The Evolution of Hope
Back in the very early parts of 2007, and perhaps even the very end of 2006, I was trying to get a grasp on the varying names of the Democrats and Republicans who were going to run for President in 2008. As someone with a decidedly more leftist ideology, I paid attention to Democrats moreso than Republicans, although I tried to examine each of their issues and stances as they came out to decide who I liked the best, and to give everybody a fair shot at getting my vote.
But while I was trying to decide who I would pick to receive my vote, a few interesting things happened along the way. Now, to understand the extent of what I plan on saying here, you have to know where I come from. I grew up in one of the most Republican districts in the nation, AL-6, and while I was in high school, I was one of the very, very few who even cared about politics. My friends were all either staunch Republicans and feared Democrats because they were weak against "those towelheads," or more often the case, they didn't have any interest whatsoever in talking about politics.
One magical day, I was talking to my friend whom I will call "Angela" here for no good reason, and she pipes up and says: "So, what do you think about this Barack Obama guy? He seems pretty interesting to me."
My mind was BLOWN. This is a friend who never cared about politics at all--someone who would shun me if I ever wanted to talk about it, and someone who I would have never suspected to be interested in a Democrat. She comes from a military family, her parents are pretty staunchly conservative, and so to hear her actually remark interest in Obama made me really give this guy another look. Over the next few months, in the Summer of 2007, I had a few more of these experiences, and yes, I admit, I was filled with an asanine amount of hope. It even led me to create a blog on BarackObama.com and write this on June 8th, 2007:
I never thought I'd actually say this, but I know at least 10 people here in Alabama who are Barack Obama supporters. I'm home in AL for the summer, and to be honest, I was dreading it. In 2004, Alabama was the single-most Republican-voting state percentage-wise, even beating out Bush support in Texas. But low and behold, I get on here today and there are two main articles on the homepage about or related to Alabama.
Adding to that, I know people down here who used to be staunch Republicans who are now caught up in the Obama campaign. Yesterday, actually, I was discussing politics with a girl at work--she's undecided as of yet--and I think I might have turned her on to Obama. The point is, even down here in the chokeholds of the Republican party, Barack Obama is starting to gain momentum. There is a large following of supporters here in the Birmingham area, and as I understand it, there are matching crowds in Huntsville and Mobile.
Now I'm not saying that Barack or any Democrat would win the state of Alabama in 2008. That's a joke, to be honest. But it is an interesting thing that he's turning people of all walks of life to him, and giving them hope for the future. With this massive grassroots effort that Obama has launched, he is guaranteed constant momentum as long as he continues to be a source of hope and optimism for a very confused and frustrated America. From Ben Affleck to my friend,
Angela, I hope we can all change this nation for the better.
HA! Change the nation for the better? Ben Affleck? I hardly even recognize what I wrote back then. But that was my main drawing point to Obama--he was getting people that I would've never imagined being interested in politics ACTUALLY want to hold political discussions and be interested in the future of our country. The man earned a great deal of respect from me for that, and I defended that for a long, long time.
That was my first hope. The hope that someone could actually come along and make us feel good about our government again, encourage participation, especially amongst the apathetic youth, and bring the conversation about politics down to a more personal level. When people asked: "What change does he offer?", I always pointed to my friends and said: "That change. That is real change already taking effect." Needless to say, things went downhill from there.
In October, 2007, I found the first traces of heavy media bias with MSNBC's big Presidential debate. I was a little curious about the amount of talking time Obama got, about his responses, and certain things that led me to imagine that he was getting preferential treatment. He was my candidate, though, so I was happy about it on one level; on another, it disturbed me a little and didn't sit very well. I did some searches about it and in the process, found some of BTD's initial posts on the matter here at TL. I lurked for a little while here, and then started posting right before the Iowa Caucus. By that point, and evolving through January and February, I reconciled with the fact that this movement of his was by no means genuine, and that it was a political ploy to get votes, as all politicians have.
I was okay with that, too. It made me feel a little disappointed, and a little silly for letting my own rhetoric about a politician get as high as it did in the very early goings. I adopted the philosophy that, "Hey, he's a politician trying to get votes. It still helps my friends get involved in the country, even if it's not genuine, but he's still a lefty, and seems like a pretty good guy. He already had some of my attention anyways, but yeah, he's just a politician." My hope then was that he would still get elected, and that that would keep my friends still interested in the world, and give them something to feel good about, even if it was just meaningless fluff. And, I still thought that he would be miles better than anything the right could offer.
After the SC primary, I experienced some major distaste with both the Clinton and Obama sides over the Jesse Jackson Jr. comment and race-baiting remarks. Things were devolving into a he-said, she-said quarrel, and the amount of hate spewing from my fellow Obama supporters really concerned me. It hit its peak then and through Super Tuesday. I was not at all happy to group myself in with those people, but I chalked it up to just having a young and immature base, and that it was no reflection on the candidate himself. This did, however, scale back dramatically my thoughts about my friends participating in politics. There were still some very genuine people, but I kinda figured that if you're gonna talk about politics in an unintelligent, hateful, and nasty way, it's better for you to not talk about politics and the issues at all. I wanted for some of them to just go back to being apathetic.
Angela, the aforementioned girl, actually had a conversation with me around mid-March when the Wright stuff came out full-force, and told me that she was now "scared of Obama." This cemented my displeasure about that, and I "abandoned hope" for my friends and relatives that they would actually grow brains and get firmly interested in the businesses of our country. It was all media sway, huff and fluff, and little soundbytes making all the difference anyways. My "hope" about Obama changed again--that he was still better than what the right had to throw out there, by miles, and miles. I would read his issues weekly on his website and would think: "Gee, I agree with most of these."
And THEN, around late April, I started to even have doubts about that. I'm a conceptual thinker. Ideas are very important to me. Certain ideals are things I hold to very firmly. One of those is the "one person, one vote" philosophy of democracy. When MI/FL rolled around, I was very upset that Obama didn't seem to come out in support of democracy. I understood it to be a political move, and was able to shrug that one off, rationalize, and be happy with the compromises that came of it, but that was the first major "issue" that made me question Obama. McCain did the same thing, though, in letting the RNC's decision stand, so I just let that one go after a bit.
Then we start to hear certain things about backing off on Iraq rhetoric and plans, moving him more towards the center on that. His energy plan moved a little more centrist, and then the lack of rousing support for the CA gay marriage approval really started to make me worry. Then FISA came around and at this point, he started to alienate me ideologically. Still, he was much closer, and remains to be much closer, on the issues than McCain is. And then after today's Supreme Court decision, I about blew up. I couldn't believe my candidate took the stance he did. McCain's was worse, no doubt, ideologically, but I was angry at my candidate. The death penalty is one of the most important issues to me as a voter. I have no deal-breaking issues, because I don't believe in that particular line of thought, but that came really close.
This leaves me where I am tonight, writing this diary. I still believe Obama is the best choice for us, and I still believe in tenants of his platform that are still standing, such as his stance on Guantanamo and torture, his methodologies for counter-terrorism, speaking with foreign leaders without preconditions, as well as helping college students out by partially forgiving loan debt in exchange for certain things, and opening up more federal grants and scholarships. I believe that even where he stands on issues that he has alienated me from, like energy, and FISA, and the death penalty, are better than where McCain stands.
I disagree with Jeralyn about a common phrase she uses: "The devil you do know is better than the devil you don't." I know what McCain's positions are. He is firm on most of them--a lot firmer than Obama, at least--and I want no part of a McCain presidency. I don't think this country has four years to go through any more of '80s-style Reaganomic policies, social injustices, and having the word "terror" crammed down our throats at every turn. I know with McCain, there is a zero percent chance of me being pleased with this country's path over the next half-decade. With Obama, there's at least a five-percent chance, and as long as there is that chance, he will still have my vote.
And for the record, I still have hope. My current hope is that all of what he has said recently is no real reflection on who he really is and what he thinks about on issues, is simply a political move to the center to get elected, and that when he gets in office, we'll see the biggest move towards European-style leftism/socialism America has ever been a part of. I hope he's a closet Marxist. My hopes are getting kind of preposterous though, so maybe I'll shut this particular entry down for the evening. Thanks for reading.
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