Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Day the Music Died

Everyone knew that the election would change the way we view our country, its leadership, and the way we relate to each other and the rest of the world. But it's now clear that we are talking about a paradigm shift of monumental proportions. Sort of like the feeling we had when we learned the truth about the tooth fairy or Santa Claus.

As a result, points of view that as recently as a month ago were viewed as mainstream and credible now seem so out of touch and ridiculous that we are left scratching our heads wondering how anyone could have believed that garbage.

We were told by the pundits and water carriers of both parties that we are a very divided country with about half of our voters Democrat and the other half Republican. Half on the Left and half on the Right. Half Liberal and half Conservative.

Each side has its base issues and talking points and we were told people would vote one way or the other based on how they felt on those important matters. The Right wing was anti-surrender in Iraq, anti-gay marriage, anti-abortion, and in favor of free market capitalism. The Left wing wanted us out of Iraq yesterday, was pro-choice, in favor of same sex marriage, and wanted America to be a more socialist place where the wealth was spread around.

What has now become clear is that those weren't the issues that divided us at all. Many voters certainly have strong feelings on those topics, but they voted based on their passions and gut feelings about the candidates. What is even more clear is that most voters are as complex and nuanced as are the issues we face.

There were some common themes that showed up in the election results--themes that are very bad news for the Republican Party.

For all the posturing, McCain and the Republicans did well only in those states that spend the lowest amount per capita on education--states in the Deep South and those wilderness states which have no major cities and where each citizen has hundreds of acres to call his or her own. Every other state was carried by Obama and the Democrats.

At the end of the day, Obama's convincing win was a rebellion against stupidity and ignorance. None of the other issues had any real traction. More revealing was that groups of people did not fit into tidy little ideological boxes as the pundits had hoped.

Polls showed that virtually every African-American voter went for Obama. Yet more than two-thirds of Blacks now say they do not believe it is moral or acceptable for people to be gay. Does that make them Liberal or Conservative? They are clearly Democrats, but their values don't fit the pattern created by those who view life as a battle between the forces of the Left and Right. Which team do these Blacks play for?

And what about the 20 percent of Republicans voted for Obama? What uniform do they wear? How about the fact that 80 percent of Americans--many of whom supposedly felt that Obama was a socialist who palled around with terrorists--now give the president-elect high marks for his appointments and the way he has handled himself during the last month?

An entire radio talk show and blogging industry has been built on the premise that there is a massive group of Liberals out there who want to destroy the fabric of American life and undermine everything our country has ever stood for. They painted Barack Obama as a combination of Fidel Castro and Osama Bin Laden--the patron saint of the forces of evil.

Now it turns out that he's none of those things--he's just the smart and honest president-elect of a country that is tired of deceptive and stupid.

So who is now the audience for Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and their dozens of colleagues who have pledged to continue the Conservative Underground and fight the Liberal forces of evil? Sarah Palin is now considered a star of the Republican base but can the party ever grow beyond the Deep South and the mountain wilderness with her as a leader? As much as she is loved by Bubba and June Cleaver, she is viewed as a sad joke by everyone else.

Meanwhile, the qualities that Bush supporters used to spin as reflecting his loyalty and stubborn devotion to principles are now being revealed as simply the result of stupidity and laziness. Obama is actually putting partisanship aside to put together the best qualified and most competent team he can assemble.

In his recent round of farewell TV interviews, Bush has put a devastating exclamation point on his pathetic track record and persistent cluelessness. He talked about the economic crisis as something that "happened" as opposed to pointing out decisions he could have made differently or things that could have been handled better.

He said he regrets that we never found WMDs in Iraq--not that he took us to war based on flawed information and then deceived the country for years after he learned that all his initial assumptions were dead wrong. To this day, he seems to be more of a spectator who watched his administration create or fail to effectively address disaster after disaster rather than the commander in chief who actually was calling the shots.

Bush's comments stand in stark contrast to Obama's tone and actions that are making the entire country feel more hopeful. We have huge challenges facing us but for the first time in many years, it seems like the man in charge really knows what he is doing.

Americans are tired of stupid empty gestures. I felt it on a very personal level when I flew home from St. Louis after Thanksgiving.

This was days after the bloodbath and terrorism in Mumbai. As I stood in the airport and listened to the recordings blare about us being under Security Code Orange and watching people take off their shoes and throw away their bottles of water and their toothpaste, I felt the anger I always feel when I travel. I am angry that we are being manipulated by stupid ineffective policies designed not to make us safer but rather just to make us feel that our government is doing something to make us safer. I was praying that this recent act of terrorism wouldn't lead to more rules and foolishness imposed on us in the name of security.

I have an artificial hip and wear an insulin pump. I set off all the alarms when I go through security and get the Full Monty ever time I fly. I have no problem with that. It's the foolishness I see going on around me and all the color coding that drives me crazy. Message to Obama--get rid of the colors. Just tell everyone that we live in a dangerous world and we should always be alert and report suspicious behavior.

My friend Jeffrey Goldberg has an outstanding article in The Atlantic where he talks about the "security theater" we are forced to act out in airports. I encourage you to read Goldberg's recent piece and watch his recent appearance on the Colbert show:

For eight years, our president, his team, and his vocal fan club on Fox and the radio have been singing the same sick and dissonant song. They tried to divide the country by spreading fear and hatred of those who dared to question the Bush agenda. November 4th was the day that music died, hopefully once and for all. Most of us are ready to dance to a much different tune going forward.

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