Sunday, November 9, 2014

Going Forward: Division or Hope?

Leonard Pitts pretty much nails his post-mortem about the 2014 elections in a column titled: Cynicism won midterm elections.
The Democrats had nothing to say and said it ineptly, running from the achievements of recent years — the Affordable Care Act, falling unemployment rates, a soaring stock market — and the president who presided over them like Usain Bolt from a house fire...

The Republicans also had nothing to say, but they said it loudly and with great certitude: “Obama caused Ebola! Obama caused ISIS! Obama is going to give your job to an illegal! GOP: 2014!”...

Cowardice squared off against cynicism Tuesday, and cynicism won. But there is something wrong when those are the only options on the ballot.
Now that its clear that cowardice lost (DUH!), lots of Democratic strategists are thinking that perhaps its time to fuel division as the answer: blacks vs whites, Main St. vs Wall St., men vs women, etc.

I'd like to remind everyone about the single most important reason that Barack Obama is our president today.

Its become "conventional wisdom" that Obama got elected because he opposed the war in Iraq. To that I'd one would have ever heard about that position if it weren't for this speech. It roused a divided nation to a higher ideal...and gave us hope in a better future. 

Here's Pitts again:
People for whom everything is about politics tend to forget that most of us do not see the world that way. Red or blue, left or right, most Americans simply want a government that works, that gets things done, and a nation that stands for something, that means something in the world beyond just a parcel of land where a bunch of people live.

This is why Obama’s words electrified 10 years ago; they seemed to connect people to ideals larger than their own lives.
If you think that a few years in Washington D.C. made President Obama less "naive" about all this, listen to what he said at the end of his 2012 victory speech.

At about 20:25:
I have never been more hopeful about America. And I ask you to sustain that hope. I'm not talking about blind optimism, the kind of hope that just ignores the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. I'm not talking about the wishful idealism that allows us to just sit on the sidelines or shirk from a fight.

I have always believed that hope is that stubborn thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us so long as we have the courage to keep reaching, to keep working, to keep fighting...

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We're not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
More than anything else, President Obama's message has always been that - no matter what divides us (race, gender, class, ideology, religion etc) - there is something deeper that unites us. When we tap into that, we can find the courage and hope to actually listen to each other and address our differences.

As Pitts points out in his column, all that seems "flatter than a left-out cola" right now. But its exactly what Rev. Joseph Lowery called "good crazy."

So as we begin to think about how to go forward in this country once President Obama's second term is over, I'll be looking for a little "good crazy." In other words, people who understand - as Rubem Alves once said - that "the frontiers of the possible are not determined by the limits of the actual." Now that I've had the experience of being led by someone like that, I'm not interested in going back to cynicism, cowardice and division.

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