Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Dream is realized

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on November 13th in Metro Éireann By Charles Laffiteau

In the next few columns I’ll be “scatter shooting” as I attempt to share my reflections on America’s historic election of its first person of colour as President and other bits of information related to the just concluded US Presidential Election campaign.
To begin with, on 26 October, the Republicans for Obama group here in Ireland (all three of us) gathered at Bewley’s Café Theatre to celebrate Obama’s election. Some up and coming Irish musicians were playing in Bewley’s Café Theatre that evening, so I chose Bewley’s as the spot to celebrate the fact that one of America’s most prominent Republicans (and President Bush’s first Secretary of State), Colin Powell, had endorsed President-elect Barack Obama on national TV a few hours earlier.
Sarah Anne Bennett opened the show by playing a collection of original song compositions and covers by other artists on acoustic guitar accompanied by a violinist and another guitar player. Sarah Anne Bennett proved to be a great warm-up for the featured artist, Liz Seaver, who I had first heard a couple of months earlier when she played at the Sugar Club. Both of these Irish musicians were in great form that evening so my selection of Bewley’s Café Theatre as the place to celebrate Powell’s endorsement and Obama’s impending election as our next President proved to be a hit with both my American mates as well as all of the other people who were in attendance that night.
While most American’s here in Ireland and in the US would regard such a celebration as premature, we Republicans viewed the Powell endorsement of Obama as the coup de gras of this seeming endless 2008 US Presidential campaign. While other prominent Republicans like Susan Eisenhower and former Bush Press Secretary Scott McClelland had also endorsed Obama for President, none of these carried the gravitas of the endorsement from a person with General Powell’s record of service to his country. As such, Powell’s endorsement also served to validate our decision to cross party lines and support the person we thought would be the best leader for America in the coming years.
As we now know, my predictions regarding the breadth and depth of President Obama and the Democratic Party’s Election Day triumph were basically accurate although I erred on the aggressive side regarding how big some of the final margins of victory would be. More specifically, I thought the Democrats would also win the Senate races in Mississippi as well as Georgia and Alaska, where Republican incumbents currently hold narrow leads, in addition to the other six states that I forecast Democrats would take away from the Republicans’ column. I also thought the Democrats would do a little better in the US House of Representatives by picking up at least 25 Republican seats instead of the nonetheless significant 20 seats they actually ended up winning.
On the other hand I had also predicted Barack Obama would win the popular and electoral votes by much wider margins than any recent non-incumbent Presidents. In fact, President-elect Obama did roll up a modern-day electoral and popular vote landslide victory on 4 November by more than doubling up McCain and Palin in the Electoral College tally and trouncing them by more than 8 million votes in the popular vote.
What I find even more gratifying is the fact that President-elect Obama won a higher percentage of white voters than either of his two white Democratic predecessors, Al Gore and John Kerry. What that tells me is that while race is still an issue for many older and less educated white Americans, it is no longer a deciding issue in national elections. In fact white Americans, who represented 90% of voters when Jimmy Carter was elected President in 1976, made up only 74% of the electorate in this last election.
Alas, my Republican Party, the “Grand Old Party” aka the GOP, today finds itself being much less the “Grand” and more the “Old” and outdated “Party” in American politics. As such, the General Election results were also a reflection of the contrasts I saw when I attended the Democratic and Republican conventions a few months ago. As noted in previous columns, the Republican Party has become overwhelmingly white, male, rural and aged, while the Democratic Party has evolved to become a more accurate reflection of America’s rapidly changing, racially and ethnically mixed demographics.
But the social conservatives who now control the GOP don’t appear to be able to do the math regarding America’s changing demographics. They want to turn their backs on the more moderate elements of the Republican Party and insist that future Republican candidates must not only be opposed to abortion, but must also insist on tougher border security and the neo-conservative vision of a strong national defense. I am amazed that so many of them actually believe they can still win national elections by being anti-abortion, anti-Black, anti-government, anti-Hispanic, anti-taxes and anti-young people to name just a few of the many things these social conservatives are opposed to.
Fortunately for America, President Obama’s election represents another major turning point in American politics. Abraham Lincoln’s election led to the end of legalized slavery and Franklin Roosevelt’s to a revival of the world’s economy and an end to tyrannical regimes in Germany and Japan. Kennedy’s election led to an end to legalized segregation and racial discrimination in the US and Ronald Reagan’s led to fundamental changes in economic policies and the collapse of Communism around the world.
But the election of a person of colour to America’s highest office is much more than a realization of Martin Luther King’s dream, which he so eloquently expressed in his “I Have a Dream” speech on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago. Given his humble upbringing, Obama’s election also represents the ultimate fulfillment of that timeless American Dream; that anyone, from any family, no matter how economically poor, can still overcome such disadvantages and become the leader of the world’s only remaining superpower.

1 comment:

Web said...

'I had always intended to go back to party ranks after the election and work with my many dedicated friends and colleagues to help reshape the GOP, especially in the foreign-policy arena. ... Hijacked by a relatively small few, the GOP of today bears no resemblance to Lincoln, Roosevelt or Eisenhower's party, or many of the other Republican administrations that came after. In my grandparents' time, the thrust of the party was rooted in: a respect for the constitution; the defense of civil liberties; a commitment to fiscal responsibility; the pursuit and stewardship of America's interests abroad; the use of multilateral international engagement and "soft power"; the advancement of civil rights; investment in infrastructure; environmental stewardship; the promotion of science and its discoveries; and a philosophical approach focused squarely on the future.' - Susan Eisenhower

Please encourage Susan Eisenhower to return to and help reform the Republican Party.