by Dr. Mary Washington
So here we are just hours before the start of the 2008 Democratic Convention. The candidates have been at it for over 20 months. When this all began Gallup Polls showed Senator Hilary Clinton as backed by 29% of national Democrats followed by Senator Barack Obama at 18% and former vice presidential candidate John Edwards at 13%. And today, the presumptive presidential nominee, Barack Obama leads presumptive, Republican Candidate John McCain in the polls and the electoral map. My, what a difference 602 days has made in the political life of this country and the lives of those of us fortunate enough to see it. However the tumultuous seas of change that the Obama campaign have been riding so expertly until now have appeared to calm as they approach Denver and some fear that the Democrats will fall short of the horizon. Democrats will need to show the Republican Party leadership and the public that all hands are on deck and that they are comfortable and confident with Barack Obama at the helm.
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For nearly two years, regardless of their political affiliation, millions of Americans and indeed the rest of world watched the Democratic Primary contest that emerged between Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Millions more gave of their time and money because the energy and excitement generated by this clash of titans breathed life into an electoral process that had been deadened by the cynicism of pundits, valueless wars and hard times. Encouraged by change we could believe in, many of us made the decision to volunteer for Barack Obama because we were impressed by the candidate and were moved to action by the choices he has made time and time again throughout his life to defy expectation and defend the vulnerable. At the time, I personally believed that Senator Clinton, was equally convicted in her desire and ability to navigate the challenges facing our nation with intelligence, compassion and strength. I said to many of my friends, “choosing between Obama and Clinton is a good problem to have.” I believed that Obama had the ability to bring the best out of those around him—even his distracters. For the first time in a long time I enjoyed and learned something from the televised debates, keeping score as I have done in recent weeks during the Olympics between our favored team and a strong and worthy competitor. The level of discourse we had in that mid primary election cycle was unprecedented in my memory. I was proud of us.But something changed and a match that had such a brilliant start to a new way of doing politics devolved by the end to not be the shining moment for the Democratic Party that I had hoped. While I did not support those that looked for an early concession from Clinton before the last state had voted, I was disappointed that the desperation of the professional class of the democratic party sought to destroy what it could not control and did not understand. I was disappointed that they returned to the old school strategy of divide and conquer along the open wounds of race, gender and class in this country, that they returned too comfortably to the tactics that have lost high stakes campaigns time and time again and ultimately made my dream ticket (Obama/Clinton) an impossibility. The return to that common and belittling script also placed doubts in the minds of many and fed the prejudices of a significant portion of the Democratic base. How can Democrats find their way out of this sinkhole? I think Barack said it best in his New Hampshire “concession speech.”
“What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans," he said. "What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems."
Denver we have a problem.
This week’s convention should not be simply about setting the stage for a Democratic victory in November. It must be about tending to the soil that provided such fertile ground for grassroots movements and organizing in kitchens and store fronts across the country. The words and action of the delegates and nominees must inspire us to claim our responsibility as citizens and residents of the United States of America seriously and to demand that we do better this time and for all time. So I will watch, listen and pray that a belief in and resolved for change that has been weakened by the fear and poor judgment of some of our candidates, the calculation of strategists and whispering of political commentary can be re-harnessed today and over the next 79. I’ve read and listen to all of Obama’s tide-turning speeches. They still give me goose bumps. Whenever the nation had doubt in his abilities or in his campaign, Barrack’s words and deeds set us straight on the task at hand. But this time, it’s going to take a village to right this ship, set us on a good course and in Shirley Chisholm’s words “demonstrate the sheer will and refusal to accept the status quo.” I and millions of others still stand ready to believe in the audacity of hope.
Until next time . . .
-Dr. Mary Washington
Dr. Mary Washington is a former candidate for delegate in Maryland. Dr. Washington received her Ph.D. is sociology from the Johns Hopkins University. She lives in Baltimore City and works as an Assistant Director for a Baltimore-based environmental education, stewardship and community revitalization organization She also helps people buy and sell their home as an agent for City Life Realty (www.cityliferealty.net).