I keep trying to write something about how I feel about the election results, but I find that I really can't put it into words (unusually!). I'm mostly just very, very pleased. I'm excited to be able to teach the beginning of the Republican "southern strategy" in my class and now talk about how it ended. I'm excited that my country is deciding to hold hands, take a deep breath, and jump into the future, instead of continuing an argument about the past.
I'm probably more interested in Obama as an X-er than as a black man, which may be odd, but my god I cannot hear about the culture wars one more time without wanting to tear my hair out. And maybe the fact that Obama is an X-er is important; that "southern strategy" was a product of the culture wars, the GOP's attempt to win them by appealing to working class whites alienated by the rights and anti-war movements of the 60s, by the entire New Left that had come into the Democratic party. But Obama is uninterested in those culture wars, because he didn't live through them, and he's over it--as so many of us are.
There's a fantastic article on The New Republic's website about America's changing demographics and the shift left
that I would highly recommend. As they say, these realignments happen periodically, and we were due for another one. I don't think that Obama means the end of racism in the US; more, it means that we have to stop "not talking" about it. The constant evocations of the so-called Bradley Effect (never mind that Tom Bradley ran for mayor of LA in 1982, or that one of the biggest changes in the Obama coalition was the shift of Latinos to the left) and the worries about the white working class just emphasized that the so-called liberal media had a view of the American electorate that had been shaped by Reagan's win in 1980 and hadn't changed at all. They kept waiting for the Reagan Democrats to drift back, as if that is what a Democrat had to do to win. But the Reagan Democrats don't exist anymore. Obama won the country--and lost the white vote.
In many ways, I think the media is continuing to let us down by talking to and getting their awards from each other; by applying outmoded models of thinking instead of looking at what is actually happening; by valuing access over telling the story. There's been a lot of chatter this year about the failures of the campaign coverage model; certainly those reporters are mroe interested in the horse race than in any of the actual issues, partly because they aren't experts in all those issues, but they are experts in how a campaign is run. But that model leads to more cynicism on the part of the people, and woe to those who want to actually find out where a candidate stands on an issue. Even the primary debates were full of bullshit questions engineered more to capture a sound bite for the news cycle than elicit a real response. And they wonder why so many are fleeing MSM, especially television news, for blogs and other web sites.
Obama was a serious candidate at a serious time. He wasn't going to win on one-liners, and with both blogs and Youtube allowing us all to move beyond the sound bite--my God, all the people who watched that entire race speech on Youtube! Would that have happened 15 years ago? Could
that have happened 15 years ago?--we could all take in that seriousness, at length. That infomercial really did
sum up who he is, and what was wonderful about it was an entire country got to see what it would be like to have him coming to us on the TV all the time, and thought, I like it.
Me? I love it. As he said, it's going to be a lot of work and take much longer than 100 or 1000 days, arbitrary benchmarks Obama quite rightly said are more in the minds of the media than anyone else. Change is hard, and scary, and none of us knows where this is going to go. There will be dead ends and misalignments--heck, half the first New Deal was thrown out by the courts. And we lefties will have to be a little patient because we can't have all our candy in one day. That "contract with America" led to a budget stalemate, after all. We, as a country, just don't like to move that fast.
But today is a day to celebrate, and so will January 20, 2009, and in a very real way, so will all the days after that, as we move into a future with real hope for the first time in quite a long time.