The Democrats and Barack Obama
Syed Nadeem Ahsan
The Democratic National Convention 2008 held in Denver will go down in history as the first time an African American has taken the stage to accept nomination to run for presidency for the Democratic Party. However, for those who have been watching the making of that history there have been far too many highlights all throughout the last four days that will edge themselves into history as well. One was when Senator Edward Kennedy took the stage on opening day to endorse Barack Obama not even letting his ailment keeping him away. Another was when Michelle Obama took the stage to tell us why her husband should be chosen over John McCain for the next president of the United States. Why she and her husband and we should not accept the world as it is and work toward a world as it should be. Then Hillary Clinton who was competing tooth and nail for the same nomination went out to ask her supporter's to look beyond the person as it didn't matter whether they would be voting for her or him but for the country. Bill Clinton
Charming the young ones, as usual.
who took Hillary's endorsement even further by giving what some describe as his best address since out of office to bury most of the rifts that were said to be weakening the party. It has been one amazing convention from the build up to the final address by Barack Obama. It is going to be one amazing election.
This has been a campaign of many firsts. It was a race between the first woman and the first African American to win the democratic ticket. It was not a comfortable ride for either of the candidates and at times it was quite rough as expected. It was a surprise for many to see President Clinton speak often out of context to what everyone thought he stood for to help propel Hillary Clinton to the nomination when everyone could see she was slipping in the polls. He accused the media of treating Obama with kid gloves. Which was true. But winning the sound bites is a quality in itself. Obama's rise on the other hand was almost an enigma of an event. Hillary Clinton is said to have said in a 3 am phone call to the White House “ I know Senator McCain has a lifetime of experience that he will bring to the White House. And Senator Obama has a speech he gave in 2002”. At this moment the McCain campaign is using this in tv ads to show that Obama lacks experience once again. But that day in October 2002 when the Illinois Senator gave his stirring speech against the Iraq War it was not enough and today with the economy in crises we stand corrected. But let's not dwell on the Hillary vs Obama campaign as that is a hurdle that has already been crossed.
Things just seem to be going Obama's way which as I have always believed is the sum of a lot of hard work and a little bit of gift that some people seem to be endowed with. His high flying however was almost brought down by his association with Jeremiah Wright. Since then he left the church and seemed to have moved on to different pastures but still one wonders how he could not have known about Wright's other side. It could have been a politically motivated association that went wrong. Whatever it is he seems to have been given the benefit of doubt. Attacks that the republicans are throwing at Obama range from his lack of experience, lack of accomplishments to personal attacks questioning his patriotism or branding his rise as that of any Hollywood celebrity. It has been said that the Presidency is not a job that lends itself to on the job training. Then again some presidents do a very poor job anyway and all we have to do is look at George W. Bush and his accomplishments. Speaking of accomplishments John McCain has supported George W. Bushes policies 90% of the time. That is what has led to media to quote that electing McCain is like electing Bush for a third time. It was put very nicely by Hillary Clinton in her Democratic convention address where she said that “it makes sense that George W Bush and McCain will be in the Twin Cities” referring to the Republican Convention in Minnesota. Even Al Gore in his address said about McCain's endorsement of the Bush-Cheney White house “ Hey, I believe in recycling but this is ridiculous”.
Obama has been accused of everything from having a funny name, to being a Muslim to being a celebrity after the huge crowd that turned up to hear him speak in Berlin. Only two other presidents Kennedy with his famous Ich Bin Ein Berliner Speech and Ronald Regan with his “Tear down this wall Mr. Gorbachev” address had attracted a large audience. And then you realise that Obama is still just a nominee. Is he celebrity then or just that he has been able to strike a chord. He emphasizes in all his address that he is the son of a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya and his story is only possible in America. It is true. The very fact that he has won the Democratic nomination means that Dr. King's words 45 years ago this month when he said in his “I have a dream speech” that he dreamt of a nation where a person would not be judged by the colour of his skin but by the content of his character, that dream seems to becoming a reality. In his convention Obama took out the attack on the Republicans. He has talked about their questioning his patriotism, his inexperience. Obama pointed out to the Republicans that without a record to run on all they were doing now is making big politics about small things. On the Republican side they were successful doing that before so why not. This time around things are a little different though with the scraps of the Bush governments failed policies all around you. Still electing Obama would be a big leap and there's no way of knowing how ready America is for that. The convention did attract more than 84,000 who waited for three hours to be part of the historic moment. This election has brought in a lot of young voters open to new ideas but what about older generations and middle class Americans? Joe Bidden was a smart choice for VP. Now his task will be to bring all those people on board.
When you think of John McCain a man whose life began when he gave up his freedom to stay back with his fellow soldiers you realise he is a great man in his own terms. But being great doesn't mean that every single path you choose for the rest of your life will lead to glory. He has accomplished many things and has supported George W. Bush in many failed policies. In his Convention address Obama said John McCain just “doesn't get it” not that he means to be this way but that's how it is. McCain is too far removed from people, he doesn't even know how many houses he owns. His heart could be in the right place but he just doesn't know how to get there. Obama's campaign has centreed on much needed changes. At times his ideals seem too theoretical and unachievable but America in the last eight years has already taken the other path so what is there to lose. When you sit back and think about it. McCain giving tax breaks to companies that
Obama has been accused of having a funny name, of being a Muslim and for his celebrity status on a visit to Europe.
outsource jobs, not making oil companies pay higher taxes, allowing off shore drilling and simply going to Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere on mere whims is just bad policy and even worse foreign policy. He has been wrong all through. So when one looks at statistics its hard to explain why he is not too far behind in the campaign. One explanation that you hear over and over is that most people don't trust Obama. I believe most people fear to take that leap even when the cards are all laid out to them and McCain's campaign is playing out on that.
The Democratic Convention has been a huge success and hopefully the aftermath from that will be the same. Senator Edward Kennedy endorsed Obama. But the highlight was probably Bill Clinton's endorsement. He went out all the way that Obama was ready to be commander in chief. He made it clear that he would now throw his weight behind Obama. Here's one of America's greatest presidents who had left the office with a surplus with the highest number of jobs being added to the economy. Eight years after that there's a huge deficit and people are losing their jobs every day. And when you see men like President Clinton put their personal issues behind and say to a crowd cheering “Yes we can” that yes we can but we have to elect him to the office first, one knows where his hopes for the nation lies. Bill Clinton even went on to say that when he ran for office Republicans had thrown the same arguments that he was too young. Clinton has given Obama a great gift. Obama's choice of Vice President Joseph Bidden has also been a wise choice. Bidden is another man of the people. A man who has travelled on a train to Washington from his home for the last thirty years. He seems to be the right choice on many accounts, someone who Democrats portray has never became a core part of the Washington that now everyone says needs fixing. Weighing in all the odds it seems like winning for Obama is a cinch. But it is not. There's still two months of politics to play and until the final whistle blows no one can really predict who will go to the White House. I just hope words from one of Bill Clinton's speeches when he was president ring true “There's nothing wrong with America that cannot be fixed by what is right with America”!
Syed Nadeem Ahsan writes from Washington DC.
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