Thursday, November 6, 2008

Election Reaction. Duh.

Three days ago, the President of the United States was elected to be a black man, for the first time in history, with over 300 electoral votes and a 64% turnout, the highest since women won the vote.

I'm not going to talk about that for very long. I have a few posts in mind as reactions to various people. This first one is a reaction to this article by Will Wilkinson

The government of the state is profoundly important. And I think American voters picked a competent, decent, and sober executive officer. But this is not, headline writers, Barack Obama’s America. He is not your leader, any more than the mayor of your town is your leader. We are free people. We lead ourselves. He is set to be a high-ranking public administrator. Sure, there is romance in fame. But romance in politics is dangerous, misplaced, and beneath intelligent people. Were we more fully civilized, we would tolerate the yearnings projected on our leaders. Our tribal nature is not so easily escaped, after all. But we would try to escape it. We would discourage and condemn as irresponsible a romantic politics that tells us that if we all come together and want it hard enough, we’ll get it. We would spot the dangerous fallacy in condemning as “cynicism” all serious attempts to critically evaluate the content of political hopes.

I both agree and disagree.

Agree: You're right. We must remember we are still free people. We must allow the critical evaluation to take place; through criticizing Barack Obama, we can force him to be an even better president; to live up to his full potential. We need to balance out Obama's flaws as they emerge, we need to represent those in this country who are still strongly conservative, and we cannot let Rich Lowry's "starbursts" (I can't bring myself to link you directly to that post without the sane counterweight of Andrew Sullivan) distract us from Obama's reality.

But I want to very quickly take issue with one part of that argument, even though I have a hunch you don't actually mean it in the way I'm taking issue with it.

He is not your leader, any more than the mayor of your town is your leader. We are free people. We lead ourselves.

It is true that we lead ourselves, and are a free people. But he is our leader; we in the left movement, we who banded together, made him our leader. Now, "our" leader still has our criticism coming, and he needs to be our leader not just someone who leads us, but I want to defend the use of the possessive pronoun, and the ownership that implies.

We Obamanauts are invested in this Presidency. That means from this day forward, a duty falls to us to keep fighting, to keep engaged. Yes, we voted in record numbers. But if 2010 goes back to apathy, goes back to the old way of community disengagement... well then, everything reverses. If we think our job is done on Election Day, that now we can just sit back and snipe on the President, we can't. We own this presidency.

One of the failures of the Bush presidency, I think, is that conservatives did not own the President enough, with the exception of a few neoconservative thinkers who did. Those on the right who went into the conservative movement back during its Contract With America days... what did you do to keep the Contract alive? What did you do to keep the principles that you fought for in action? Where were you in the Primary season?

Now, the other failure of the Conservative movement is exactly what Mr. Wilkinson said; they took President Bush to be their leader, they marginalized and finally (when they latched onto Sarah Palin) closed the door on dissent. And that, too, will be coming in the near future. We shall see if Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert can fulfill their duties the way they have until now, dispassionately. I am optimistic.

We own this presidency. We have to keep it ours--not in the sense of fighting to defeat its opponents, but in the sense of making sure it remains the presidency we fought for.

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