I’m a little older, wiser, and, unfortunately, slightly more bitter than those days. I also have a job, for which I eventually had to leave the line. A partially-committed Obama supporter, I had hoped to measure Hillary against my youthful memory of “presidential” and “inspiring.” Later that night, I watched the news to see what I had missed.
Surprisingly, “bitter” was major talking point. Hillary spent time discussing the Huffington Post story about Obama’s take on Pennsylvania, summarized here.
Hillary Clinton: "It's being reported that my opponent said that the people of Pennsylvania who faced hard times are bitter. Well, that's not my experience. As I travel around Pennsylvania, I meet people who are resilient, who are optimistic, who are positive, who are rolling up their sleeves. They're working hard every day for a better future for themselves and their children. Pennsylvanians don't need a president who looks down on them.
Let's be honest. We should acknowledge the many people who are out there trying hard to reach the American dream or guide us closer to the idealistic vision the Framer's had. Yet, we all know people who would rather have blind faith in some issue or ideology that provides an easy answer for their situation. We all know people who would rather bury their heads about the political system because they do not want to have to take responsibility for the actions of the government they elected - perhaps without proper introspection and circumspection. We know people who are aware of the issues and have opted out of the political system entirely. We also know bitter people who have given up on trying to change their lives because they feel, perhaps at times correctly, that they lack the power to alter anything substantially. At times, we've all been those people.
As a Philadelphian originally from New Jersey, with family in rural central PA (and many other rural parts of the country), I can say that I know many people like Barack Obama described. I am related to some of them and they don't all live in a rust belt or decaying rural area. Some of them have been blessed with education and privilege and live in states thought of as "elitist” and “liberal.” I also know that I met some Spaniards (who were on vacation) while I was waiting on line that had more interest and concern about our government and the upcoming election than many of the people I know.
Perhaps it's time that even the people who would rather listen to Fox "News" and company, even those who believe the stories told to them by Bush and Cheney (and sometimes the Clintons), and even those who think America always does the right thing - perhaps it's time that they have a president who doesn't retract unpopular sentiments and stands by the truth.
If you recall, sentiments similar to Obama's have been vocalized in prior campaigns. Howard Dean:
I want people with Confederate flags on their trucks to put down those flags and vote Democratic — because the need for quality health care, jobs and a good education knows no racial boundaries. We have working white families in the south voting for tax cuts for the richest 1% while their children remain with no health care. The dividing of working people by race has been a cornerstone of Republican politics for the last three decades — starting with Richard Nixon. ... The only way we're going to beat George Bush is if southern white working families and African-American working families come together under the Democratic tent, as they did under FDR.While maybe this could have been stated more tactfully and without the stereotypes and wide generalizations, it is often acknowledged that portions of our population vote against their economic interest because of the odd alliance between the libertarians, Christian conservatives, and free-marketers within the Republican party. Perhaps this time, if we allow our discourse to be elevated and engage these issues with the sophistication that we are all capable of when we commit with the proper concern and concentration, then maybe we will be able to raise the real wages of working people for the first time since the 70's, fix health care, and leave our youth a bright future without leaving our elders bereft.
Let's require the next President to be the kind of person who doesn't always say that the state of our union is strong, but does lead a path to how it can be. The kind of person who can offer an apology to the nations where our ill thought-out interventions have caused pain and tragedy for countless individuals and then can rally the world behind the role model we can be when we are at our best. A person who believes that our freedom as a nation is meaningless if we allow fear to strip freedom from individuals. Because we know that a real leader, unafraid to speak the truth and challenge us, would have given different speeches and taken different actions after many pivotal points over the past several decades - most recently after Katrina, during the current financial crisis, and on September 12th. And because we know that if we had done so previously, we and the rest of the world would have been better off.