Saturday, October 18, 2008

Cracked Out On Hope?

Unless Barack Obama starts clubbing baby seals between now and November, it looks like he's on his way to the White House. I'm not sure what McCain can do to win swing voters at this point, short of leaving bags of gold doubloons on their doorsteps.

I'm happy about that, obviously. I'm a liberal-leaning moderate who thinks the leader of the free world should be compassionate, level-headed and much (much) smarter than I am, so Obama's easy to love. I'm also black, so I'm not going to deny how much his victory would mean to me and my family. My daughter has toy telephone conversations with him, and my son thinks he's "cool." My husband derives great pleasure from watching McCain seethe at having to take Obama seriously.

That being said, can we dial down the Messianic expectations? As much as I dig Obama's narrative and the Hope theme ... well, he's a politician. I wouldn't be voting for him if I didn't think his intentions were honorable, but he's a politician. I was a journalist for too long not to be skeptical. Not cynical, but skeptical. He can't do much without the buy-in of Congress, and George W. Bush has all but burned the place down. I think the most important thing his presidency will do is to help undo our reputation as Crackheads of the Universe. But he is not, as one Web site put it, a walking healing crystal.

My Facebook friend A. got me thinking about this. A., a staunch Hillary supporter, loathes - I mean loathes - Obama. A card-carrying member of the East Coast Media Elite, A. sees Obama as a politcal Kim Kardashian on whom the entire nation has a nauseating crush. He says we are drunk on the snake oil of Hope. A. is also upset that some of his friends might interpret his disdain as racism, especially since even conservatives like David Brooks want to be Obama's BFF.

It should go without saying that disliking Obama (or any person of color) doesn't make one a Klan member. There are a lot of black people I don't like. While I strongly disagree with A.'s assessment, I think he does have a point about the danger of focusing all our hopes and dreams for a colorblind, progressive society on one man. His election would (will?) be one for the history books, and I plan to celebrate (Obama-cue!). It's astounding to me that some people apparently have never seen a family like the Obamas, but I'm happy that they are serving to crush stereotypes.

But assuming that he wins, Obama has a lot of work ahead of him. There will be potholes and snafus along the way, as there are with any president. I don't expect miracles, just responsible leadership that involves Sarah Palin in no way, shape or form.

A. is young, so maybe he's seeing more starry-eyed followers than I am. Most of my friends who are supporting Obama are doing so with their eyes open. Our political Tiger Beat days ended when Bill Clinton left office. We've got Hope, but we know when to say when.


Christina said...

I don't think loathing the man is any more reality-based than thinking of him as Chocolate Jesus, as I've heard some Republicans dub him. It is absolutely as illogical. But I also think that the crush that some people have on Obama is directly proportional to the absolute disdain that they have for George Bush -- that's why some Republicans have jumped on board the Hope train; they hate Bush and what Bush has done to the conservative movement. It's Bush's fault that some people think these past eight years have been so awful that they feel they NEED a messiah to be delivered from Bush's mess-ups.

Personally, I think Obama has a scary gigantic brain. Seriously, there was a story in the Post the other day that was talking about all the things Obama did to carefully position himself for this run for office years ago. The guy is spooky good at this. I just hope he'll continue using his powers for good and doesn't become the black Lex Luthor.

EDP said...

Chocolate Jesus! That's hilarious.

I have to say that I was baffled by my FB pal's vitriol. He has always seemed nice and reasonable, but a lot of folks lose their minds around election time. I'm not quite sure where the hatred comes from, other than his bitterness at the way Hil's campaign went down in flames. Uh, whatever. She did that to herself.

It's very true that Bush has royally f***ed this country, to the point that we're starved for anything to make us feel good again. Obama IS an extraordinary guy, so it's not like he's just a pretty face. God knows we've settled for much, much less.

downtown guy said...

I agree - I think a lot of us ARE thinking of Obama as a sort of savior. Not in the Jesus way, but in the please save us from any more stupid, psychotic right wingers as exemplified by Bush, McCain (at this point) and Palin way.

He's going to have a long, nasty row to hoe if he gets the nod (please, please), but I actually do have hope that he can get some stuff done that I, as an American, can feel proud of. And it's been a long, long time since that's been true. You know?

EDP said...

I know EXACTLY what you're talking about. I am so ready for "America" not to be synonymous with "jerk." We We couldn't possibly get this wrong three times in a row. Right?

downtown guy said...

Don't ask me - I didn't think we could do it quite so badly twice. But did we really? So much vote-stealing, so many lies, I doubt we'll ever know what really happened.

EDP said...

You're right; we won't.The real story will come out 75 years from now when everyone involved is dead. I'm voting early, and one of my co-workers joked, "Well, that gives them more time to 'lose' your vote."

The Irredeemable Shag said...

You make some really good points here. At the end of the day (regardless of race), Obama is a politician. While he's certainly charismatic and intelligent, one of the strongest things he's got going for him is that he's not George Bush. And you're right, many of us are just assuming everything will be better with Obama in office, or more specifically, with the Republicans out of office.

I guess I've been so hopeful about Obama winning, I hadn't thought much about how his presidency might not be awesome. I do know the Republicans will have a field day picking on him in office. In some ways it's actually easier to be the loser. The loser can spend the next four years pointing out the victors flaws. Whereas the winner will need to constantly be on the defensive for the next four years.

Assuming he wins, I'm keeping my fingers crossed that Obama surrounds himself with experienced advisers and that we have a fantastic four/eight years.

The Irredeemable Shag

EDP said...

Me, too. He's smart enough to have overcome odds that were not in his favor, and he SEEMS like the kind of guy who likes to surround himself with bright, intellectually curious people — not just yes men and women. I have a theory that even if he does nothing but play Scrabble for four years, we can't possibly be worse off than we are now.