Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The Official Post-Election Post

I have put off an official Post Election Post until now.  There is so much to say, and so much already being said so well.  I feel the same sense of hope and wistfulness as Al Martinez expresses in his beautiful column from Monday's LA Times.  (Don't worry, despite his line about martinis and cigarettes, my heart is in no present danger.  But the poignancy of his dealing with hope during difficult  times is one I share.  But no matter how poignant Al's story is, nothing compares to the tear-jerking bittersweetness of the retired White House butler and his wife that appeared a few days ago.

In yesterday's LA Times Opinion section, there is a great piece: A vote too late for Obama.
It tells the story of a woman who decided not to vote, then, in the ensuing days of celebration and watching Obama conduct himself, felt like she might have missed out on a historic moment.

This echoes one personal story I'd like to share.

I have a friend who went through similar feelings.  A lifelong Republican in the financial services industry, he voted for Bush twice, and had come to regret it.  He was shocked at the choice of Sarah Palin.  He's moderate on social issues, but as are most in his business, suspicious of Obama's plan to soak the rich; the rich, he believes, are where jobs come from.  No new news there.  He respected and admired McCain, but was put off by his campaign tactics, and by his party's shift to extreme right-wing social conservatism: reproductive rights, Creationism, all that.  He talked with me extensively about Obama, and my take on the election.  We debated, and agreed a lot about what ails the country and how to fix it.  Roads.  Health care.  Education.  A sensible foreign policy that doesn't support dictators.

And he called me the day before the election.  He was, to my amzement, still undecided, and we talked some more.  He wanted me to reassure him that if Obama was elected, and his economic advisors came to him and said that raising the capital gains tax was a bad idea for the economy, he'd listen.  I told him I couldn't guarantee anything.  That there are a lot of unreasonable hopes being placed on this one talented, inspiring but very skinny fellow. But that I believe Obama is, if he is anything, a good listener, and not and ideologue.

After we hung up, I sent him one last e-mail.  "I think that Obama," I said, "is gonna win.  It's going to be historic.  And I think you're going to want to be able to tell your grandchildren you were a part of it."

I got a call from my friend the day after election day.  He told me that he went and talked with his own mother about which way to vote on election eve.  They talked for half an hour about Obama vs. McCain.  They seriously discussed leaving that section of the ballot blank.

At last, he said, he voted for McCain.

But when he saw his mother the next day, after Obama had won, he asked her, "aren't you just a little bit relieved, that it turned out this way?"  And she agreed that she was.

My friend and I agreed that it's time for reasonable people to move on.  He told me that it's like a football team... the QB you want to start the next game because he throws you a lot of passes isn't starting, it's the other guy.  You still go out and work as hard as you can for the team.  I agreed.  I told him I would do the same thing if McCain had won (unlike some of my friends who threatened to really, this time, leave the country if a Republican took the White House).  We thanked each other for offering our perspectives on our nation in a civil and forward-looking way.

It is this spirit of unity, even more than Barack's oratory, thoughtfulness, and intellect, that give me hope for the next administration.

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