Friday, August 29, 2008

Values verses Candidates

By Cody Lyon

In what was probably the most important speech of his political career thus far, Barack Obama used his acceptance speech at the Democratic party convention to light up the election season stratosphere in ways that both inspired and challenged voters to consider the stark choices being offered this fall.

In one of the speeches' more powerful moments, Obama said "America, we are better than these last eight years," and "we are a better country than this."

For anyone that calls themselves middle class, lower middle class, poor or whatever wonkish and impersonal term that gets applied by countless experts, politicians or pundit, the tea leaves seem to indicate a resounding... he's correct.

Basically, over the past eight years, we've witnessed actions by our executive branch that have further tested much of the nation's mantle of trust in government. We find ourselves in a what might be called a nationwide psychological malaise, an unfortunate sense of collective frustration, even depression. The litany of almost incomprehensible events administrated by the current White House, from misleading tactics that led to the invasion of Iraq to allegations of abuses of power in our Justice System to a tax code that rewards the country's most wealthy while cold shoulders are turned to struggling homeowners, those without healthcare and the longrunning continued fostering of cruel cultures of poverty, inequity and damaged ladders of opportunity.

In short, the sense of gloom in America is tangible.

An April 3 "CBS News" poll found that 81 percent of Americans believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction.

Still, during the Democratic party primaries, many Americans became more engrossed by the petty, but typical political drama's of those days instead of debates and analysis of policy specifics.

At times, it seemed that many Democrats were more engaged by personalities, baggage and images.

As the convention approached, many pundits and others with platforms still appeared to be more focused on the drama's between the Hillary's and the Barack's rather than the real drama of reality on the ground that is America, a drama that was continuing its pronounced assent onto the stage of the nation's sad collective reality.

At the stadium acceptance speech, Senator Obama did his best at clearing up the mess by reaching out to those Democrats, who have expressed leeriness over his relative inexperience in foreign policy, his un-tested mettle in dealing with powerful big business lobbies or, more simply, what they see as a starry eyed idealist, who like many humans upon entering the shark infested political waters of Washington, often succumb to the molding of powers that be, forces that in the end, shape policy, policies that in the end, are the nuts and bolts of our economy, defense, education system, health care and in the end, how this has impacted our collective national psyche.

Most Democrats hope and feel he succeeded in alleviating those fears for now.

But there was something else that took place that night. If nothing else, Obama, if only for a moment, lifted the nation's psyche and in some ways succeeded in inspiring all Americans to believe that the dream is still alive in this land of freedom, where the bells of democracy occasionally ring with messages of hope, not the fear and gloom that has crippled the very essence of who and what we as a people stand for and strive to be.

Obama's uplifting moment followed an by his former opponent when she did her best to further bridge the divide between those Democrats who express leeriness about Obama.

Just two nights before the Obama moment, Senator Hillary Clinton stood before her supporters on the floor along with millions of viewers and voters who had long held to the belief that it was she, not Obama, who should have been chosen to lead the party to a November victory against the Republican party.

Television reports showed delegates in tears, but, even still, Clinton directed a laser eye at her supporters and made it clear, she is not their therapist or for that fact, their Mother.

Clinton was clear, a vote for either her, or for Senator Obama, was so much more than a vote for an individual candidate's image, personality, for that matter, race, gender or origin or rhetoric.

No matter what a delegate or voter's preferences between the two candidates, a more simple question of fundamental political party values is at stake.

In these modern times when a campaign song like "Happy Days are here again" seems silly, in these days of Presidential administrations filled with countless advisors, policy shapers and other insiders who pontificate from above to the 'chosen ones' occupying the oval office, it is imperative that voters take into account what are clearly package deals, they are the packages that each party embodies, and each is filled with stark differences and competing ideologies.

For anyone on the political fence, it might be especially important to remember some simple basics.

Both candidates Obama and Clinton embody the values of the party they love, the Democratic. At the heart of their political souls, they embody the political values of Ted Kennedy, for that matter his late brother, former President John Kennedy. They are the political offspring a a party who produced a President that saw the nation through the horrors of the second world war, the same President who created the "New Deal" and social programs that elevated America into a more humane existence.

The political policy values that Senator Obama embodies are the values of another President, ironically from a Southern State, a President who was the leader of a party that when the poisons of racism dripped from the lips of many of his former allies in the 1960's, chose morality over politics and signed the Voting rights Act into law. This is the party that subscribes to the values of a President who more recently, in the 1990's brilliantly reached across party lines and oversaw one of the greatest economic expansions this nation has ever witnessed, a President who bravely brought seemingly controversial issues and concerns to the political table, opening the door to a more tolerant and accepting society for LGBT Americans among others.

Democratic Party values are seen in the work of a Peanut Farmer from Plains Georgia, a former President in dire time who is now an international statesman and peacemaker who travels the world mediating disputes, risking his own legacy in the face of controversy and stands and speaks to what is right and fair and who still teaches a Sunday School class at least once a month back in Plains.

Barack Obama and his candidacy embody the values of what some conservatives like to call liberal, but are in truth, values based in compassion, values that encourage the hopes of the less fortunate, the rescue of a sadly disappearing middle class, the fair and decent rewards for hard work and life played by the rules . They are also the values of those who demand a solid ladder of economic and educational opportunity in every town, county and state in the country, ladders available for every American willing to climb.

They are the values of a political party that will hopefully seek out tangible solutions that perhaps must start with self examination and acceptance of the humbling reality that we as a nation have allowed our own arrogance threaten our true greatness.

That said, millions pray, that this chosen Democratic candidate, if he indeed wins, will embody the values and good sense that recognizes and respects the responsibilities of perhaps his most crucial role, commander in chief. They pray for a President who will not play upon the fears of a traumatized nation and will only call upon our military when it is essential to the preservation of our nation's security.

Never again should we as a people allow a military excursion into a land that has led our great military men and women, as well as their families, into what has become one of our longest running nightmares. And, never again should every member of the nation not be called upon in some way to share the pain and offer some form of sacrifice, like those military families either through some sort of mandatory public service or higher taxes for our most wealthy citizens and corporations.

Perhaps, at its very deepest core, the Democratic party embodies the values of a great nation.

Now, there are those who may say that this young, relatively inexperienced candidate is not ready, or they may secretly hold reservations over his ethnicity, his upbringing perhaps even his name. They may see a candidate that they could never possibly relate to on a more personal level. Perhaps they see a candidate who they feel they simply don't know enough about. But despite such tragic misgivings among the electorate, there is and are greater, quiet frankly, less selfish reasons to carefully consider jumping off the fence of indecision in November.

In the end, voters must make their decision based on what is clearly a choice of packages. And, they must remember, beneath the wrapping paper of campaign ads, rhetoric, assorted controversies and infighting, there are solid differences between these two Party ideologies. Whichever ideology succeeds in selling itself best, could determine the outcome of the election. Whichever candidate that voters ultimately choose, will place in power a party ideology that will perhaps shape the future of our nation, perhaps too, our world.

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