Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Why, Part 2

It'll be a few hours before I can go vote, so I suppose I'll write about it while I'm sitting here, engine revving.

Going back to my previous post, when I was in Malaysia, my uncle and I spent much of our drives from Kelar to Pasir Mas, and further out to Kota Bharu, talking about Barack Obama and how his presidency would be viewed in Asia. Looking back now, I think it was our way of getting to know each other when not telling stories about ourselves.

I'll admit part of my outspokenness for Obama may have been passively directed at other people in the car who didn't see things my way, but I relished the opportunity to really voice my beliefs, which is something I hadn't done much back home, even among close friends.

Despite my saying that I thought electing Obama would send the right message to the rest of the world, I believe my uncle wanted to know why I was so serious about him. Because I didn't just shrug my shoulders and say I usually voted for the Democratic candidate. This was about something more.

I told him I admired Obama for not changing who he was (or conveyed himself to be) simply to attract voters, not swaying to whichever way the political winds blew. The message may have taken a few turns, depending on what was happening in the world, but he stayed focused. And that was before Obama began campaigning against John McCain, when he had every reason to become outraged, as his Americanism, patriotism, religion, and ethnicity were constantly questioned (in fairness, not all by McCain himself). Yet he stayed calm and disciplined.

Compare that to his opponent, who didn't find his message until an unlicensed plumber who was presumably concerned that the money he'll likely never make is going to be taxed in an Obama administration (though his ignorance has since been exposed) ended up as a mascot used to pander to the middle class.

That's not to say Obama just sat there and took it, either. Just because he didn't get nasty doesn't mean he didn't fight. And that is the biggest difference in the Democratic party, compared to four years ago. At the time, I wrote this as part of one of the first posts to this blog:

But those who want change in this country have to start acting right now. Democrats can't take another three years to figure out what our message and ideological stand is, as they did during most of the last three years. We have to keep the pressure on Bush and the Republicans from the outset and not let up until 2008. And we have to rally behind a candidate early in the process, whether it's John Edwards, Hillary Clinton, or the past two runners-up, Kerry and Gore. We can't waste time figuring out who we are, as we did with nine (??) candidates throughout most of last year.

It didn't work out exactly that way, of course. Obama kind of came out of nowhere (known mostly for his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention) choosing to seize the moment, rather than wait his turn. And he did it his way, with his guys, instead of consulting the old guard and taking the safe road already traveled. The Bob Shrums, Paul Begalas, and James Carvilles sat this race out.

But somewhere along the way, the Democratic party still found its voice. Howard Dean showed us it was okay to be angry. Rahm Emanuel demonstrated how to fight Republicans on their turf. David Brock took on the right-wing noise machine. And though Hillary Clinton nearly divided the party, trying to bring back the 1990s, the body blows she landed on Obama during the primaries made him a much tougher candidate.

From there, any attacks the McCain campaign threw at Obama deflected like bullets off Superman's chest. And a leader was forged before our eyes.

Now, here we are, on what should be a new day for our country. No matter what happens, things have changed.

Later this afternoon, I'll be taking my mother to the polls for her first presidential election. Two years ago, she became a U.S. citizen and one of the first things she said to me after being sworn in was, "Now I get to vote!" Today, she'll be voting for Barack Obama.