There are a lot of matter to contemplate after the historic victory of Barack Obama’s presidential win on Tuesday night. I wrote this comment below in an article on Racialicious entitled, “Good, and Now Back to Work”:
As someone who occupies both sides of this argument, I agree with the basic concept of what Wise says but strongly disapprove of the attitude he uses in saying it. There is no place in the progressive community for condescending and arrogant put-downs, ESPECIALLY from a white cisgendered able-bodied man.
Tim Wise has educated a lot of people, and I admire him and quote him often because of his efforts, but I’m betting he wasn’t in San Francisco or Omaha on Tuesday night, where the consequences of pushing centrism have eliminated decades of progressive efforts and enshrined racism, bigotry and homophobia into the state constitutions.
As a leftist progressive and the daughter or a first-generation dual American-Kittitian citizen, I am beyond elated at what happened on Tuesday. It was the culmination of decades of ambition, careful planning, and grassroots organization intermeshed with a cultural convergence and a shift in awareness among a new generation sick of the crap our progenitors handd down to us and allowed us to inherit. I was crying. I was weeping in joy and disbelief. It meant so much to me to know that I might soon have national health care and not worry about moving from state to state, that people lived up to their promise to vote the way they said they would, that negative campaigning is no longer a successful strategy when we expose it, that I can tell my future children that they can be anyone or anything they want to be, that I can tell my future grandchildren that I was there when the world changed.
However, I woke up the next day much more sober and aware of the immense challenges and expectations Obama faces. He had to be perfect and he had to be a centrist in order to win. He had to be better than not only every black American running before him but better than every other white American running against him. I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I suspect that one of the consequences of a globally connected society is that the trend of watching every step you take will only grow more difficult. Guns and bitterness, anyone?
You can celebrate an historic moment and lose yourself in it for one night, even one week or one month, and still not lose sight of the ethical compromises you have made to ensure any victory rather than no victory at all.
I barely had time to decide what was more important: my health care (and with it, my career opportunities, my parent’s financial stability, and my education) or my desire for integrity in a campaign. When I worked on his campaign for three months and gave up my sanity and most aspects of a non-political life to ensure that Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, Pensylvania kept our state blue, I went through a lot of ugly crap and saw others endure much, much worse in order to see Obama win. My initial motivations for helping him were anti-conservative sentiment, intense disgust with the racist idiocy surrounding me, and the knowledge that he held the promise of securing our Supreme Court from decades of evil legislation and providing America with health care and a (more) progressive environmental stance, to say nothing of a way out of Iraq and an end to deregulation and corporate greed. As I spent more time listening to what he was saying, it became clearer that while we desperately need a dramatic reversal from the last eight years, we are more likely to see a fundamental and permanent shift to the left if we have someone to talk the conservatives down and reign in their ire and indignation.
I don’t want to have to fight the fight of my lifetime every four years just to protect a reversal of Republican policies. I don’t think we can keep any of the changes we make for the better unless we educate the middle Americans and stop calling them stupid in public, even when they are stupid and bigoted and flat-out wrong. Me clinging to my moral ideals won’t help the poor and the disenfranchised nationally. Some leftists seem to forget that local action only goes so far and can be overturned easily. The American people are too afraid to revolt; if they were going to overthrow the political system, they would have done so already. I choose to change our laws and opinions from the inside out, because frankly, I can’t wait thirty years for a dramatic shift. I need change now.
Obama was not my first choice. He wasn’t even my second choice. He is my final choice. I don’t feel like I voted against Bush this time. I voted for Obama.