Tuesday, November 04, 2008

A vote to change a nation!

Our American neighbours will be off to the polls on Tuesday, perhaps in record numbers to partake in their democratic right, the final act of what at times has seemed like an endless political campaign.

This was a campaign that celebrated some of the best that the American process has to offer and sadly some of the worst as well. The American political scene is an amazing thing to observe. As a nation, they are much more involved in the grass roots levels, from their earliest of primaries and caucuses, through the never ending stump speeches and rallies that take over the agenda of much of the election year landscape.

Their conventions at times resemble a combination of a rock show and religious revival; giving way to the final six week blitz of political machinations that range from one extreme to the other, all under the glare of an all observing media spotlight.

This election has provided two headliners that offer two very different visions of America for the next four years.

John McCain a war hero and Republican fixture who has at times run contrary to the party dogma, but as the campaign left the convention floor of Minnesota, he seemed to be more than willing to allow the backroom handlers set his agenda for better, or as seems to have been the case in the last number of weeks very much for the worse.

The Democrats on the other hand turned to a young Chicago community organizer, with the gift of words and an ability to connect with many of the disenchanted Democrats from the lost campaigns since the Clinton years. Barack Obama, jumped onto the Democratic radar four years ago with one of the most memorable convention speeches ever made and has taken that exposure to the cusp of history, a history that could be decided in less than twenty four hours.

The Obama campaign has stayed true to its themes of hope and change, a promise of a better day, far removed from the unseemly attributes of the current administration.

In a campaign where both candidates stressed that change was their driving agenda, the Democrats best delivered that message. They have provided a clear and concise program for the consideration of the voters, one that is as far from the last eight years of a Republican administration as you could imagine.

John McCain on the other hand, drifted from his personal message of change, finding himself pulled closer and closer to the current administration and many of its most famous mis-steps and out of touch policies.

From a voting record of frequent consensus with the current administration, to the perception that the Republican backroom handlers of the Bush years had hijacked the one time Maverick’s agenda, the McCain campaign appears to have lurched from one political mistake to another.

He adopted a would be folk hero in Joe the Plumber, who in the end proved to be more inclined to seek out his fifteen minutes of fame in the most self serving of fashions. In the end, Joe never quite lived up to his highly acclaimed folk status, despite the best attempts of the Republicans to build him up as the champion of the middle class.

The fatal flaw however for the McCain campaign came with the economic meltdown of October. It was a fast moving financial crisis that left John McCain seemingly unsteady on his political feet. Suspending his campaign while suggesting that a planned debate with Senator Obama should be cancelled, a moment that seemed to portray the Republican as incapable of handling two situations at one time, a lack of time management skills that left more than a few questioning his political advice.

The financial agenda was never a strong point for the McCain campaign and his less than steady handling of the breaking news of the day reinforced that weakness to his detriment. In an election campaign that suddenly found the economy as the driving point, Senator McCain could never get that car in gear.

Through the campaign Senator McCain frequently would chide the Obama camp over the candidate’s lack of experience and then he selects an unknown Governor as his running mate, a selection that provided for all of the vetting for the job that your local paper carrier might require. It was typical to the disconnect from his own message, a situation that at times worked at cross purposes for all of his political posturing.

His selection of Governor Palin, while providing for an early bump in the polls after the convention, quickly came under the microscope and the more that we learned about the Governor, the more the American electorate became concerned.

In the end, her addition to the ticket while providing for a fresh face and much exposure, did offer some problems. Besides her struggles with the mainstream media and her celebrity as a frequent target of the late night comedy types, it was her stump speeches that seemed to provide for the most disturbing twists in the campaign.

Her frequent division of America into the real America and an elite America, combined with her tributes to the “true Americans” took partisanship into a dangerous territory. Providing for glimpses back to the fifties and a Senator from Wisconsin who turned fear into a political tool. With the Republicans trying to paint Senator Obama with everything from being a consort of terrorists to a socialist or even possibly a communist, the prospect of John McCain as a candidate of change seemed to stray further and further away from the goal.

It’s an unfortunate path that he chose on this campaign, a true American hero, McCain has in the past truly been a Maverick if you will. From taking on Donald Rumsfeld over torture, to providing for a very different brand of Republican policy, one significantly different that the one he seems to have embraced in this campaign. He had that aura of change and promise in the past, but in this campaign it’s as though his time passed him by.

John McCain would have most likely been an effective president eight years ago. Had he wrested the Republican nomination from George Bush in 2000, America would we suspect, be a very different country today. One that was less inclined to the crony capitalism of the last two terms and one more respected on the international stage than they are today. Had they followed their instincts and selected the Senator McCain of 2000, it’s quite likely that he could have delivered on his vision of change.

That was then, this is now. America is a lesser place at the moment, because of that choice eight years ago. There will be some guilt in those voting booths on Tuesday, guilt over the realization that they had the chance to pick the right man for the right time back then, but let it slip away. It’s doubtful that they will make the same mistake twice.

The prospect of true change and an end to the mean spirited nature of the Republicans of the last eight years belongs with the Senator from Illinois.

Speech after speech, debate after debate has provided a platform to offer hope for a better day. A gifted speaker, Senator Obama has stayed true to his campaign from the very beginning; there have been few diversions from his announcement speech in Springfield, to the final ones from the many locations on Monday.

Despite some of the nastiest attacks that the Republicans could offer up, he never took the bait, instead continuing to offer up his policies, his solutions and his request for ALL Americans to rise to the challenge.

He survived many of the Republican surprises, the preacher problems, the questionable Republican smears and the always underlying issue of race. It has been a baptism by fire; never rattled he has continued to stay on message, calm, lucid and determined to get his message out.

A symbolic difference from what has been going on over on the Republican side of the campaign trail for the last two months.

John McCain is a good man; he has paid his dues to America in so many ways for a good portion of his life. Politically he deserved a better fate, but the nature of his campaign this time around as apparently prescribed by the Republican back rooms has not been his finest hour. Had he returned to the political fighter of 2000, the one with the working political compass, this very well may have been his greatest achievement. As it is, he allowed the darker forces of the Republicans to frame his campaign and it has left many mourning the fact that an American icon’s final laps have not been the best that he could have offered.

While nothing is ever a guarantee, the Obama campaign provided something that the Republicans never seemed to be able to grasp, he offered ideas, a chance to once again dream for better days! He provided a glimpse that he offers up a very different agenda than the last eight years of greed, suspicion, fear and frustration that the George Bush White House provided.

If America can put aside the past and take a chance on the future, it may indeed mark a historic new day for America.

Barack Obama surely doesn’t have all the answers, and will no doubt make a mistake or two along the way should he become President. As is always the case, the higher the expectations, the greater the potential for disappointment.

Should he prove to be victorious on Tuesday, he will take the helm of a nation with many problems, a collection of left over’s from the past regime that seem daunting and more than a little terrifying. Issues that make one wonder why anyone would want the job and if even the most hopeful of candidates can ever tackle the numerous challenges ahead.

But Senator Obama has offered something that hasn’t been seen in the USA for a long, long time, the prospect of a return to some of the values that Americans cherish, but seem to have let slip away over the years.

Hope for the future, adherence to a constitution that protects all Americans, the offer of the hand up for those that need help the most and the communal covenant that the nation works best when they are pulling together rather than being divided.

Obama is the promise of hope; the promise of a sense of true change.

You have to hope that they take the plunge and move their nation forward. As they head for their polling booths today, they cast a vote for a future history and their decision on this first Tuesday of November is one that will echo around the world.

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