Wednesday, November 5, 2008

President Barack Obama

That phrase has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? As I've said, last night we saw history being made: for the first time in 232 years a black man has been chosen by the American people as the next leader of this country. It's a moment that's made historic not just because of the long, embarrassing legacy of slavery we've carried with us for so many years now, but also because of the nature and the story of the man himself.

He's young, biracial, was raised internationally by a poor single mother and then by her parents after her death (the second of whom having died on the eve of his election), and he has a funny sounding name inconveniently similar to those of two of America's most reviled enemies. He beat the Clinton political machine in the primaries (no small feat in itself) and survived one of the longest, nastiest general elections in history, and he did it all with intelligence, class and aplomb.

As Bill Maher has said on numerous occasions, major league baseball wasn't ready for just any black player in the forties: it was ready for Jackie Robinson; he was the only one at that time who could have done what he did, and the same can be said of Barack Obama today. Or, as The Stranger says of The Dude in The Big Lebowski: "Sometimes, there's a man, well, he's the man for his time and place. He fits right in there." And that's Barack Obama, here in the United States of America, at the beginning of the 21st century.

The road that lies ahead for him will not be an easy one to traverse, and I don't envy him the tough situations he'll have to face or the even tougher decisions he'll have to make; the outgoing Bush administration has left us with two enduring wars, massive debt and an economy on the brink of ruin, a shredded constitution, a country deeply and bitterly divided along cultural lines, and a shattered reputation on the global stage. A President Obama will have to address all of these problems and more in his first term, and he'll have to do it all under the largest media magnifying glass in history, but that difficult road does hold some encouraging signs.

With his victory in this election Obama has been given a mandate by the people of this country; not the phony, 1% squeaker mandate Bush claimed in 2004 or even the actual mandate to end the Iraq war which a Democratically controlled congress failed to carry out in 2006: this was a loud and clear mandate from the American people for real change and actual leadership. Despite the right's false accusations of a Socialistic agenda and their recent claims that this is still a "center-right country", the electorate chose Obama over his Republican opponent by an electoral margin of over two to one, with the largest turnout for a presidential election in 100 years.

I remember sitting in a bar in New York City about three years ago with some good friends; we were discussing current events and the affairs of the day when the issue of problems in the black community came up. I made the comment (not original to myself) that one of the things the black community crucially needed was a real leader. When my friends asked me who I thought that could be I replied, "Well, there's this guy I'm kind of excited about who gave an amazing keynote address at the Democratic National Convention last year. He's the junior senator from Illinois and his name is Barack Obama..." I of course had no idea at the time that three years later he would be elected our next president, and I was wrong about the potential role he would fill: he didn't just become a leader for black Americans; he became a leader for all Americans.

For the first time in my adult life I'm genuinely proud of my president, and I would imagine that for a lot of people from my generation and most of those from subsequent ones as well this is a new sensation; we would do well for ourselves to take a moment to savor the unique feeling of such uncommon pride. With the historic turnout of the youth vote in this election the Boomer era of our parents has officially ended; this is a new day for the country and a chance for new ideas and new energy to be tried against some very old problems and challenges. I just hope that as a people we're equal to the task.

I want to thank everyone for all of the emails, phone calls and text messages I've received over the last 24 hours; the outcome of this contest was obviously very important to me and the fact that so many of you took the time to send your congratulations means a lot. Also, my sincerest thanks to any and all of you who have consistently read all of the things I've ranted and raved about during this interminable election; I realize that at times it could not have been an easy task.

I was recently asked what I would write about after it was all over and it's a decision I'm still considering. Despite the conclusion of this election politics will of course still be a major theme of this site, and I plan to hold our new president's feet to the fire for the next four years; having defended him on many different levels and issues over the past few years I now fully expect him to follow through on his promise of trying to build a better tomorrow for the citizens of this country, and to do any less would smack of the disgusting political hypocrisy I abhor. Regardless, it's been a fun and engaging race to write about and I'm glad I was here to witness it, and again I promise to come up with all manner of new people and things I hope you'll find as interesting and stimulating as I do; thanks again for reading.


Anonymous said...

You're welcome. Thanks for writing.

Unknown said...


I found your blog while trying to search for an image of the GOP Elephant as an AT-AT, and followed a link for a "FAIL" AT-AT shirt. Just wanted to say:

1) enjoyed your election night essay -- I worked in 4 states for the man and the campaign (first as a volunteer and then intern in the primaries, then as a paid organizer in a battleground state.) I don't know if I'll ever get over swelling up with pride when I read folks' thoughts about the election.

2) I really like that you call yourself a libertarian-socialist. I've described myself the exact same way, and have been met with a range of reactions (mostly negative.)

JBW said...

I appreciate you reading my essay, Graham. All I did for the man was call voters from my home and blog but I'm still proud of what we all accomplished.

I've also encountered mostly negative reactions to calling myself an L-S, usually in the vein of, "That doesn't make any sense to me so I'm going to call you stupid" kind of thing.

Stay strong bud, and thanks for taking the time to check out the site.

heavystarch said...


Are you still proud of BHO? Sadly this presidency is feeling way too much like Bush 3.0.

Ongoing wars in Iraq, increasing troops in Afghanistan (with no end in site or defined goals), bailouts continue of big corporations, profligate spending in DC, bills shoved through congress that are thousands of pages long (that don't get read and include dozens of different bills all wrapped in one) etc etc

I didn't vote for BHO or McCain (Ron Paul fan here) but I certainly entertained the idea that BHO would be better than Bush/McCain... but it's just business as usual in D.C.

JBW said...

Obama's a politician, heavystarch. I was never under any illusion that he was anything but. He's made some decisions that I don't agree with but yes, I still think he's done a good job considering the list of challenges he walked into as president.