Friday, November 7, 2008

The Virtue of Democracy

Barack Obama’s victory will go down in history as nothing short of remarkable. “America,” he powerfully stated, “is a place where all things are possible . . . The dream of our founders is alive . . . The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.” President-elect Obama’s campaign success will surely be studied for his effectiveness in mobilizing millions of supporters to not only vote, but to participate in the campaign process. Some have quipped, “When you have a community organizer on the ticket, you have an organized campaign.” But all the organization in the world could not ensure victory; I believe Obama’s true success is found in his ability to inspire and lead. As Senator McCain noted in his concession speech, “[Senator Obama] inspired the hopes of so many millions of Americans who had once wrongly believed they had little at stake or little influence in the election of an American president.”

The election of Barack Obama to the presidency is an example of a fundamental truth of human nature that we desire to be a part of something larger than ourselves. Barack Obama provided the people of this country with a vision they could follow: Hope and Change for the public good. His vision inspired action, and action produced results. The message of change resonates with everyone differently, but I think one of the most significant achievements of President-elect Obama’s campaign is, as Senator McCain indicated, that people believed their collective action could effect change and thus influence the public good.

Individual Americans do have the power to influence the political direction of this country; this is the virtue of democracy. The Americans who elected Barack Obama did not wait in lines on Tuesday as private actors pursuing their own best interests; they waited in lines as citizens of a nation united in their desire for change. In his victory speech, President-elect Obama said, “The change we seek cannot happen without the spirit of service and sacrifice . . . In this country, we rise and fall as one party, as one people.” The spirit of democracy is alive and well in the U.S.A., and if the citizens of this country continue to believe that through collective action the public good can be served, I feel hopeful for America.


David Hutchinson said...

It is me again, taking partial umbrage.

First, I agree that President-Elect Obama won a remarkable victory, one enabled by his many personal virtues and an effective campaign that was an extension of those virtues.

Beyond that, it seems that the two of us could serve as subjects for a poor man's School of Athens painting, with you as Plato, pointing to the clouds, and me as a very, very poor man's Aristotle, pointing to the ground.

For example, I would add as a partial explanation for Obama's victory the giant financial crisis that alighted on the eve of the election. And too, though with much less impact, an ethically bankrupt press corps.

And while I agree it is human nature to desire to be part of something larger than ourselves (Aristotle said that man is by nature a political animal), that desire sustains the Bloods and the Crips,the murderous gangs in Iraq, and skinheads as well as the late transcendant political campaign. And too it maintains the charlatanate in their mansions, who sell indulgences at the price point of a form of this desire, as though the Protestant Revolution never happened. That is to say the desire is value neutral.

I agree with this: "the message of change resonates with everyone differently." But when added to this: "...they waited in lines as citizens of a nation united in its desire for change", stated further down in the post, we seem to get a sentiment saying something like "folks are united in their desire for oxygen" (except of course oxygen resonates with all of us in much the same way).

Finally, and this is beyond the subject-matter of your post, it seems the fact that this election demonstrated that the country could elect an African American as president has been largely confused with the notion that Nov. 4th was the day America reached this post-racial mountain top. This latter position can be reverse engineered from the position, held by many, that if Obama lost, it would be proof that America was not yet ready to elect an African American. Leave aside that this position relegates McCain, a man who suffered for his country in a way few have and returned, love undiminshed, to continue to serve his country with distinction, to a sort of placebo. Leave aside that it means everyone who voted for McCain is not yet ready for an African American president. Leave aside too that it gives the deeply flawed Jesse Jackson an edifying narrative for his failures to secure the Demoncratic nomination.

And consider only the disservice it does to Barack Obama, a man who won the presidency the way all candidates for the office do, and better than most of them.

Tuesday was a great day because it ratified that America is a great country and that there are no limits for merit. But America was the country she was, as Obama was the man he was, before November 4th.

Kelly J. Bozanic said...

The desire to be a part of something larger than oneself can be value neutral, true. In this case, however, it was the ability of Obama to inspire people to join in his vision that mobilized them to eschew neutrality and act towards, what I believe was intuited to be, the public good. It is this collective action which shows the greatness of democracy. Anything can happen, and it will when we unite. Uniting happens when there is a common vision and purpose, whether positive, neutral, or negative.

I hope I didn't imply any disrespect for Senator John McCain in my post, if so, it was unintended. Senator McCain was a prisoner of war longer than President-elect Obama has served in the United States Senate, an incredible thought. I have the utmost respect and appreciation for Senator McCain, and believe his defeat was due in-part to the troubles associated (rightly and wrongly) with our current administration.

As for any comparison to Plato in the great work by Raphael, I am honored. The beauty is found in the need for both up and downward looking views; there is harmony in the balance.

David Hutchinson said...

There was nothing at all in your post indicating a disrespect for Senator McCain.