Thursday, August 28

Just Ramblin, No 16: Politics of change?

Today is a big day. Barack Obama accepted the nomination as the first African-American presidential candidate. The day is made even more significant by the fact that today is the 45th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech. The media started working that connection early. Yes, it's a big day for the Democratic party. Yes, it's a big day for the country.

But I worry about this notion of change and who will or won't bring change. I know that the Democrats are working hard to position their guy as a super-duper change agent and show that a vote for McCain is a vote for continuing the work of the Bush administration. I get that. And I know that too many American people will get caught up in the hype and mania and might not think through the rhetoric.

Here's my deal. I live in the Chicago suburbs. I'm originally from Florida and I've lived in New York so I've experienced a variety of approaches to politics. But Chicago and Illinois, well, this is where politics has been raised to an art form.

The Daley Dynasty goes without saying. But in Chicagoland we have also witnessed other dynasties in the making. Todd Stroger took over for John Stroger, his father, as Cook Country Board President. He's doing a terrible job, but there seems to be no opportunity for change. It is business as usual. Michael Madigan is the Speaker of the House and Chair of the Illinois Democratic Party. His daughter, Lisa Madigan is the Attorney General of Illinois. Emil Jones is the President of the Illinois Senate. He's 73 and plans to retire this year. Almost immediately, party leaders determined it would best for Emil Jones III to replace his father. Oh, they are all Democrats.

In the spirit of full disclosure, yep, I'm a Republican though I plan to change my party affiliation to Independent this November. But I'm ambivalent about politicians anyway. I listened to Mr. Obama's acceptance speech. He hit all the right notes, struck all the right chords. But his list of promises for health care, taxes, jobs, education, and more. Seriously? Does the Obama campaign believe that most or any of those campaign promises are reasonable? possible? How are they going to insure Congressional support? how is he going to control lobbyists or the members of Congress who respond to lobbyists and political action committees?

What strikes me is the realization that one individual runs for president and shares his (or some day her) ideals and values, hopes and dreams for the country. But the president does not have sole responsibility for decision-making in this country. The president cannot fulfill any of his campaign promises without the support, the backing, and the votes of Congress. I'm disappointed that Obama spent so much time bashing McCain. I would have preferred he spend more time talking about his plans, his hopes, and how he planned to accomplish some of those things, how he hopes to work with Congress and other political organizations to implement change. I would have liked to have heard him talk about ways he might be able to work with the Republican party to find a common ground.

Change is really hard and a lot of people are not comfortable with change. It's probably too great of a stretch to talk about the USSR, but for some odd reason I can't help but think about the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Theoretically the Russian states began to adopt democracy. But it doesn't take a political expert to see that those folks struggled with change and gradually, over the years, have returned to the sort of governmental structure and conformity that existed when the Soviet Union was still unified. It's no big surprise with Vladimir Putin, former KGB officer, at the helm.

I'm impressed with the style and presentation of Barack Obama and I've seriously considered voting for him. But his list of things that he will do as president is just shy of "world peace" and it worries me that his reach may exceed his grasp. I can only hope that if he really believes he can accomplish even a tenth of this, his campaign team is busily working the members of Congress to make sure they are completely and unstintingly on board with his plans. And I hope his campaign team is working hard to form alliances with any Republicans who may be left in Congress because the alliance will be necessary and I do worry about Obama's lack of experience, potential naivete of how things seem to work in DC (though Biden should help him navigate some of those treacherous waters). Changing DC "business as usual" would be an amazing accomplishment.

Regardless, we witnessed history tonight. Good for Barack Obama and I hope he has a great campaign. As painful as this incredibly lengthy campaign has been, the rest does promise to one heckuva ride!

No comments: