Thursday, November 6, 2008

122. Campaign was a study in contrasts

It is too remarkable, and I was too invested emotionally, to just move on as though the election is all of the sudden behind me. While so much has been said, perhaps everything has been said, regarding this historic election, I still feel the need for reflection, and to, of course, offer some thoughts.

This election is a culmination of our being as a country for over 200 years. This country, today, should be proud that a majority of voters were willing to look past prejudices, through the scope of history, and elect an African-American president. It was a long and trying election campaign.

It is my feeling that McCain knew early on that he was in over his head. He knew Obama was the better spoken, better educated and more popular candidate. His entire campaign was about shifting the focus- first by selecting Sarah Palin, then by engaging in a negative campaign- which basically admitted that he was the default candidate. His aim was to give people a reason not to vote for Obama- whether it was the pledge of allegiance or the insinuation that he was a socialist. Had he picked a more credible female vice-presidential candidate, he might have pulled it off. Palin was a disaster, for reasons which I have previously written about at length.

The election reached absurdity when "Joe the plumber" became a focus of the republican campaign. What was at first a charismatic attempt to relate to the middle class, a word McCain rarely uttered in his campaign, later turned into a circus show. After "Joe" was exposed as a liar, fraud and individual with some pretty weird perspectives, the McCain campaign should have laid the issue to rest. Instead, they invited him to campaign stops, and Palin entered into long, annoying verses about every "joe" profession imaginable.

Obama, on the other hand, played it smart. His campaign was organized and remained on task- the need for change and the condition of the economy. He did not engage in retaliating with counter insinuations, nor did he overreact to the attacks made on him. When given the chance to strike back at Palin in his third debate about whether she was qualified, he merely suggested that was for the country to decide. He would not give in and give the reason not to vote for him. He remained classy- he had to.

Race was obviously a focus of the election. Since African-Americans often vote democratic, Obama had to increase the number that voted, and, more importantly, he had to gain a significant portion of the white vote. While he never converted some voting demographics, while males for example, he was able to increase the percentage enough to win the election. And although there were pockets of the country and some of McCain's crowds, that were ugly and more representative of 1850 America, it was feared that it might have been much worse.

Today, there is much work to be done. Free of the campaign dissection, I think Obama will be an even stronger and more divisive leader. However, we are all accountable for our country. The country does not change simply because we voted for change. It is time to take responsibility for our actions- to be educated and informed on the issues. We need to make the effort to contact our elected representatives to express our opinions- and then hold them accountable for their votes. We need to donate our time and money to others suffering under the current economic conditions. And, finally, we need to be responsible parents and citizens, and expend that extra effort that can really change a country.

Other election results:

Thumbs up: Proposition 2 in California passed, a major initiative in the requirement that animals that exist simply for food, or lay eggs, have a moment of decency in their lives- such as room to turn around in their cages. It is not nearly enough, but it is a start. And granted, it is progressive California, but it does send a clear message that people will not accept animal abuse in exchange for profit.

Thumbs down: A few more states worked to pass gay-marriage amendments. It remains, in my opinion, a pathetic endeavor to control the lives of others. In 100 years, people will look back at this discrimination as we look back to a time when African-Americans and women were not permitted to vote. In fact, maybe, just maybe, in 100 years, they will be celebrating the first openly gay American as president.

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