Now is our time!
I don’t mean a time to gloat about President-elect Barack Obama’s sweeping electoral triumph, or a time to savor the demise of the Bush ideologues, as sweet as that is. No, no — this is the time for everyone who holds progressive values (economic fairness, social justice, the common good … things like that) to be on watch and do the work of democracy. If the Nov. 4 vote for change is to mean anything substantive, We the People have to be the implementers. And the job begins now.
Waaaittt, you moan. I’m dog-tired from the long, long, long campaign slog. I want to bask in the Obama glow, wallow in the historic significance, sip some cool ones and sing “Kumbaya” — can’t this wait?
OK, take a day or two, but no more. Like fresh-poured concrete, the shape of Obama’s presidency is going to set up quickly, and we can’t be lulled into thinking that casting a ballot is all that democracy requires of us. People who really want change can’t just crank back in their La-Z-Boys, trusting Obama to do the heavy lifting for us.
Wall Street, the war machine, corporate chieftains, Republican Congress-critters, right-wing yackety-yackers, weak-kneed Democrats and other powerful forces of business-as-usual policies will be all over him. They are the insiders and intend to shape him in their mold.
We have to be the counterforce — an aggressive and vociferous Loyal Opposition pushing insistently and persistently from the outside. Obama was the candidate of change, but he’ll be the president of change only if we buck him up and back him up.
Obviously, the great majority of Americans are longing for Jan. 20, when President Bush and his buddy, Vice President Dick “Buckshot” Cheney, depart the White House. People in San Francisco are even celebrating the exact instant of transition with a citywide synchronized flush of toilets on that day at 12 noon on the dot — fwooosh, they’re gone!
But it’s not enough to flush Bush and Buckshot. This election was about much more than just ending their miserable, reprehensible regime. It was a national cry to start anew, to build something big, to reach the America that can be.
So now is our time. We must be the ones to hold Obama’s administration to such boldness, pushing it toward progressive principles, policies and possibilities. We must stand up and speak out on every move the insiders make; we must propose and propel progressive ideas and ideals; and we must certainly expose and vigorously oppose any capitulations he will be pressured to make to the corporate powers.
If his presidency is to be worthy of the enormous effort that so many put into it, worthy of the deep potential of this political moment in American history, you and I have to step up.
From the start, I’ve felt that the most significant thing about the “Obama Phenomenon” was not Obama, but the phenomenon — the fact that millions of ordinary Americans (especially young people) were not merely enthusiastic but were engaged, organizing and mobilizing, taking possession of their democracy and doing the grunt work that is the essence of self-government.
The right wing tried to mock this outpouring as just so much “Obamania,” but they badly misjudged its depth and determination. People really do want change — not as a political buzzword, but as a fundamental matter of national direction and policy.
In fact, for some time, folks have been shouting: CHANGE! Get our troops and America’s reputation out of Iraq, provide good health care for all, reign in greed-headed CEOs and corporate lobbyists, end “tinkle down” economics, reinvest in America’s infrastructure, rebuild middle-class opportunities, deal with global climate change, no more torture, get serious about green energy, restore our stolen liberties, stop polluters … and generally reinstate the Common Good as America’s governing ethic.
As Obama himself often said on the campaign trail, he is not that change. We are. Through him, we opened the White House door to the possibility of change last week. Now, we must see it through.
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, writer, public speaker and author of Swim Against The Current: Even A Dead Fish Can Go With The Flow. Click here for more information, or click here to contact him.