In just a few short weeks America is going to elect itself a brand new president. And his name is probably going to be Barack Hussein Obama. Get used to it.
From the first time I heard Obama speak, I knew there was something special about this guy. The fact that I was there at all happened more or less by accident. But the more I think about it, the more I've come to realize that a fair amount of destiny was also involved.
At the time I was an Edwards supporter, and happened to get caught up in the Beatlemania type traffic tie-up in the neighborhood he was scheduled to speak at, while making my rounds for the sales job I held at the time. Realizing what was going on, and rather than fight it, I decided to park my rig and go check out what all the fuss was about.
What I saw that day at Key Arena in Seattle absolutely transfixed me — and I'm not just talking about what the candidate himself had to say. Make no mistake, Barack Obama is a charismatic speaker, and everything he had to say that day made the sort of perfect sense that qualifies as almost a sort of after thought.
The concept of affordable health care made available to everyone as a right rather than a burdensome entitlement? Check. Bringing our troops home with honor from the messy and misguided quagmire that has become our involvement in Iraq? Check.
Even the sort of "spreading the wealth" idea that John McCain criticized Obama for in the most recent debate, in the form of tax breaks that actually impact the middle class rather than just fatten the wallets of the corporate CEOs, made complete, no-brainer sense to me.
The one thing I've never quite understood about Republican economics is the simple fact that it takes two to tango in an economic system that is going to remain sound. You've got the people who provide or manufacture the goods and services, and you've got the people who buy them. When the regular Joes out there can't afford to buy the goods, then how are you going to sell them? Which means it's in the best interests of the fat cats not to run rough-shod over the "rabble" that constitutes the middle class.
Well, at least you'd think. Which is why Obama's concept of redistribution of the wealth which has disproportionately favored the rich going as far back as Reagan is not the radical sort of idea some would lead you to believe. It actually makes the most common sort of sense, particularly as we've seen the economic rape of the middle class under eight years of the economic policies of George Bush, and in recent weeks seen the way they have come home to bite the country as a whole squarely on the ass.
But what I saw that day at Key Arena — more than anything Obama actually said — was the way he galvanized young people. The capacity crowd at the Key that day reminded me more of something like a U2 concert than a political rally. When it was all over, and I grabbed a burger at Dicks on Queen Anne afterwords, I was absolutely amazed to see packs of twenty-somethings buzzing excitedly in the same way that I've seen so many times after a rock show.
Growing up in the sixties as a young boy, and sitting in front of my parents' television transfixed by the likes of Martin Luther King and both John and Robert Kennedy, I never thought I'd see the likes of that sort of once in a generation thing again. But I saw it that day.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, I felt the same sort of unity that most of you reading this probably did, and I even felt sort of good about George W. Bush as our leader at the time, much as I had to wipe the stink from my face to do so. But then it just as quickly evaporated, as I watched Bush use that tragedy to advance what was clearly his own personal political agenda.
I then watched a country united as a whole in the wake of 9/11, become more divided than at any time I can remember since I was a long-haired, rock and roll loving, teenaged kid in the sixties and early seventies who knew better than to hang out anywhere that they didn't like those stinking hippies.
Back then, I had an after school job at Seattle Top 40 station KOL, and would walk the railroad tracks to work just to avoid the hardhat-wearing rednecks who worked at the mills along the regular route on Harbor Island. The first time I heard one such person yell "Hey, ya' wanna get your hippie fag ass kicked" was all it took. I was only sixteen at the time.
In the first few post 9/11 months of George W. Bush's America, that same sort of us against them mentality manifested itself in both the 4 by 4 trucks you'd see driving on the freeway with American flags on the radio antennas and Toby Keith stickers on the bumper, and in the sort of extreme religiosity espoused by the "Vote Republican or Burn In Hell" crowd.
For awhile there, I was honestly afraid that we were never going to wake up from this national nightmare. But, in the wake of four dollar a gallon gas, and the implosion of the economy, it appears that as a nation we finally have.
As bad as things have gotten, I really think that we may be on the verge of getting over the hump and that our best days may yet lie just ahead of us. If Ronald Reagan was the Teflon president, Barack Obama is likewise the candidate where none of the shit that has been thrown at him appears to stick.
Not that they haven't tried — from Reverend Wright, to William Ayers, to suggestions that the candidate's own middle name equals some sort of collusion with the Muslim enemy. Nothing, thus far anyway, has brought Obama down. Obama has not only survived, but actually thrived after taking everything that first the Clinton, and then the Republican, machine has thrown at him. And I'm pretty confident that a blowjob from an intern isn't anywhere in Barack Obama's future.
Of course it hasn't hurt that John McCain has run the lamest campaign of any Republican candidate in recent memory. Joe The Plumber? My friends? Please.
And if Sarah Palin's weekend appearance on Saturday Night Live was a last ditch attempt to put a human face on things by displaying a sense of humor about Tina Fey's dead-on impersonations, then it failed miserably. Palin didn't just appear uncomfortable in the few skits she was in — she looked like a wooden Alaskan Indian.
But never count out the Democrats' uncanny ability to shoot themselves in the foot, and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
But barring a miracle, our next president is going to be named Barack Hussein Obama.
As Bono would say, "It's a beautiful day." Get used to it.