Here we are today at the end of the long, long road to the 2008 presidential election. No doubt the candidates - having been hopping on and off airplanes, exhorting crowds to vote for them, shaking thousands of hands, kissing babies, eating all manner of yucky food and sleeping in interchangeable hotel rooms for two years - are exhausted.
Well, so are we the people or, at least, this one. But you can't say this hasn't been the most interesting, exciting and surprising campaign of our lives.
I clearly remember groaning, on the day after the midterm Congressional election in November 2006, when someone on CNN said (I’m paraphrasing, but close), “And now the race for the presidency begins.” Wh-a-a-a-t? The 110th Congress hadn’t even been sworn in yet.
And it was true. This hasn’t been a two-year presidential campaign; it’s been a four-year, non-stop campaign first for 2006 and then for this one.
Are there still wars going on in Iraq and Afghanistan? Where did the several million illegal immigrants who were so controversial last year go? Is the Arctic ice cap still melting? How many more signing statements negating duly passed legislation has President Bush saddled the country with this year? Are all the frogs still dying? How is New Orleans’ recovery going? And how is Senator Ted Kennedy? Is it flu season yet?
Difficult to know in a 24/7 campaign cycle occasionally interspersed with bad news from the economic front. In regard to the latter, The New York Times, in what should be named the Marie Antoinette Series, hasn’t let a week go by in which it did not report on the hardship billion- and millionaires are suffering. Here’s one of the most recent. Let them eat cupcakes, I say.
Now that caviar and Dom Perignon have been struck from their party menus, the rich are undoubtedly among the 85 percent who, in the most recent polls, believe the country is headed in the wrong direction.
Did you see the long lines of people waiting to vote early over the weekend? People in at least one city lined up starting at 6AM for a 10AM opening at a polling station. In some states, millions have already voted. One TV news show reported that by the time polls open Tuesday morning, one-third of Americans will have voted.
As the Buffalo Springfield sang a long time ago, “Something’s happening here.”
And something IS happening. I sense something new in the zeitgeist, a seriousness and urgency among the people. After eight years of the disastrous administration of George W. Bush that has bankrupted the country, killed thousands of our young people, decimated the military, transferred billions of dollars in wealth to corporations and one percent of the populace while impoverishing the middle class and gutting the Constitution, we are at a turning point.
It is apparent that a large percentage of the country, maybe even a majority, knows that now. And so does one candidate.
Barack Obama, if elected, cannot turn around the country in his first 100 days or even in 100 weeks. He cannot do anything he has promised without the cooperation of Congress – not a given even with a Democratic majority. He also won’t be able to do everything he has promised because Senator Joe Biden was right: something unexpected, perhaps more than one, will happen that will require immediate diversion of attention, time and, of course, money.
Money. Yes. One of the things neither candidate has told us is that we are in for a lot of economic pain and it won’t be easy. I’m pretty sure we have several years ahead of us that will require belt-tightening, doing without, several kinds of sacrifice and helping one another. And then there are all the other problems: wars, environment, energy, education, jobs, healthcare and the rest that our profligacy – corporate, governmental and individual – have saddled us with.
Although it won’t be pretty, we can get through it. Our parents and grandparents survived the Great Depression; so can we survive ours. And, anyway, what other choice do we have?
First, however, I need a rest from the endless campaign and I will be grateful, after tomorrow, to ignore the news for awhile, read a couple of trashy novels, recharge and then get back to the real business of this blog.
[At The Elder Storytelling Place today, Mort Reichek is back with another memoir: Tales of the 903rd Signal Co. which was first published on his blog two years ago, and now with a surprising update.]