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What the American electorate is saying…

November 5, 2008

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…there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America — there’s the United States of America.

The pundits, the pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I’ve got news for them, too. We worship an “awesome God” in the Blue States, and we don’t like federal agents poking around in our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and yes, we’ve got some gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and there are patriots who supported the war in Iraq. We are one people…

–Barack Obama, “The Audacity of Hope” keynote address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Some initial observations the morning after an historic day in American politics–the election of our first African-American president:

  • More people 30 and under voted yesterday than those 65 and older. A narrative and way of doing politics that captured the imaginations of a new generation of voters in unprecedented numbers.
  • Hispanics who voted in large numbers for Bush in 2004 (i.e. Florida), voted for Obama (67%). 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama. The scenes of jubilation from around the country (Chicago, Atlanta, New York) were a beautiful multi-cultural, multi-generational picture. It seems like something was being released that was previously only an unfulfilled promise within the American story.  The tears on peoples faces were tears of unspeakable gratitude and pride.  Tears welling up out of the depths of years of struggle and suffering to bring about this possibility.  There is much more work to do.
  • Virginia: the capital of the old Confederate south voted for an African-American president.
  • Ohio and Pennsylvania: The old rust belt, 3 Gs, went for Obama
  • North Carolina: Part of the old reliable path to victory for the GOP is still not called, but could go for Obama.
  • Another fascinating statistic: those whose annual income is $200,000 or more voted for Obama (52%). In other words, those who will be asked to carry more of the weight of change under Obama’s tax policy still voted for him! They must not have bought into the narrative that was tied to this policy during the campaign of “wealth redistribution.” Perhaps they do not see this as “theft,” but as just policy for the good of the whole.

As to whether this is a mandate or not–I think that is language from the old political narrative.  What this is, is a chance.  A chance to re-write the narrative of American politics.  A chance to break out of the old, dark narrative of fear and polarization.  A chance to address problems which are deeply rooted in a misguided narrative.  True change is possible as space is being made to re-imagine the American dream in a way that is inclusive and global rather than divisive and isolationist.

This is an unprecedented moment in the American narrative.  The change that is called for is deep.  What is required is transformational leadership.  The world is watching and hoping that the narrative can be reframed in such a way that brings healing and leads to a more just and peacable order.

May it be so.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jon permalink
    November 5, 2008 12:19 pm

    A lot of this chance rests on Obama himself. The culture of Washington (which will now play the dominate role in writing our political narrative for the next (two, four) years) doesn’t change because Obama was elected president. But it can change—if Obama can find it within himself to resist the pull of partisan, hate-filled, fear-fed politics. And that remains to be seen.

  2. just an apprentice permalink
    November 5, 2008 1:00 pm

    Jon,
    I agree. I think some important signals as to how substantive and how deep this call for change will go need to be sent from the git go.

    Voices at the inauguration…choice of cabinet members…setting of priorities and inclusive nature of how we work at those

  3. November 10, 2008 2:15 am

    I really hope I am not disappointed by Obama….

    I really want to trust his message of change, but I just can’t be sure. We’ll see I suppose….

  4. November 11, 2008 2:36 pm

    I think some of what Jon commented above is what Obama said in his acceptance speech. The test for change is yet to come. We just opened the door of possibility.

    Yet, I can’t help but stand in awe of what did happen already. Each day since the election, I look at news reports or commentary on the TV and need to remind myself that Obama REALLY did win. I feel like I have to keep pinching myself to make sure this is really true . . .

    For, in addition to the things listed in this post, just the fact that the electorate voted in an African-American, just the fact that after 2 elections in which I couldn’t believe the politics that existed continued to be supported and now we have a different party in the oval office, just the fact that we voted for someone with lots of international connections after all the fear and false allegations about that leading up to the election . . . just those facts alone make me hopeful! Those are indicators of change.

    Maybe the change is that, as a people, we are becoming more self-aware and willing to make greater leaps toward “justice for all.” Maybe we are more willing to stand up against rhetoric that demonizes, excludes and incites fear.

    I can only feel hopefulness that, in light of the changes that have happened already, deeper, more sustainable change can begin to transform our nation.

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