama is immensely charismatic is a gross understatement. Tall, lean, handsome and possessing a unique voice -- a mixture and blend of baritone and tenor -- that was at times scolding, sometimes humorous, cajoling and blunt, he spent his considerable political capital betting on his preferred presidential candidate. At times I was fleetingly reminded of the old West when you hired a gunslinger to defend your ranch. And what a Hillary gunslinger Obama was!
Couching his speech in American multiculturalism - a body of thought in political philosophy about the proper way to respond to cultural and religious diversity -- President Obama gave first an account of his seven and a half year stewardship, a mixed bag of blessings, and then outlined exactly who Hillary Rodham Clinton is and why she deserved to be President of the United States.
It was not a self-aggrandizing, fawning, begging, genuflecting rhetorical meme that characterized the Republican Party's convention where the exalting and nauseating praising of Donald Trump brought back stark memories of pre-1939 Germany. By contrast, this was a blunt, no-frills examination of Ms. Clinton's long and checkered history as the quintessential American public servant. From advocating for the disabled, poor children, and a leading proponent of universal healthcare, President Obama laid it all out - simple, uncluttered, clear and unvarnished.
President Obama also took umbrage with Trump's naked and shameless appeal to xenophobia - the fear of that certain people in a society are perceived to be foreign or strange. Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an "in group" towards an "other or out group," including a fear of losing "traditional" identity, suspicion of "the other's" activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity.
Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an "uncritical exaltation of another culture" in which a culture is ascribed "an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality". All of this Obama rejected and argued for American multiculturalism as a bedrock of American exceptionalism. In fact, President Obama's version of multiculturalism is about the existence, acceptance, or promotion of multiple cultural traditions within the United States of America. He sees an inclusive, diverse and integrated America based on timeless values of honesty, "love for thy neighbor," sacrifice and welcoming to those who see America as a land of freedom and liberty. He said that Hillary Clinton gets it.
And rare for American presidents Obama acknowledged that "I may have let your down sometimes." Implicit in this statement was what he did not literally say -- I'm sorry I sometimes did not live up to your expectations. That from an American president, where the historical characteristic and persona of the office is a tough-talking, swaggering, uncompromising, triumphalist, white generalissimo, was a clear departure from the norm, and demonstrated Obama's humility, compassion and, yes, humanity. At that moment I remembered how he cried at the mass killing of little children at Sandy Hook and was so shook up with gratitude for his campaign staff in 2012 that he was again moved to tears. That's the exception -- American presidents are supposed to be tough and tough guys don't cry.
But to my mind President Obama's speech was his attempt to rally and energize the winning coalition that gave him victory in 2008 and again in 2012. It's the reason for his singling out Bernie Sanders by name in his speech that was a tacit acknowledgement that he -- not Hillary Clinton -- was part custodian of the Obama Coalition. The president knows that politics is all about arithmetic and he knows that Hillary will need to syphon off working class males from the Trump supporters and that he, Obama, with Senator Sanders's help, has to convince young voters, especially those on university campuses across the nation, to come out and vote for Hillary Clinton in November. It was the reason for unleashing Vice President Joe Biden the tough-talking, darling of the white working class.
Underscoring the president's speech was the elephant in the room -- racism. And while he did not call it by name there were numerous references to societal difficulties and the climate of non-cooperation that he's had to endure as president. To be sure President Obama is not responsible for the fact that Donald Trump is the Republican Party's presidential nominee. But the fact that Trump's meteoric political rise comes in the waning days of President Obama's time in office is no accident or coincidence. I am of the view that President Obama's electoral victory helped pave the way for the rise of Donald Trump and, more importantly, Trumpism -- the anti-immigration, anti-trade, nativist, xenophobic, jingoistic, law and order sentiments that have now gone American mainstream.
White hatred for Barack Obama was so pervasive that even so-called "moderate Republicans" refused to rein Trump in as he attacked the American president first questioning his place of birth, his religion and his commitment to "defend America from all enemies foreign and domestic." By the time 2015 came around the Republican Party was in open civil war and disarray surprising the party's political and media elites by it passion and strength. Suddenly, the Frankenstein monster that they created and gave life to was out of control as it drew on the deep anxieties, anger at the GOP Establishment, closet racism and fears of losing its dominant place in America's cultural space. In many ways Donald Trump also represents the face of anti-multiculturalism.
Trump and certain ultra-right elements of the Republican Party have long pushed the idea that America is being overrun and overtaken by non-white people with different values that threaten traditional, conservative "American values." This has been inspired by the fact that day by day America is fast becoming a multi-colored society where white people will not be the dominant majority in as near as 30 years. And for the past seven and a half years this has been symbolized by a man of Kenyan ancestry -- with, as Obama himself said during his 2004 convention speech, "a funny name."
But back to Hillary Clinton who is poised to make more history as America's first female president. One of the main reasons that she's disliked by some, thought of as untrustworthy by others, and literally held to a higher standard when compared to male politicians is that she is, plain and simple: a woman. Male politicians get away with all kinds of crap, pull every shenanigan -- sometimes far worse than Ms. Clinton's real of perceived disproportional transgressions - and are either forgiven or redeemed by a population that still undervalues women, especially in politics. Had Hillary Clinton been a man there would be no endless "investigations" of emails, his conduct, and just about EVERYTHING that she has done. Reminds me of the Salem Witch Hunts.
Infact, there is NO AMERICAN POLITICAL LEADER LAST OR PRESENT THAT HAS BEEN SO THOROUGHLY AND CONSISTENTLY INVESTIGATED. The fact that she's been able to beat back and triumph over these sustained and unrelenting attacks, criticisms, insults etc. FOR OVER 30 YEARS is the first testament to her incredible fortitude and ability to focus. Now, I'm not suggesting that she's perfect -- far from it. She's made political mistakes and she's embraced a hawkish foreign policy that has liberals and the Left scratching their heads. These are facts. But that does not in ANY WAY negate the fact that in 2016 she is the most qualified candidate to be President of the United States.
So after all is said and done the American people face two clear and distinct choices this November: One (1) elect a candidate who NEVER HELD public office, failed in business, and represents the WORST of American society and values. Or two (2) elect a candidate, who for all her flaws is a decent, fair-minded, people-oriented and honest leader. As Sun Tzu said: Know your enemy and know yourself and VICTORY IS CERTAIN. Let's not be fooled by the Republican conman: He's a good marketer. He understood that his controversial, bombastic and inflammatory statements are representative of Republican conservative resentment of "political correctness." The problem is that his ability to articulate and say what they think in blunt, unvarnished verbosity -- embarrasses the hell out of them.
Hillary Clinton deserves our vote and support -- she's earned it and then some. Yes, we can cherry-pick her record and come up with things we do not like. But that's true of every politician in American politics today. Pardon the analogy, I rather to stick with the Devil I know and understand than the one I don't know. I respectfully submit that Hillary Clinton's strengths, experience and record of accomplishments on behalf of working people, the disabled and the downtrodden outweighs her mistakes and shortcomings. For this reason and my fear of the alternative -- Vote Hillary Clinton in November.