November 6th

Can I get back to railing against the government now?

I kept a very low profile yesterday, given my mixed feelings about Obama’s win in the midst of euphoria all around me.  I didn’t expect to find my Primary resentment bubble back up, but it did, and I am angry at myself for it.  Looking at front pages from around the country helps.

Probably the biggest bee in my bonnet is the potential fulfillment of Clinton 2.0 that I foresaw with an Obama Administration.  The issue here is that during the primaries, the popular meme in my (faux)-proggy-bloggy world was that Obama was a rejection of the Clinton dynasty/years/Democrats.  Look, I get that he needs experienced people and that the logical step is to pluck them from the “peace and prosperity” filled 1990s.  But having to watch the mental contortions or naive surprise of his most vocal supporters over his Clinton era picks is more than a little irritating.  Though, I suppose the silver lining is that I like being the aggrieved minority, so my renegade Obama-frustration lives on.  I know, I’m a librul maverick!

But this ain’t just about the Clintons (as much as the media or I indicate otherwise). Brownfemipower puts into words on Nov. 5 much of what I can’t yet:

I woke up far too early this morning, and thus was incredibly beyond cranky at all the white folks speculating if racism is…could it be…DEAD???? Because, you know, if one black man could make it as a president, Katrina didn’t *really* happen just years ago. And racism only exists in the form of some ancient by-gone problem of the black community not being able to vote, right?

YES.  The level of hyperbole thrown about right now is more than my shriveled black heart can bear.

And this:

I don’t think that I’ve truly understood until yesterday exactly how terribly the black community has been hurt. How devastated the black community was by the violence inflicted on them. How deep the ache of murder, lynching, rape, benign neglect, and threats etched themselves into the black community.

I mean, I had known–but not really, not until last night.

One of the struggles I’m having is with my inability to relate to a lot of the rejoicing going on.  I wish I could just sit with the disconnect, but it’s driving my must-understand-everything!!!!!!!! brain bananas, and leaving me ashamed that I can logically grasp the celebrations but can’t emotionally connect like seemingly everyone around me.

In part it’s because what moved me most last night was the celebration in Kenya’s streets.  And what moved me yesterday morning was voting at my local public elementary school and having an ethnic gaggle of little kids tell me they’d voted for Obama and that he was “cool.”   I LOVE that his victory is likely so personally meaningful for so many people: African-Americans, people of color, kids of single moms, mixed-race kids, immigrants’ kids, etc. etc.  His life story is an amalgam of so many of our own.   Obama is the perfect cosmopolitan face of our country at this moment in time. Nezua gets at this much better than me (h/t):

This mestizo, this blend, this face actually does represent our culture, our changing demographics, our varied stories and the winding paths that bring us to where we are in this America.

YES.  This is what I see and feel when I look at Obama and his historic significance.  This to me is lost or shrouded in the celebration of his victory as the “final” step in our nation’s long, painful struggle.  Please.  This is not the end; this is a one major, profound, UNFORGETTABLE step on the road to greater social inclusion.  Our nation is going to be minority-majority in about 40 years, and our work is nowhere near “done.”  Prof. Melissa Harris-Lacewell at Princeton said it beautifully on NPR yesterday, and her sentiment was echoed by Obama campaign organizer Marshall Ganz yesterday at a luncheon talk.  Obama’s win is not about what he can do for us (especially given we don’t know what that will be), but what we can do for ourselves in this inspiring, transitional moment.

To start, we need to acknowledge and celebrate that this election was won by voters of color.  The director of the Pew Center said today on NPR that African-Americans made up 13% of the electorate last night, up from 11% in 2004.  19% of African-American voters last night were first-time voters.  Their near majority support combined with the support of two-thirds of Latin@ and Asian voters led Obama to victory.  A (shrinking) majority of white voters went for McCain, but finally, that didn’t decide the election.

I know that the youth vote made a big difference (though the youth proportion didn’t grow as an overall percentage, according to Pew).  Two-thirds of 18-29 year old voters supported Obama.  But this gets back to the significance of the ethnic diversity of Obama’s electorate.  The 18-29 generation is more ethnically diverse and lives much more comfortably in an ethnically diverse world.  Young white voters were not just more likely to support Obama because he’s “cool” and they are easily enraptured, but because his story is likely more normative to them than to many of us older fogies used to a USA in black and white.

Believe me, I’m charmed by Obama’s win, and by the apparent liberal “mandate” indicated by his decisive victory.  But there’s something about the narrow narrative of his victory as an “end” to racial inequality or as the ultimate renunciation of slavery, Jim Crow and structural inequality that leaves me, a fifth generation white ethnic woman from the Northeast, cold (and believe me, I’m from the city used to epitomize Northern racism).  His win is transformational for African-Americans and for all Americans, and not just because we’re supposed to feel better about a dominant but particular history and ourselves in the process.

Obama’s victory represents the future of our nation in all its diverse and troubled glory.  He is mixed-race and international while also being black American “from” the South Side of Chicago.  He was raised in a blended family and a stable, middle-class environment.  He lives in a million dollar home and has relatives living in public housing.  He has been questioned as not being black enough and been adopted as one of African-Americans’ own.  He belonged to an activist church steeped in black liberation theology and is also known as a conciliator, especially those who remember him from his Harvard law school and law review days.  He said healthcare is a “right” and that he doesn’t believe in same-sex marriages.  What I like about Obama is this range of experience, viewpoints and identity markers.  It’s why he won, because there is something in his life story for most of us (and if not, he’s backstopped by the quintessential old-school-working-class-white-guy-done-good in Biden).  This suggests that Obama might be progressive, as his existence suggests a kind of U.S. progress.  But it does not automatically make him a progressive politician, and in fact also positions him nicely for the more centrist, integrative governance to which he alludes.

For Obama’s life story and face as the leader of the U.S., I’m grateful and moved.  For his Administration and politics, I’m skeptical and not all that optimistic.

Let the healing begin!


2 Responses to “November 6th”

  1. November 6, 2008 at 3:48 pm

    This is the one that got me – after Elizabeth Hasselback’s comment, Sherry Stringer on the View explained what she was able to say to her son: http://dlisted.com/node/29131

    I think that’s kind of what it is all about… My dad, I know, would be thrilled.

  2. 2 grahamad
    November 6, 2008 at 5:52 pm

    I quote the original poster:

    “I don’t like that feeling, so I had to rewind to watch Hasselcrack again, so that my dead heart could return to its charcoal state.”


    Maybe I’m just a “sore winner.” Hasselbeck acting all proud of her country and now an Obama supporter. His win allows everyone to suddenly claim the mantle of patriotic, inclusive humanitarian.

    Wow, I am such a grinch!!!

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