On election day at around 6:30 in the evening I drafted some thoughts that seemed to reflect my state of mind at the time. Barry and I were going to meet Paddy Johnson a little later at the election watch party at Huffington Post headquarters, where I had hoped to come up with an image to go with the draft post. But by the time Obama's election was actually called, around 11 o'clock Eastern, I had tears in my eyes. I was home, and when I looked at my lines a little later I knew they just wouldn't fly right then (unless you were asleep that night or brain dead, you know what I mean).
Like most of the world, I am overwhelmed and overjoyed by what has happened, even more so since I will admit that ever since 2000 I thought I'd never see another real Presidential election (even blogging about my scepticism, repeatedly, beginning almost seven years ago). I had seriously underestimated the Republicans incompetence in both their ability to govern and to maintain power.
But it's now less than three days later and the questions have already begun.
Will Obama be be able to oversee our national restoration? My brother reminded me on the phone yesterday afternoon, from suburban D.C., of the price we had to pay to bring about this victory. We endured eight disastrous years of a Bush presidency, years which saw both the haughty ascendancy and the ignoble collapse of the unmourned Late Capitalist, Neoconservative and Republican regime. Nothing of importance or worth in our own Republic or in much of the rest of the world has escaped the depredations of its arrogance, its sententiousness, its dominion and its greed. I had believed for years that no fundamental political change would occur until we had sunk into a genuine economic depression, and I had gloomily predicted the change would be toward some form of Fascism.
I hadn't anticipated the confluence of the dramatic events of the last year and the exceptional capabilities of Barack Hussein Obama. I'd say we were far luckier than we deserved to be. There was certainly no inevitability in the timing of either's appearance.
But in order to rebuild institutions, restore well-being and a belief in the future, the new President will have to pull off something like a major revolution. And he's going to have to move fast. Roosevelt's entire "First New Deal" was proposed and passed by Congress within the first 100 days of his administration. I can't imagine how he and his administration managed it, but in 1933 the people were demanding immediate relief.
Today there may not yet be universal recognition of the full impact of the current economic collapse. Only a few are beginning to describe it as equivalent to the Great Depression, whose ravages were well underway as FDR assumed office (although to be sure, our 32nd President didn't also have to deal with two messy wars and Global Warming when he moved into the White House). Without that full recognition of the seriousness of our crisis, and with the continuing strength of contemporary skeptics, dinosaurs and reactionaries, including the fact that almost as many people didn't vote for him as did, Obama will almost certainly have to push through what must be, and almost certain will be, an extremely progressive agenda while not making it look too radical, and he will have to do it in a way that will disarm and even enlist on its behalf as many of its potential adversaries as possible.
It was very interesting to me when I finally looked into it, that during his campaign Roosevelt had apparently spoken to the voters of nothing remotely related to what became his extraordinarily-ambitious New Deal programs; in fact, much of what he did say suggested an agenda quite the opposite of what was later framed and passed. Not knowing this then, but because I knew something about my countrymen, it did not surprise me when I heard nothing specific about any kind of new New Deal from Obama at any time during his own extended campaign.
Obama knows he will have to be diplomatically politic. The nation is fortunate that such an approach corresponds with his own temperament, and that he brings to the task an extremely sharp mind, including the ability to think and speak on his feet, and what appears to be enormous strength of character. I have no doubt that if anyone could pull this thing off in this shaken country at this time, Barack Obama could, but he won't be able to do it alone.
I know there will be mistakes, as FDR made mistakes, but, and call me Pollyanna again, I believe he will pull it off, partly because of what I have just written, but also because he will have so much help (both enthusiastic and skilled), and because we have come to such a pass that we all really want to see him to succeed: Regardless of our diversity, and despite the vast range in our individual conditions and current fortunes, none of us can afford the cost of failure. We'll have to be in there with him.
Did I mention the awesome and "monumental" importance that our success would signify, an importance even beyond that of our decision to make a man who happens to be [described as] Black the President of the United States? More than a material recovery, success would mean the restoration of the all-but-buried idea of a free and welcoming America first invented by a wise, older world sometime in the seventeenth century.
These are the tone-deaf, and surprisingly angry lines I wrote early Tuesday evening, exactly as I had left them*:
The corporate devisers and the engine of our national disaster and disgrace have finally been repudiated. Bush and his enablers will squirm in their Pennsylvania Avenue lair for almost three more months, where they can still do a lot of damage, but the lease is up.
While it is clearly a victory for reason and common sense and what used to be called "the American way", today's vote marks only the beginning of the real recovery.
We must all immediately get to work picking up the shattered pieces of a proud republic, and it won't be easy. While we are doing so it will be equally as important to resolve and ensure that as the privileged and proud citizens of this fortunate land we will never again sell our heritage to slick con men who thrive by preying on our selfish appetites and ignorant fears.
We are a free people only if we remain actively and continuously responsible for our own governance.
Freedom ain't a tower.
I'm struck by the fact that I totally ignored mentioning the significance of race when I wrote about what I already expected would be an Obama victory. I'd like to think that what looks like my indifference to its role may turn out to be a bellwether for this country finally arriving at maturity, but I can't help mentioning that later that evening I noticed and remarked to my friends that sadly even the Huffington party presented little more than a handful of dark faces in a sea of white. I was regretting that we hadn't decided to watch the unfolding wonders from somewhere in the streets.
[image is a still of the MSNBC broadcast as seen on our home screen]