Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Congratulations, President Obama!

It is no secret that I was ambivalent about Obama early in this election cycle. As a self-defined Independent, I had a distrust of political candidates of either of the two major parties. As a Filipino-American, I also had misgivings towards Obama’s possible approach to foreign policy especially as it relates to my original home country of the Philippines (where I am supportive of leftist opposition movements to the established elites in power). I even agreed with much of what political scientist and Obama critic Adolph Reed had to say regarding the insanity of relying exclusively on electing Democratic politicians as a way to enact a Progressive agenda.

It wasn't until my sister weighed in on what an Obama candidacy meant to her as a biracial Asian-American that I softened a bit. But still I harbored my doubts even as I announced my intentions to vote for the Obama ticket.

After the election results were announced last night, my wife and I walked around the U Street area in Washington DC surrounded by a jubilant, multiracial crowd of young and other adults. This was near midnight and it was raining. People were high-fiving, dancing and hanging out en masse in a spontaneous street celebration of Obama’s victory. It was at that moment that I forgot about my ambivalence and recognized the significance of Obama as the 44th President of the U.S.

• This was not just a normal victory -- it was a resounding landslide. Americans overwhelmingly voted to oust the Republican administration and to usher in, not just the candidate of the other major party, but a candidate who specifically ran on the promise and symbolism of Change and Hope. Obama's inclusive, post-ideological message which promised solutions to social and economic problems and cast itself as being above ideological or partisan rancor galvanized people in droves to support his candidacy by volunteering, giving money and voting in unprecedented numbers.

• Obama's campaign was a true, grassroots, up-from-the-bottom operation. Staying true to his community organizer roots, Obama's field operations were tremendously effective in mobilizing volunteers, voters and raising money. It is a cliche by now to say that the Obama campaign re-wrote the book on how American political and fundraising campaigns are conducted.

• I kept thinking to myself throughout the elections that if a Progressive movement were to truly become a reality, it would have to borrow its playbook on organizing, mobilizing and raising money from the Obama campaign. In fact, much of the leadership and membership for any theoretical Progressive movement will most likely come from engaged veterans of the Obama campaign.

• Many lefty critics (myself included) love to argue how Obama is not Progressive or Left enough. How he will surround himself with Establishment types to staff his cabinet and nothing will truly change under an Obama administration. But I can't remember the last time people felt joyful and exuberant enough in winning an election to flood the streets of Washington DC at midnight in joyful, spontaneous revelry. Obama's victory did that. Damn, I thought to myself last night. I am witnessing something special tonight. Obama may not be my type of Leftist politician but you have to admit that his victory and candidacy for the Presidency was meaningful to ordinary people in a way that no other political figure has been for a very long time.

So Mr. Obama, a hearty congratulations on a well-deserved victory. There will be time in the near future for me to be critical once again. There will be a time for engaged citizens and activists to mobilize to make sure that you enact your platform of Change. But right now, the unrestrained joy of the young (and not-so-young) celebrants who flooded the streets of Washington DC last night has become contagious and made a reluctant believer out of this crusty lefty Independent. Well done, Mr. Obama. Well done.

Cross-posted in An Ordinary Person.

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