Friday, August 29, 2008

Keep the Promise Alive

I give you the next president of the United States.

"With profound gratitude and great humility, I accept your nomination for the presidency of the United States.

Let me express my thanks to the historic slate of candidates who accompanied me on this journey, and especially the one who traveled the farthest -- a champion for working Americans and an inspiration to my daughters and to yours -- Hillary Rodham Clinton. To President Clinton, who last night made the case for change as only he can make it; to Ted Kennedy, who embodies the spirit of service; and to the next Vice President of the United States, Joe Biden, I thank you. I am grateful to finish this journey with one of the finest statesmen of our time, a man at ease with everyone from world leaders to the conductors on the Amtrak train he still takes home every night."

As I watched last night's historic speech I could not help but be struck by the difference in what I have seen in the last eight years. One, he was standing up and not leaning on the podium. He was smiling when appropriate (not sneering at inside jokes), he was clearly sober, and he spoke eloquently. And with words correctly pronounced. Did I mention he was wearing a tie?

But as a viewer there were a lot of difference for me. First, I was watching it on the live feed from ABC news via Internet on my computer. I got rid of satellite TV because of their Hitler attitude on packaging, the endless "take this drug" advertising, and the cost.

I have spent the last few months as gasoline prices rose paring down expenses and cutting down any trips in the car. I have the telephone to the bare minimum, no television, and very few trips to the big box stores to save on necessities. I had my retirement planned but that plan does not work with the current economy brought to you by GW Bush and promised to continue with John McCain and his seven houses. Or is it eight.

Another difference that struck me is that Obama had not only spoken well but staged it all spectacularly. It was the sort of event we have come to expect from the Republicans with all the flag waving and implications that to be an American against terror you have to be one of them. GW Bush and his party made me feel like a traitor because I was against the war in Iraq and his lying to get us there. But Barack said:

"The times are too serious, the stakes are too high for this same partisan playbook. So let us agree that patriotism has no party. I love this country, and so do you, and so does John McCain. The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and Independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America - they have served the United States of America."

I think I want first and most as we face the next 62 days that we can sit aside the partisan playbook and actually be given a chance to pick our next leader on the basis of policy and not rhetoric or swift-boating campaigns.

As Barack said last night "the times are too serious" and the Republicans don't seem to realize just how serious they are. McCain thinks we are whiners and that our economy is basically sound and that we can drill ourselves out of this dependence on oil. (That last is like a compulsive gambler thinking he is only one big win from being healed.)

Like most Americans, especially older ones, I hate change. I fight it. But I look at the change the same old policies have caused in my life and I know that things have got to change for the better or the promise of America is dead. It is time for a major shift. We have to start thinking out of our nice and insulated envelopes. Winter is coming with the heating bills that no amount of economizing is going to be adequate. The middle class is slipping into poverty at an alarming rate.

And you cannot have a healthy democracy or representative republic without a viable and growing middle class. Wake up. Turn off the mind numbing sitcoms and pay attention. Our time to save the United States is now.

"America, our work will not be easy. The challenges we face require tough choices, and Democrats as well as Republicans will need to cast off the worn-out ideas and politics of the past. For part of what has been lost these past eight years can't just be measured by lost wages or bigger trade deficits. What has also been lost is our sense of common purpose - our sense of higher purpose. And that's what we have to restore."

For the transcript of his entire speech: Real Clear Politics.