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An Historic Election….BUT November 7, 2008

Posted by Dwight and Lynn Furrow in Current Events, Dwight Furrow's Posts.
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Accolades for our historic election have been pouring in, and rightly so. Given our history, it is a remarkable achievement to elect an African-American, especially a progressive African-American, to the presidency. The United States has shown once again that, unlike much of the rest of the world, when faced with a crisis, we can overcome racism and tribalism and endorse reason and hope. So our celebration is richly deserved. It is indeed one of the great moments in our history (and perhaps in world history).

 

However, our celebration is tinged with poignant intimations of the road ahead. Conservative rule has thoroughly trashed our institutions and moral ideals. Our military is strained to the limit, our world reputation in tatters, and our education, health, and financial systems, not to mention every agency of government, are nearing collapse. Yet, despite the catastrophe of the Bush Administration, and an opponent who not only was an ideological soul mate of George Bush but who elevated a vacuous, ignorant yahoo as a vice presidential candidate, Obama beat McCain by only 6.3 percentage points, a 9 point swing in Obama’s favor over Kerry’s 2.4 percentage point loss to Bush in 2004. This modest victory was surely not a testament to the quality of McCain’s campaign that wheezed and sputtered like an old Ford Pinto until they decided to double down on race-baiting and xenophobia. If it had not been for the financial meltdown that became a crisis just as the public was beginning to pay attention to the campaign, it is likely the public once again would have voted for theocracy, neo-imperialism, and economic royalism.

 

Furthermore, and paradoxically, as Obama was achieving his victory, California, the bluest of blue states, voted to enshrine bigotry and hatred in its constitution by passing Proposition 8 that bans gay marriage.

 

So while Obama’s victory is a source of comfort, joy, and hope, that joy is tempered by the realization that the morally bankrupt intuitions and motives that gave rise to the conservative movement are still alive and well, immune to evidence, and poised to make a comeback as soon as our pockets are, once again, flush with cash.

 

The toxic brew of religious bigotry, economic royalism, and jingoistic posturing that fuel modern conservatism will not be vanquished by a single victory regardless of how inspiring. It will take decades of hard work to clean up the moral rot that has infected our political culture. Political change is important; but significant political change will require moral change, and that is a slower process for which there is no procedure to determine a victor.

 

If that moral change is to take place we must resist the conventional wisdom that is descending on the political landscape like LA smog. The gasbags of the Washington media aristocracy are falling over themselves to advise Obama to govern from the center, to be careful of over-reaching, to curtail the impulse to produce fundamental change. But these people are the enablers of the past 40 years of conservative ascendancy. Why anybody still listens to them is beyond me, for this is just bad advice. Governing from a center that has lurched to the right will simply reinforce the bad ideas and ill motives that got us into this mess.

 

Obama ran a campaign devoted to progressive ideas and he must deliver on them or be punished in the next election cycle. So he must not only be the commander-in-chief; he must be the educator-in-chief, explaining why conservative ideas don’t work and leading the public to embrace an alternative. We don’t need a follower of conventional wisdom; we need a leader to define a new center, far from the delusions of right-wing fanatics.

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