Before we eat dinner together, my family does a blessing each night. Much of the time, we hold hands, center ourselves, and say what we are thankful for in that moment. Tonight, I said I was thankful for the tenacity of hope.
Over the past 2 months since my last post, I’ve vacillated back and forth between genuine optimism regarding the Obama campaign, to utter pessimism about the state of American politics in general. Both remain valid points of view in my opinion.
Clearly, yesterday’s elections were historic moments, and you can feel a palpable sense of relief and optimism, as well as a renewed sense of hope.
As I watched Obama’s speech last night at midnight, I got very emotional, with tears strolling down my face. Apparently I was in good company, but I suspect my emotions were quite different from these 2 iconoclast African-Americans.
You see, I so want to believe what Obama is saying, that he really is about change, that he wants to make this world a better place for all people. But as I’ve written here, the memory of 1992 lingers too fresh in my mind, and I just can’t quite force myself to abandon my knowledge of history and cling to a false hope.
But one thing is already different, which is surprising and pleasing. The tone of American political dialogue already has shifted from Bu$hite rhetoric of spending the “political capital” he earned from the American people after stealing his second-term election, of arrogance and aggression, of not listening to the throngs of people protesting in the streets, to one of working together for a common good. A small sampling:
In this country, we rise or fall as one nation, as one people. Let’s resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long…. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, we are not enemies but friends. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. To those Americans whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight, but I hear your voices. I need your help. And I will be your president, too.
I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
Last night, I had a warm conversation with President-elect Barack Obama. I congratulated him and Senator Biden on their impressive victory. I told the President-elect he can count on complete cooperation from my administration as he makes the transition to the White House…. It will be a stirring sight to watch President Obama, his wife, Michelle, and their beautiful girls step through the doors of the White House. I know millions of Americans will be overcome with pride at this inspiring moment that so many have awaited so long.
—George W Bush
This was an exercise in American democracy of which Americans across the political spectrum are justifiably proud. President-Elect Obama was inspirational and I’m certain he will continue to be. The Department of State will do everything that we can, and I personally will do everything that I can, to ensure that this is a smooth transition…. I want to close on a personal note, as an African-American, that I am especially proud.”
Every American ought to celebrate tonight. It is a hopeful and optimistic thing for our country, and for the world it’s a great symbol of what America’s all about.”
This type of dialogue is to be expected at the end of an election, but the shift in tone is palpable.
Ultimately, time will tell. Hope is tenacious inside me, yet I remain cautious. I think things will change, at least a little bit. After the Democrats won the house a few years back, I remember deriding the “wave of optimism” that would no doubt sweep the country. But this feels different. Obama has charisma, there is no doubt about that.
Let’s see if he manages to do anything.
What I urge those people carried away by their optimism, hope, and relief to remember is the same thing I’ve been saying all throughout this campaign season. The sum total of American politics, for the people, does not begin and end on election day. Obama has been elected. Now the real work begins.