I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe
-- from The Prayer by Celine Dion & Andrea Bocelli
It never ceases to amaze me how simple, and yet elegant and to the point, popular music can be. In just four minutes, an unpretentious collection of a few notes and words can bring a tear to the eye, inspire hope, comfort and cheer. I'm 100% certain that's why music is used to such great effect in every church, temple and mosque in the world and is an integral part of every worship service, no matter what your faith may be.
The 2008 Presidential Election Cycle was supposed to be about our prayers: solutions to the terrorist threat and an end of war in Iraq; solutions to our weakening economy; solutions to the health care crisis that is crippling families; solutions to predatory lending and the home mortgage collapse; solutions to a failed energy policy, or lack thereof by our present administration; solutions to violence and random shootings in our public schools and on our college and university campuses; solutions to failed trade and immigration policies...the list goes on and on.
By any standard, no matter what your politics are, it's hard to conclude otherwise than that the Bush administration has been one of fear, lies, war, a loss of life for Americans and nationals of other countries and a black eye for the United States in terms of our standing in the global community. 2008 was supposed to change all that. 2008 was going to be the year of hope and inspiration. 2008 was going to be the year where the first woman had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year when the first black man had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year when a real man of honor, a war hero who tells it like it is no matter what the political fallout, had a real chance to win the Presidency of the United States. 2008 was going to be the year of three truly amazing candidates, all worthy of the Presidency, all committed to end business as usual in Washington, all committed to conduct their campaigns with honor and respect and dignity worthy of the highest elected office in the land.
So What Happened?
Despite all the hope and all the firsts and all the inspirational speeches, somewhere along the way, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John McCain realized what Time Magazine put on it's May 5th Cover: There Can Only Be One.
After all the talk, after all the promises, the 2008 Election Cycle has become more insidious and deceitful and divisive than any Presidential Election has ever been, and this is why:
1. The Democrats are divided like they never have been around race, class, and education.
The media has not stated this yet, so I will. 90% of the voting black electorate is supporting Barack Obama. This is wrong. It's not wrong because Barack Obama is not deserving of African American support. He is. It's wrong because no candidate for the office of President, not even George Washington, has ever received 90% support. No bill in congress, no township election, no vote for where to hold a family reunion EVER receives 90% support. It's hard enough to reach a 2/3 or 66% majority. That's why to overturn a Presidential Veto or to pass a constitutional amendment, a 2/3 majority is key to getting that hard-sought after and improbable result. But in every primary election since South Carolina, Barack Obama has received 90% or greater support from African Americans. There is only one inescapable conclusion here with these numbers, and that is that Barack Obama is receiving this overwhelming and unprecedented support ONLY because he's black. And that reason is just as wrong as a reason can be to vote for or against someone, and is just as racist as the white population's irrational fears or suspicions of African Americans, the white population's perpetuation of African American stereotypes, and the perpetuation of the continuing racial divide in this country that Barack Obama spoke so eloquently about not that long ago.
So African Americans are supporting Barack Obama, and Hillary Clinton is resorting to 3:00 AM television ads pandering to the fears of White Americans and winning the working class vote/blue collar/high school graduate vote by convincing this segment of the Democratic Party that she is the one that is listening to them and standing up for them and their needs. By doing so, Hillary Clinton is not only perpetuating the racial divide in this country, but she is also perpetuating the divide between the college educated and those that are not; she is perpetuating the divide between the working classes and the professional class, and she is perpetuating the divide between the young who are inspired by Barack Obama and the old who are suspicious of him and opposed to change. While not racism per se, this might as well be because it has the same effect of pitting one class of Americans against another--not in any kind of civil fight, but in terms of preying on one group's fears and insecurities--which is what's at the heart of racial and religious intolerance.
2. The Republicans, while they have picked their presumptive nominee, are not embracing John McCain by any standard of measurement. The bastion of conservatism, Anne Coulter, went on record saying that if John McCain became the Republican's nominee, she would vote for Hillary Clinton. Is this just rhetoric? I don't think so. Most Republicans really do not like John McCain. He's a maverick. He says what he thinks. His patriotism is unassailable. And yet, why did he only receive 70% of the vote in the Pennsylvania Primary after every other candidate had withdrawn from the race?
There are many reasons. The religious right doesn't trust McCain. They fear he won't advocate for a Constitutional Amendment to end abortion and to prohibit gay marriage, which as I know everyone remembers, were the major issues in the 2004 Presidential Election. Also, John McCain has tried to distance himself from President Bush, whom the party conservatives still love, but whom the Reagan Democrats can't stand. Recently, John McCain has moved more towards the center of the party rather than remain on the leftist fringes of it in attempts to gain the support of the entire party; but at the same time, he's risking the compromise of what makes him most appealing as a candidate: his straight talk, his maverick nature, his honor, and even his fearlessness in following his own convictions--even to the point of proclaiming his well-documented love for the Swedish Supergroup ABBA. Let's face it, few straight men are willing to go that far and do that.
So what do we have brewing in this 2008 Presidential Election cycle? We have a lose-lose-lose-lose situation that needs to be corrected, and quickly.
- Barack Obama can't win. If he wins the Democratic Nomination, he won't win the General Election. Hillary Clinton has done her work well. The inescapable soundbite from her will be "John McCain is more qualified to be President on Day 1 than Barack Obama." Hillary's supporters will agree, and will vote for McCain, giving him the Reagan Democrat vote necessary for McCain to win.
- Hillary Clinton can't win. If she wins the Democratic Nomination, she will have done so by a brokered Democratic National Convention in which Super Delegates and back-room smoke and mirror tactics will make her victorious. This will so alienate the African American voting population and first time young voters who are inspired by Barack Obama that a very large percentage will be completely turned off of politics and possibly become so jaded that they'll never take a chance and support another candidate again. And what's worse, many will not vote in the General Election and abdicate their role in voting for President of the United States.
- John McCain can't win. In doing what's necessary to keep the votes of the ultra-conservative right of the Republican Party--which he'll need to win the Presidency, he'll compromise his own values and lose the qualities that make him appealing as a legitamate candidate who can truly end business as usual in Washington.
- The American People can't win. No matter who becomes President, there will be a very large segment of the Voting Public that will feel cheated and betrayed and disenfranchised--and I'm not even talking about Michigan and Florida. And there's a very real possibility that unless Barack Obama wins the Presidency, this country could see race riots every bit as ugly as what transpired in Detroit in 1967 or in Los Angeles after Rodney King was brutalized by the police.
Deep down inside, I'm confident that what every American wants is just a fair shot and a deck not stacked against them as they pursue their own visions of happiness and the American Dream. What we all want out of our leaders, especially our President, is that he or she will help us to be wise in times when we don't know, and lead us to a place where we'll be safe: from violence, from economic hardship, from war and natural disasters, from racial and religious intolerance.
This Sunday Morning, that's my prayer. This Sunday Morning, I pray that Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and John McCain could be inspired by one four-minute song and start making some decisions that have nothing to do with personal ambition, but rather the welfare of the American People: White, African American, and Hispanic; Republican and Democrat; Christian, Muslim and Jew; rich and poor.
Thanks for reading.