Thursday, January 31, 2008

The hope of a skinny kid with a funny name...

The day after the 2004 presidential elections -- around the time I was called out for being a petulant ass by someone with whom I disagree often but have always respected -- I came home from work feeling horrible. 

Not only had my "guy" -- if you could even call him that -- lost, but our future seemed darker than ever for reasons that had nothing to do with the war, social security, or any other area where decent people can and should disagree.

I was upset with the stupid maps of the country showing blue states as the United States and red states as Jesusland; with the emails telling me how to move to Canada or just telling me to move to Canada; with the idiotic Bushitler and "Imagine No Liberals" t-shirts spreading like invasive weeds; and with all the petty proclimations of superiority and righteousness, from both sides. 

Yes, the divisiveness had fueled me for months, but on that day, the Day After, my tank was empty and I just wanted it all to stop, even though I knew it wouldn't.

So, I walked my dog and ate dinner with my wife. And then I went into my office, sat on the floor and listened to Barack Obama's speech from the Democratic National Convention three months prior. And, as with the first time I heard it, I cried.

Maybe I'm a naive, overly-emotional git who is easily persuaded by a positive message delivered by a once-in-a-lifetime orator, but I can't help feeling now, as I did then, that he really is the Real Deal; that we really are standing at the precipice of a profound transformation; that there really is such a thing as the "politics of hope;" that the true mark of a leader is not what he does, but how he does it; and that deep down, we -- all of us -- recognize that "there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America — there’s the United States of America."

And today, by virtue of an absentee ballot, I added my meager voice to the chorus of millions chanting "Yes We Can" and truly believing that "out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come."

The audacity of hope indeed.


candace dodson reed said...

Great post..

His speech moved and motivated (and continues to move and motivate) me.
He also said,
"People don't expect government to solve all their problems. But they sense, deep in their bones, that with just a slight change in priorities, we can make sure that every child in America has a decent shot at life, and that the doors of opportunity remain open to all.
They know we can do better. And they want that choice."

That's one of two reasons why I work where I do.

The audacity of hope...

Freemarket said...

I don't trust anyone who thinks they are fit to govern anyone else. It's cute that politicians from either major party think that they do jack squat to better the community, but at the end of the day they end up doing more harm than good. Social security, drug laws, regulation of marriage, agricultural subsidies- and the list goes on and on.

They certainly have the audacity part down pretty well...

jim adams said...

I can't help Freemarket with matters of trust, but I bet he still votes, and so he will find some degree of trust in someone.

Both Candace and Hayduke, may have made their choice, and did you notice it surrounds one word.

This is not a bad way to define and to choice a candidate. Pick a word, just one, for each candidate. Use these words when you describe why your voting for one person or not voting for anothers. If you feel confident in your choice of words you have found your candidate.

If you don't feel confident, do what I believe Freemarket will do.
Vote, yes have the audacity to vote.

Anonymous said...

Like an absentee ballot, having a paper trail of blog comments that might mysteriously depart is a good safeguard. ;)

I don't want to place my vote based on just one word. That's next to no substance upon which to base such an important decision.

Similarly, it's audacious to ask for a vote based mostly on a vision. I'm not looking for fuel for my imagination. Give me details, truckloads of them. After all, we're interviewing for a position that will oversee spending $3 trillion dollars a year (that's $10,000 from each American every year), can order hundreds of thousands into harm's way, and can make decisions affecting the world around us in drastic ways both for better or worse. I want proof that the current problems (and looming future ones) are well understood, that commitments are being made to directly fix those problems in the best ways, and that no wiggle room is left for excuses later to explain why the problems didn't get solved.

And I want debates where candidates are asked questions on ALL of the major issues and are expected to directly and thoroughly respond. That didn't happen in the last major election.

But how much proof can a candidate really provide? I judge them based on what they've previously done, how well what they've done correlates to what they'd previously promised they would do, what campaign funding they've accepted, and with whom they've spent their time. Know the candidates' life experiences, promises, and public service records. Lack of consistency in working in the public's best interest should be a warning bell when considering any candidate.

And pragmatism may need to play a role in that decision, too. Voting for the best primary candidate may be a gamble if that candidate's entry onto the national stage was due in large part to embarassing personal foibles by their opponent. And voting for the second best primary candidate to ensure the very worst general candidate isn't elected may seem a sad state of affairs, but not preventing the worst candidate in a race from winning serves no one. Big picture = electability. Not pretty, but true.

Do your homework. Scrutinize. Read the label, but truly know what's in the box.

"Yes We Can" was a good speech, but where's the specifics? Some believe it and other poetry that speaks to the desire for change is enough to win. I wouldn't label the speech as great, because it did overlook a few things, one being "pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness" overlooking the impact the westward push had on long-existing civilizations and ecosystems.

"Yes We Can" is a good song now, too, but again, where's the specifics? We need them if we really want to accomplish what needs to be accomplished.

Anonymous said...

I think recent history has taught us that issues and how they eveolve change over the course of 4 years. I think it most matters who you think cares the most, will listen the most and will work the hardest. Obama makes the Country and world hope again because he cares, listens and works for communties.

jim adams said...

Anon 1:00

I can not let your posting go by without a response.

I am VERY impressed with it, it is well written, and well thought out.

I can see from the lenght that defining a candidate with one word, would not be your approach.

I am the person who mentioned the one word approach. Let me show you how it works.

In one word I can identify your posting, and here is the word.


I have summarized your 9 paragraphs in one word. You will vote for the candidate that gives you the most detail, detail of course that you agree with. Your word is specifics.

You may not see the substance in one word, or even just a few words, so I pose this question.

Do you remenber anything, even one word of what was said by the man who spoke for over 1 hour with great eloguence, and knowledge, right before Lincoln spoke for a few minutes at Gettysburg.

I really do like what you wrote.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Jim Adams.

No, I cannot recall a single word of the keynote address at the dedication of the Gettysburg national cemetery by Edward Everett, another gifted orator of his time, despite me having certain well-removed, but personally important connections to the events noted.

I do agree with you that it's easy to label and identify events or people using just a word or just a short phrase, "specifics" certainly being an appropriate one to partly describe my preference.

I just hope others don't accept the brevity that is acceptable for describing or labeling to also be sufficient for understanding the candidates and the issues enough to make an informed and best choice.

candace dodson reed said...

Truthfully, a small (very small) part of why I made my decision was based on "hope".
Hope is certainly not a strategy and I believe there's more to him than just words and images.
But...if some people make that decision based on hope, ok. It is much better than making a decision based on "fear"...

jim adams said...

To have some "hope", even a very small amount,is better than no hope.

Hayduke said...

Anon 1:00: Thanks for your words of advice, which are thoughtful and earnest. I just happen to disagree with them.
For all of my adult life – right up until the 2004 elections – my thoughts on politics and elections were similar to yours. I'm not sure why, but it all changed in 2004, even as I became wonkier and read more and more blogs, sources of overwhelming levels of information on any matter of interest.
In many ways, I feel like the specifics are just as lacking in substance as the superficial stuff. If the "hope" message is pabulum for the masses, then, I would argue, the same is true of the specifics are for the wonks, the partisans and the diehards.
Maybe I'm too cynical -- or not cynical enough -- but two things seem apparent: the American Machine – in which we're all cogs – rules the country -- not politicians, special interests, evangelicals or the Free Masons; and in this age of unprecedented information availability and dissemination, the goal should not be to add to the noise, but to cut through it – to communicate more by saying less.
Ultimately, however, each person has to decide for themselves who to vote for and why. What works for some will not work for others. What some care about deeply, others will deem insignificant. And this is all fine. It's (representative) democracy, the best of what we've got.
Anyway, like Candace, my reasons for voting for Obama are far more numerous than what I've shared here. And I'd be more than happy to debate the details with you, just not online, where it's already too loud to think.

Anonymous said...

It's a tough choice. I guess if I had to be whittled down to one word it would be experience. It matters to me, and it feels creepy to be pitting hope against experience. What a choice! I want to be happy about having hope for the country when led with a good person with experience. And yet...

jim adams said...

anon 7:34 pm

Your on the right road, continue to define and redefine the words, look and listen to the candidates, think of those around you, and give yourself a little quite time.

As important as voting is, you and I know it will take more than just one vote to make a difference in the candidate's out come. So you might ask, why vote, or if I do vote, why put a lot of thought into it.

You might answer, because it is my vote, my vote alone, so I am going to do with my vote what I would do with something that is precious.

I will use it, so I don't lose it, and give it to the candidate I trust.

Good luck.

Anonymous said...

My first choice would have been Edwards. I felt his populist message and the positions he put forth on a range of issues from political reform, healthcare and the economy to iraq were more in line with my beliefs than any other candidate. Unfortunately, I feel the media never gave him much of a chance and he simply couldn't compete monetarily with the corporate donations being handed to the other two candidates.

When it became clear that Edwards wasn't going to be a contender, I shifted my thoughts to Clinton. The reasons I initially picked her over Obama are many, but include a more robust healthcare plan, a better education plan (leave NCLB behind!), and a more reasoned and developed foreign policy. I simply felt that it was a massive undertaking to undo much of the damage that has been done in previous years and felt that her experience would allow her to hit the ground running and accomplish more in less time.
However, I now find myself leaning toward Obama. There really is not that much space between their policy positions. Cinton, whether it is fair or not, is extremely divisive. Obama, on the other hand, has shown a remarkable ability to reach out to people from many political persuasions and to motivate those who have never previously voted. I am swayed by his speaking, not only because he is one of the greatest orators of our generation, but because I think he truly believes what he is saying. Although his inexperience is a concern, I believe him to be a good listener, and I believe he will surround himself with people who are worth listening to. The pragmatist in me fights believing in his message, but the more I see of him, the more I feel he is "the real deal".

So, add another voice to the long list of people who believe "Yes We Can".

Anonymous said...

"you and I know it will take more than just one vote to make a difference in the candidate's out come"

One vote did make all the difference in the 2000 election. As I recall, the deciding vote total was 5 vs. 4.

"once-in-a-lifetime orator"
"one of the greatest orators of our generation"
Please don't forget "the great communicator". It matters far more what they're going to DO. It makes sense to find out what they'll DO beforehand, not what they did after the fact, long after the voting's over.

It seems I'm not alone in my desire for more details, former Governor Mario Cuomo summing it up with "Campaign in poetry, govern in prose."

Should Mr. Obama succeed in his campaign, as Governor Cuomo wrote, when it comes time to get things through Congress, without an apparent mandate from clearly defined policies during the election, whatever policies he does pursue, he may find his attempts for change to be prisoners of words unsaid.

jim adams said...

Anon 11:50

Nolo Contendere. Your statement is correct, in reference to the 2000 election.

Placing my statement in context" you and I know it will take more than just one vote to make a difference in the candidate's out come", I am making reference to the importance of millions of individuals voting to pick a candidate. Even in 2000 it took millions, before the 5 vs 4 vote, and even with the 5 vs 4, it took 9 votes. Let's hope there will always be more than one vote necessary to elect someone in our country.
I voted for "the great communicator", and I don't regret it, but there is the one exception, I recall the poor ecomony his administration created for our country. Remember"gums and butter"

Your not alone in your desire for details, but It's not my desire to detail a decision to death, life is too short, decisions have to be made, and we haven't found the perfect candidate in all the years pass, not even Ronnie, with all his skills in communication.

It takes more then a good candidate, a good speaker, or even a good President, it takes a majority of the citizens with common interest and determination to do what is right.

Thanks for your response Anon 11:50.

Anonymous said...

Yes, decisions do have to be made. But rushed to decisions are rarely correct ones. Now is the time to get the details to make the best decision. Or, should we all just hurry up and place our bets, wagering life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

Come the general election, the ability to get those details will be greatly diminished, as the last debates demonstrated.

Jot down the questions on domestic policy you think should have been asked during the last go around. Then compare them to what actually got asked.

See any obvious omissions?
See any difference in potency of questions between your list and those asked?
See any opportunities for asking questions that were just plain squandered?

Anonymous said...

"There really is not that much space between their policy positions."

Actually, there is, one obvious example being universal healthcare.

11:16, I, too, held Edwards in higher regard, mostly because he has delivered good ideas backed by details.

"Cinton, whether it is fair or not, is extremely divisive."

I think you'll find all of the remaining candidates to be extremely divisive.

jim adams said...

There is a book that some of you may be interested in, "Memo to the President Elect" It was written by Madeleine Albright.

The subtitle is "How to restore America's Reputation and Leadership.

She does support Sen. Clinton, but the book is an objective look at what she believes the President elect will need to know, as well as the skills, that person will need to have.

I am not offering this as support for Clinton, or any other candidate. I think it is a good read, especially because of this being an election year.