Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Game Changer

The potential for an Obama/Democratic victory in thirteen days not only poses the possibility of serious political realignment. It also, perhaps, means accepting some things that are practical realities yet have been matters of controversy for a couple decades or more. I am speaking here of much of the talk of "diversity". I have always found it amusing that this description of our country - that there are as many different ways of being American as there are actual, living Americans - is controversial. Yet, for some reason, it has been an almost constant punchline for the right. Mention "diversity" and one is immediately targeted as somehow not only silly but outside the mainstream of American political and social thought.

As a quick and easy description of our country, however, one cannot do better than talk about how diverse we are. There are gay Republicans who are working to elect John McCain President. There are hunters who are pounding the pavement for Obama. Working-class voters are the target - again - or Republican Presidential rhetoric, and some are responding (although not nearly as many as in previous elections), even as all the empirical evidence suggests that a McCain Presidency would be the worst thing to happen to the working-class since, well, George W. Bush. We have even been treated to a kind of neo-McCarthyite discussion of the "anti-American views" of the Democratic Presidential candidate and what constitutes real versus (apparently) fake Americans.

Should Obama be elected, and should the Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress increase and become more liberal (as seems likely), the reality of all these differences will (or perhaps "should" would be a better word) be apparent, retiring forever "diversity" as a punchline. Since we are all Americans, no matter what we believe or don't believe, what we eat, how we choose to spend our spare time, what color our hair is, what music we listen to, whether we worship on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday, whom and how we love others, even (gasp) whether we accept the "person" status of a fetus or not - we are all Americans who vote, pay our taxes, watch American Idol and Dancing With the Stars (well, except for our household), gossip at work, and do all the other things that Americans do.

One thing that has impressed me most about the Obama campaign has been his abiility to do what many, many of us have done over the years but, alas, far too few Democratic politicians have done - mock the idiocy of the narrowness of right-wing rhetoric. It is not "elitist" to call stupid things stupid. It isn't "elitist" to mock those who have dumbed down our political and social discourse to the point that Sarah Palin could be put on a national ticket with a straight face by one of the senior members of the upper house of Congress.

So, my hope is not only that Obama will change our options on a policy level. My further hope is that his election will fundamentally alter the vocabulary of our national discussion. I do not foresee the silencing of the right forever; it has been and always will be a part of our politics, and will, in all likelihood make a comeback at some point in the future. For now, however, it is thoroughly discredited, and we have an opportunity to change not only how we think about ourselves as a country, but how we talk about ourselves, which is even more important.

Virtual Tin Cup

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