Call To Arms: "America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government." - President Barack Obama
NO MATTER which way you read it Barack Obama’s victory is a progressive triumph. To have emerged the winner after four years of economic hardship, laced with the most toxic political poisons available to the modern communications industry, is nothing short of heroic. Remember all those MSM descriptions of the race as being “too close to call”? Wrong, wrong, wrong. As Nate Silver’s “Five-Thirty-Eight” blog always insisted, a Romney victory was never on the cards.
America moved decisively to the left in 2008 – and it stayed there. Everything we have seen since – especially the Tea-Party phenomenon – was the frenzied response of the Republican minority in denial. That frenzy wasn’t manufactured. It was real. But it was also amplified way beyond its actual significance by some of the most malign political forces America has had to contend with since the years immediately preceding the Civil War.
Why didn’t the MSM get it? Because it didn’t want to. Taking the leftward shift of the US population seriously would have meant trouble. Trouble with advertisers. Trouble with owners. Trouble with regulators. Rather than face these forces down, mainstream American journalism simply defaulted to the uncritical reporting of a “he said/she said” partisanship and called it “balance”. There were exceptions, of course, Fox News and MSNBC, but these openly partisan outlets only succeeded in pumping-up the volume in the political echo chambers.
Which left the Democratic Party, almost alone, as the only force in US politics which truly understood the extent of the shift that had occurred in 2008, and how to keep it. In the key “swing states” Obama’s people kept their offices open. In the backrooms their boffins refined and extended their capacity to mine the nation’s databases for political information the Democrats could use. The channels were kept open to the key components of Obama’s victory: Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, single women, professional men, university students, trade unionists, the LGBT community.
And the Pundits missed it. They believed the Tea Party spin. They interpreted the 2010 mid-term elections as a decisive swing to the Right. And they missed the real story – the strategic decision of the Democratic Party not to issue a mobilisation order against the far-Right’s reckless bid for power.
Was it simple caution that stayed their hand? Were they not yet confident that 2008 was anything more than an unrepeatable surge of hope after years of war and in the face of the most serious financial crisis since the Great Depression? Was there insufficient money in the war-chest? Or, did they simply underestimate the sheer mendacity of the far-Right Republicans: unable to envisage the extent to which they would gerrymander congressional district boundaries and crank-up the machinery of voter intimidation?
Or maybe, just maybe, it was intentional. Maybe Obama and his Machiavellian Chicago Boys played out just enough rope for the Right to hang itself? Maybe they deliberately gave the emerging Democratic majority a chance to witness and absorb just how bonkers the Tea Party crazies really were? Because, in fairness, if they had simply told their followers that Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum were completely and utterly nuts – rather than letting them prove it by their own words and deeds – who would have believed them?
And if the Republicans really were lured into a political version of Muhammad Ali’s infamous “rope-a-dope” strategy, what will Obama do now? Safely returned to the White House, with evidence of the nation’s rejection of the Reagan Era’s social conservatism there for all to read in progressive referendum results from Maine and Maryland, Colorado and Washington, and (most radical of all) California – what’s his next move?
The answer was there in the speech he gave to 10,000 cheering supporters at Chicago’s McCormick Centre. Just about everyone who witnessed it remarked on how like the “old” Obama he sounded. On how his passion was back – along with his vision and outreach.
It was this passage that pointed the way forward:
Tonight you voted for action, not politics as usual.
You elected us to focus on your jobs, not ours. And in the coming weeks and months, I am looking forward to reaching out and working with leaders of both parties to meet the challenges we can only solve together. Reducing our deficit. Reforming our tax code. Fixing our immigration system. Freeing ourselves from foreign oil. We've got more work to do.
But that doesn't mean your work is done. The role of citizens in our Democracy does not end with your vote. America's never been about what can be done for us. It's about what can be done by us together through the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government. That's the principle we were founded on.
Some have interpreted these words as a step back by the President, I read them as a call to arms. Not overt – not yet. But I believe he is telling his followers to rest, yes, but not to disarm. Because the time is coming when the full weight of the majority he has attached to himself and his party will need to be brought to bear against those who would recklessly and with malice aforethought obstruct their will.
The new, progressive America has, as their leader warned them, “got more work to do”.
This call for his people to take up “the hard and frustrating, but necessary work of self-government” will either be celebrated as the most audacious hope of his presidency, or vilified as Obama’s cruelest deception.
I cannot believe the USA’s first black president has led the Democratic Party to such a magnificent triumph on the field, only to pass the spoils of victory to his Republican opponents.
As President Obama told his supporters; the American people; and the world:
“The best is yet to come.”
This posting is exclusive to the Bowalley Road blogsite.