Last night in his concession speech, Senator John McCain said, “The people have spoken.” Will anyone listen? The media is already spinning the election of Barack Obama as inevitable because of the current economic situation rather than a referendum on the last eight years. Of course the economy is part of the equation, but only a part. There is also the unjustified, ill-conceived, badly managed war in Iraq; the steady erosion of personal liberties; the immense failures of federal agencies to meet the needs of ordinary citizens in times of crisis such as Katrina and Ike; the crushing burden of health care costs on businesses and individuals alike, and polarizing arguments designed to distract the American public from things that truly matter. To ignore all these other issues lets the GOP and the Bush administration off the hook for their failures.
But there is blame enough to go around to both parties for those failures. Partisanship has been allowed to derail any meaningful work in our nation’s capitol for far too long. Starting with the Gingrich-led Republican revolution of the mid-‘90s and all through the last eight years, toeing the party line has been more important than serving the needs of the country. The strident ‘us against them’ mentality has overtaken the dedication with which many of our elected officials took office, to the detriment of us all. The powerful but archaic two-party system is suffocating under its own weight and the ideals of our country are dying.
In the seemingly endless hours of election night coverage, the networks overflowed with commentators and common folk alike effusing over the dream come true of a black man elected to the presidency of the United States, and I’m sure many of those who went to the polls yesterday did, in fact, cast their vote based on the skin color of the candidates. That is unfortunate, no matter what the outcome. My dream is the election of qualified president whose character and dedication are the headline makers, not race or gender. Until we get past bickering over the things that divide us, whether it be political party, skin color, sex or religion, we are doomed to remain mired in the societal ugliness that has become the norm. Playing on peoples’ fears for the benefit of a personal agenda has become an art form at which politicians excel and it remains the game of choice because it is effective. But it also works on the worst of what it means to be human, dividing rather than uniting, dehumanizing those shadowy ‘others’ and preventing the progress that could bring us all to a higher level of being.
So the people have spoken. Did they think before speaking? And will anyone truly listen?