November 14, 2012
Here in San Francisco where I’m speaking at the Green Festival and several events for The Pachamama Alliance, the jubilation over President Obama’s victory is palpable. It is a good time to celebrate, if you voted for him; a good time to evaluate the mood of America, if you did not. And, in either case, it’s a good time to ask ourselves: What is the real significance of this election? It sends important signals to liberals and conservatives and everyone in between!
Regular readers of this newsletter know that I believe the President of the U.S. does not have a great deal of power. He is beholden to those who finance his campaign, especially big corporations and their owners and CEOs. He has to face the 10,000 lobbyists who haunt the halls of Washington. He is vulnerable to the threat of character assassination, verbal bullets that can be fired at him through rumors of sexual and other improprieties, if he rubs powerful interests the wrong way. Whatever the truth behind the Petraeus scandal, it sends a warning to all people in positions of authority.
Yet, despite the weaknesses in presidential power, this election is significant. The President is a messenger and a symbol. The fact that this messenger and symbol won out over his opponent tells us a great deal about ourselves and where we’re headed.
Let’s face it, President Obama had a lot to overcome in order to win a second term. Heavy debt, high unemployment, unfulfilled promises. . . you know the list. In the end, he was re-elected not because of his record, but because he advocated for the 99% over the 1% and because he challenged us to step forward onto a more socially just and environmentally responsible path; Romney threatened to take us back to pre-New Deal days.
We the people sent the message that we’re sick of robber barons who grow richer and richer while cutting back on our Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, education, fire departments, and other social services. We’ve had it with billionaires who pay meager, if any, taxes, and expect to get bailed out when the risks they take turn sour. We’re tired of “leaders” who refuse to defend women’s rights, freedom of speech, and people’s choices about whom they want to love.
This election is blazing a trail. President Obama won 71% of Latino voters nationwide. According to exit polls, he also won among women, non-white voters, young voters, and in big cities. With four Supreme Court justices 74 or older, Obama’s second term is likely to result in a liberalized Court that can overturn Citizens United and other corporatocracy-favoring laws.
The message is clear. Whether you are Republican or Democrat, Libertarian or Green Party, make no mistake; the mood of the country has changed. We are headed along a new trail. Its landmarks include deeper compassion for those who appear different from us. It is not just about economic growth; it is about better lives for those at the bottom of the economic pyramid, as well as a cleaner, healthier environment.
Now it is up to each and every one of us to participate in this adventure. We’re joined by people around the planet. They’ve shown up on Wall Street and in Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and the Middle East. The trail has been envisioned in the prophecies of ancient cultures that stretch from the deepest jungles to the highest mountains. If we want a better planet for ourselves and future generations, if we want to replace fossil fuels with sustainable energy, overcome the horrible prejudices that threaten minorities, women, and – yes – all of us, the 99 %, exchange the corrupt too-big-to-fail banks for local ones, serve our children healthy foods and potable water, and relegate inefficient transportation systems to the history books, we will not only follow those marks along the trail; we will blaze new ones. We will grow bolder and more determined. We will explore this exciting new frontier, much as our forefathers explored the seemingly limitless seas and forests.
I walk along San Francisco’s Market Street. A grey-bearded man looks up at me from a filthy sleeping bag. A ragged woman motions for me to come to a blanket where she sits surrounded by used clothes she’s trying to sell. I continue walking until I come to a place were a crowd has gathered. I peer between the shoulders; young people are dancing. There are Asians, African Americans, Latinos, and a couple as White as me. Michael Jackson’s voice fills the air:
“If you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself; then make that change.”
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