by Randolph T. Holhut
Chief of AR Correspondents
November 15, 2012
A RIGHT-CENTER NATION? NO MORE
COCOA BEACH, Fla., Nov. 6, 2012, 12:37am ET -- Today is Obama Day. In the distant future, when the history books present their record of this time, this nation may be judged by the decision we make at the polls today (and of course, due to early voting, have been making for two weeks or more).
While there is little doubt about where this newspaper stands about the re-election of President Barack Obama, the outcome is anything but assured - as I very much thought it was eight months ago - and Americans, as diverse and wonderful as they are, remain capable of turning the democratic process to whatever they collectively feel they must say.
Few have been silent; hundreds of millions have been vocal, testifying to the vibrant tenor of our democracy, the world's oldest and by far, the world's greatest. Unlike in Russia, where every effort was made to jail or otherwise disable every viable foe of Vladimir Putin, our many viable candidates had every chance to tell their story in full, and to enlist billions of dollars in telling it. Now, by the grace of God, we decide.
The optimism that greeted the election of President Obama was well-founded. He had the reputation of being a smart and honest man, one who embodied the idea of racial equality and beyond that, of middle-class ascendancy. He was not rich. He did not have the powerful connections of many other candidates. His major opponent was the wife of the highly successful former President Bill Clinton. He was of mixed race and visibly a member of a minority that just 100 years ago had been painfully freed from slavery. His triumph in November 2008 was very much a triumph of the American people, who proved decisively to the world that Americans could overcome their past, bury prejudices and embrace change that was fundamental to the social order.
The optimism of that time has been challenged in many ways. President Obama's decision to "bet the farm" on the old vision of universal health insurance - perhaps first proposed in this country by a progressive Republican, President Theodore Roosevelt, was based on a belief that medical care is a primary gauge of the genuine compassion - or lack of it - of a civilized nation, just as racial equality is.
It took tremendous courage to stand up against deeply entrenched and powerful interests - the insurance industry (which ultimately joined him), the medical Establishment (which largely opposed him), the nation's elderly and young (who needed it) and the hide-bound, dark streak of nasty conservatism that believes every other civilized nation in the world is fundamentally misguided, if not evil, for giving it to their people.
Certainly, some nations deliver it poorly and some nations deliver it well, but every other nation of any repute on the face of the Earth has gone before us in adapting it. How well we deliver it will be a key test of the Obama Administration's second term, should Americans so decide today.
As we watched the progress of the legislation through Congress and the intense public debate that surrounded it, we noted that our new President had a tendency to compromise on key issues, and even if we recognized that compromise is the quicksilver soul of politics, we wanted still-broader coverage and even greater accessibility for the very poor than the President was able to get from Congress. We watched the voting in both Houses with rapt astonishment as competing ideas played themselves out in its ultimate passage, and again when its constitutionality was ultimately decided by a very conservative Republican Chief Justice of the United States.
The bitterness of their defeat was difficult to swallow for conservatives. Many reeled in shock and let their rhetoric exceed the bounds of wisdom and self-respect. In some cases, their desperate opposition poisoned the public atmosphere and corroded the velvet wall the enshrouds the very office of the presidency, which earlier Americans were taught always to respect.
That nasty streak has informed much of the political debate over the past year, and its influence has come to taint the national conversation on many other topics. In their eyes, college student and nurse Sandra Fluke became "a prostitute," and the liberal Republican Mayor of New York, and the conservative Republican governor of New Jersey, were fiercely criticized for even maintaining a strong measure of collegiality and respect for the nation's highest office and its incumbent. It must have shocked them, as it did us.
Today, Obama Day, is an opportunity for the American people to reaffirm our fundamental rightness, fairness and goodness. President Barack Obama deserves our support because he has governed in that spirit. No scandal sullies his office, no hidden hands guide his decisions. Instead, we have enjoyed the presence of a President who is not only willing to cross the partisan divide but to erase other boundaries that divided peoples around the world. He has won wide respect for his determination, his cheerful optimism and his truthful incantation of our troubles.
We have not been deluded, and have not been misled. We have, we hope, truly learned that we are a great people, and know that only the great can seize our imagination and drive our progress.
There are challenges ahead, as this newspaper has reported, that are even greater than the challenge national health care has been. First, we must become the masters of our energy future, so that our right to travel remains untrammeled by fuel prices that make it impossible; overcoming that challenge, we believe, will mean adopting alternative forms of energy we were falsely told three decades ago were impossible, but which have now come quietly into existence.
A second challenge is our survival as a national economy in a deeply troubled global economy that as yet has no guiding beacon that is graciously informed by a desire to better all the world's people and to prevent their suffering on a mass scale. The first challenge may help us overcome the second but it will take imaginative, creative, able leadership to do so.
Our third great challenge is actually taking shape. It is the change in our planet's climate that have brought famine and drought to some, flooding and cyclonic winds to others, and fear to many. There are still people after Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina that believe there is nothing new under the sun in the way of climate; fortunately, events have proved them wrong, and their number is dwindling. But we must do much more than persuade people of the reality of climate change; we must take steps to stop it. That will require a broad international effort founded in common interest and wide consensus about the steps to take.
Finaly, we believe a final challenge that faces our nation, and the Earth in general, is the spread of religious extremism, something that has even begun to make itself felt in a country historically devoted to freedom of religious choice. That is not the case in many other countries where religious freedom is under enormous pressure from well-armed, well-organized forces who do not believe that the right to one's own beliefs should be encouraged by anyone and indeed must be disouraged by coercion and deadly force. From Iran to Mali to Yemen to pluralist societies like The Netherlands and France, the movement to restrict our religious activities to those approved by a chosen few is on an implacable, violent rise.
This nation is not about Ohio and Florida, Virginia, Pennsylvania and Colorado. It is not about its economy or its health care or its foreign policy, or even its wonderful gift for invention. No, it is about the deep-seated yearning of a great people to preserve and protect fundamental freedoms that are enshrined in our Constitution and declared so forcefully in our Declaration of Independence. When we celebrate Obama Day, we celebrate a President who has himself embodied and enshrined those values and will carry them forward.
The man he opposes is not evil, and does not have malicious intentions, but everything he has said thus far has revealed him as a man who often does not tell the truth, whose personal concerns are fundamentally for the well-being of his privileged social class - the very rich - and whose spiritual traditions include centuries of discrimination against people of color and different faiths. His achievements are neither glorious nor of great value to his country; while he must be credited for at least possessing some of the qualities of great leadership, many are missing from a character that has been molded in the furnace of international trade.
Please join with us today in celebrating once again the profound strength of character that is so proudly every American's to exert; join us in re-electing President Barack Hussein Obama, one of the most able, honest and far-sighted leaders this nation has ever been gifted to have. In the very distant reaches of the future, our children will cheer us for having passed the tests of Obama Day.
Joe Shea, founder and editor-in-chief of The American Reporter, welcomes your letters. Write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.