The Obama Aftershock

These comments landed in my in-box from various correspondents on Wednesday.

*

My conductor on the Blue Line this morning came over the intercom to say, “To all of you who came out to vote in the historic election last night, thank you. Thank you for riding the Blue Line. Enjoy life.”

*

It’s great to be living on the South Side right now. Folks down here are happy this morning.
Very happy.

Laughing, singing, horn-honkin’, cryin’-ass happy. And this morning there’s nothing but smiles and lots of talk of it being a truly blessed day. I can’t think of a place I’d rather be right now.

*

I don’t have any illusions about Obama. But it is pretty cool that so many people got excited and did something for the campaign.

I’ve wavered between tears of joy and a return to my primary-days skepticism about him.

The event was so show-biz. There was definitely a class-system feel to it to me – unticketed, ticketed, and “participants” (I presume big donors and Oprahs and such), but it was cast in the light of “it’s all of us.” I mean, really, the stage was angled to a relatively small group of around 7,000 “participants.” Even those of us lucky enough to snag tickets were really watching them have their own thing at a great distance, or watching it on a big TV.

But I thought the speech was terrific. And the whole thing was pretty well-managed.

I like that he got so many relatively small donations from a large number of people, but he also took a ton of money from the usual suspects. Still, all in all, I like it that he had so many donors.

I kinda hate it that young folks in particular but folks in general have talked so much about how he inspired them to become involved. During the primaries, some friends my age sort of used it as an argument against Clinton. “He got these kids involved, they’ll be so disappointed.” Which really gripes me. I’ve voted every time I could because that’s what we citizens should do. And it means you put skin in the game. You don’t wait for just the right person or time.

But then, they weren’t involved and they are now. (I’m not sure how much of it is about him – a lot of it is. But maybe, just maybe, a large group of young people came of a certain age and were simply fed up.) Bottom line is I’m happy about that.

As for his Illinois days, for now, I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt a – but it requires swallowing hard. As a friend pointed out to me, even the saintly Paul Simon played ball as much as he had to with the Chicago boys; it was his only hope of moving up. I still think we need more people who aren’t concerned about moving up and stay and fight.

*

There’s an uncanny feeling here, as if a fleet of UFOs had made a brief appearance and now no one knows what to think or say. It was a calculated piece of rhetoric as a part of Obama’s speech, but it’s true: the election really was about something other than Obama. I hope we’ll all remember it in the coming days.

*

I don’t know about you, but I was much more moved by John McCain’s concession speech (and the classy way he handled the yahoos among his supporters) than by Obama’s acceptance speech. The former seemed spontaneous, from the heart, warm toward all Americans. Obama’s speech seemed over-rehearsed, lacking emotion and deviating little from his prepared remarks. It seemed designed to be a myth-making tool, like “I cannot tell a lie” or Lincoln the rail-splitter. He lost me completely with these remarks:

“I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didn’t start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington – it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

“It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generation’s apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.”

In fact, it was hatched when Obama talked Emil Jones into backing him as a possible future president. It was financed by some deep pockets that never got much media attention. It was a superbly controlled and strategized campaign that would defy any grassroots organizing.

I hope Barack Obama be a good president. At the very least, his election had the idiot pundits on the cable news channels sputtering like drowning men and women. That, at least, was delightful to watch.

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