Trust and Politics: I Believe Him

The past week or so, I’ve actually been around, with some time and some thoughts that I could have been blogging, but I just couldn’t bring myself to write when everybody in the tiny circle of my blogging world could think of nothing but the culmination of the past two years of perpetual election. I was going to hide until after talking about the election per se had become relatively passé, but it turns out, I kind of can’t.

I doubt I’m saying anything that hasn’t been said by many before, and better, but I’ve been seeing a lot of continued skepticism from some of the people around me. And you know, I’m under no illusions that now-president-elect Obama is any kind of radical leftist who will enact policies that will really fuck with corporate America or seriously revolutionize the status quo (which, in my world, are good things. Because I am a socialist, among other things). I’m also well aware of the limitations that are inherent in the office and the structure, and that there’s only so much one person can do from one seat, however powerful.

The whole campaign, listening to Obama speak has given me hope. Whatever else he is, the man has the capacity to inspire. To energize. To excite people. That shit matters. Having something to frame the fight around makes it possible to fight. I’m as frustrated and politically cynical as anybody, but the man is such a brilliant, skilled politician that I manage to forget all that. I believe him.

I was watching the results on NBC with some friends, and of course, after they came in, between McCain’s concession speech and Obama’s acceptance speech, Brian Williams et al were telling the narrative they had been handed for the Obama victory: Only in America. Anything is possible, but only in America. Many things will reignite my cynicism, and I have to confess, despite the circumstances, American exceptionalism is one of them. For one thing, only in America, what? Only in America can a black man be elected? Why yes, that is mighty gracious of you folks. Congratulations on not letting racism win. Again. This time. For now. Congratulations on taking the contrast between a mediocre politician who has run an exceptionally poor campaign and made it exceedingly clear that he has no real plan for dealing with the kinds of problems the US is facing right now and one of the most impressive leaders, brilliant rhetoricians, intelligent and skilled policy makers that has emerged on the world stage in a damn long time, and still ending up with a popular vote in the 50-50 range. Only in America can we…overcome everything that was fucked up about us? Well, it would have been nice if it could have been not fucked up in the first place, or if it hadn’t taken literally centuries, not to mention the fact that, obviously, it’s not anywhere near overcome yet, and oh yeah, plenty of other places in the world have been trying to do exactly that (South Africa comes to mind immediately). To be frank, it felt like NBC was giving the nation a giant cookie for the very basics in not being an asshole.

And I felt bad, because they brought out a congressman who had been seriously active in the civil rights struggle, and I found myself feeling cynical even at hearing him say these things, in that case because the line NBC was playing was that this battle is over. We can all pack up and go home, there’s no more fight to be fought. Inspirational? Hell yeah. Has something been overcome? You’re damn straight it has. This shit matters, I know it does. But at that point, NBC was setting the stage for us never to be able to talk about race again, because weren’t we there? It’s over. And I was cynical.

Then there was that speech. Yes we can. That absolute confidence, faith, and clarity of purpose. That refusal to pretend that any of this is easy. That constant focus on giving some direction. Going somewhere, and making damn sure that it’s forwards. He says “Yes, we can” and fuck, I believe him. I don’t believe any politicians. I don’t have a lot of trust for our political institutions, and I make my political choices accepting the reality of manipulation and near-constant bullshit from all sides. This guy? I believe him. I don’t agree with all of his positions, and he’s still far to the right of where I’d like my politics to sit. But I even believe him when he stands up there and says he wants to listen, especially when his consitutuents disagree with him. I even believe him when he raises the possibility of listening to the rest of the world.

Say what you will, but that shit matters. US friends: congratulations (I guess? What does one say about such a thing?). If you could please avoid starting to talk about 2012 for at least a year or so, I would really appreciate it.


6 thoughts on “Trust and Politics: I Believe Him

  1. observer says:

    Great post. Really well done.

  2. hysperia says:

    I share your “back and forth, up and down” feelings about the election of Obama. Reading what you’ve said here, I realize that part of my ambivalence, if that’s what you call it, really has to do with the reactions of others. I just wrote a post about what Bill Bennett said on CNN mere minutes after Obama was elected – “no more excuses” for African Americans (or anyone I guess”) who don’t succeed. Arrrgghhhh. I WANT to acknowledge how great Obama’s election is, but I don’t want people to slide into a belief that it’s more than it is and that half of America still thinks in ways that aren’t at all supportive of his election. I WANT to celebrate with African Americans, I just don’t want to OVER celebrate, if you know what I mean and I think you do.

    Nothing’s ever easy is it?

    As always, I’m happy to see you here and to read your thoughts.

  3. Rev. Bob says:

    And of course Bush and McCain (names we’ll seldom hear again) wrapped it all in the narrative of land of opportunity, so even “that one” can be President.

    That’s because the only alternative to that narrative is that Republican policies have been been WRONG. And if someone proposes them again, they’ll be wrong then too.

    I’m down some because of Prop8, but I know we can win there too. If they’d lost, they’d be right back. We’ve learned that lesson. One thing then the next thing, then the next. If Obama governs from the center, but with our values, it’s total win.

  4. purtek says:

    hysperia – that is exactly how I’m feeling. And I can’t help but feel that there is a conscious agenda on the part of the corporate media to use the election in this way. This is probably a post in itself, but I see their basic raison d’etre as primarily to ensure the continuation of the status quo and the continued complacency of the majority of the public to the kind of global exploitation system that we’re living in. The opportunistic strategy for how to address an Obama victory would be to turn it around into exactly this “no more excuses” bullshit. We can now check “eliminate racism” off our checklists, just like we checked “sexism” off once women got the vote (and then again after we shut the door on the 70s), so anyone who brings it up now is clearly being unreasonable and can be silenced immediately.

    It’s fucking heinous, really, and I fully believe it’s conscious. I’m all about the celebrating with African-Americans, but I’m also not going to let the (white, corporate) media shut the door to the party hall and make sure nobody ever gets out of it again. If that metaphor makes any sense at all.

    Rev Bob – glad you’re still around these parts, too. And from your keyboard to God’s monitor on the “names we’ll seldom hear again” factor. I tend to agree with you on the governing from the centre aspect as well – I don’t think anyone believes Obama will not compromise (he already has) in order to accomplish something and, with some reservations, I respect the way he’s done it so far, so I’ll call it win, personally.

  5. kisekileia says:

    “I tend to agree with you on the governing from the centre aspect as well – I don’t think anyone believes Obama will not compromise (he already has) in order to accomplish something and, with some reservations, I respect the way he’s done it so far, so I’ll call it win, personally.”

    Agreed. And the thing is, he HAS to compromise for the sake of the country. Otherwise, he’ll alienate too many moderate evangelicals and the like, and send them into the arms of Sarah Palin.

  6. hysperia says:

    I can’t see how Obama can govern from the center but “with our values”. At least, not my values, I should say. One result of his drift to the center is his inability to support same-sex marriage because it would alienate too many people, particularly certain Christians (not all, I know). I think it’s time to govern with some real courage because there’s rarely an opportunity for that. After the last eight years, coming after Clinton, we know how quickly the opportunities can pass and I’m not sure anyone really knows why or can resist their passing, no matter what they do. Govern from the center and you’re still making a lot of people unhappy, probably enough people to lose an election the next time ’round. He didn’t win by THAT much. I just don’t want him to govern as if he’s afraid to lose. That never seems to get us anywhere. Don’t you think the even the moderate evangelicals are already hugging Sarah Palin, kisekileia?

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