Onto the bandwagon totally

I’ve been very halfway in my support of Barack Obama in this campaign season. This morning, I am on the bandwagon completely though. I saw the future of American politics, and his name is Obama.

Throughout this campaign, I have contended, whether fair or unfair, that Obama, as potentially the first African-American president, could not be merely okay. He needs to be a trailblazer, a great leader, and a stable hand. I saw it last night in the final presidential debate.

My touchpoint with the Obama comparisons has always been Jackie Robinson. In coming into a game from which his race had been systematically excluded, Robinson couldn’t be merely an average player. He had to be a great player. And he had to be a special kind of great player. The maybe apocryphal, doubtlessly classic story that circulates is one of Branch Rickey testing Robinson, telling him that he would be booed and cursed and have names yelled at him and be spiked and beaned and beaten up whenever possible. Robinson ultimately recoiled and asked Rickey if he wanted a ballplayer who was afraid to fight back, and Rickey indicating that no, he wanted a ballplayer who was courageous enough not to fight back. One version of the story I just googled indicates Rickey then said, “You will symbolize a crucial cause. One incident, just one incident, can set it back 20 years.”

This is the vacuum into which Barack Obama steps, whether he wants to or not. I have been very excited as a white man by the prospect of an African-American or a female president because it opens the door to a day when it won’t be NOTEWORTHY that a candidate is an African-American or is a woman. I think of John F. Kennedy, and the victory he won for his faith in 1960. It scarcely is worth noticing now if a politician is Roman Catholic. Before Kennedy, it simply was not so.

If Obama does this job the way that America needs him to, and the way that I believe he can, he will do nothing less than change the way that African-Americans are perceived by a great majority of the U.S. population. And if he does less than that, he will also change the way African-Americans are perceived. Considering the stacked deck of national misery Obama stands to inherit, this was what scared me.

And last night, it all changed. He was asked a question about the qualification of Sarah Palin to serve as President. This might have been the Jackie Robinson moment. A lesser man would’ve been offended, would’ve taken the hate and fear-mongering that the Republican campaign has thrown at him, would’ve taken the overt lack of qualification of the lovely, doubtlessly charming, and wildly underqualified Ms. Palin and would’ve balled up his metaphysical fist and gotten ugly.

Obama didn’t take the bait. He said it was up to the voters. In that moment, he was Jackie Robinson. The pitcher threw inside and he hit the dirt. But he wouldn’t charge the mound, wouldn’t even act like the incident (or in this case two years of mud-slinging, from his nationality to his faith to his name) even bothered him. He got up, got back in the batters’ box, and indicated that it was time for the game to decide the merits of the players, not the color of their skin, or their odd middle name, or their irrelevant alleged association with “dangerous radicals”.

I know how the rest of the game went many times for Robinson. He lined out base hits, stole bases, made great catches, won countless victories for his team, and was generally known as a player’s player. He was so great that even the people who were predisposed not to like him had to admire him.

I was finally convinced last night that Obama has the same quality. The United States of 2009 stands to be even more challenging that the National League of the 1940s and 1950s. But Obama is a fearless leader ready to face down the challenges. And for the first time in a while, that knowledge (althought admittedly on hold pending Election Day) makes me happy for my country.

Joe

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11 Responses to “Onto the bandwagon totally”

  1. angelic1 Says:

    another joe! wonderful analysis. thanks for joining the winning team. that’s exactly what distinguishes obama: while he’s not unable to fight, he prefers to stay above the fray. that sarah palin opening was so fraught with opportunity — to condemn her or to admire her good qualities — and obama stayed true to his own personal style. she’s doing a good enough job of proving she’s not ready. he doesn’t have to do a thing. another opportunity came when mccain lashed out at obama not having ever gone south of the border. again, a classic moment when obama could have mentioned her ONE trip abroad, but again, he didn’t. gotta love the man. your obama/robinson analogy rocks!

  2. barboo77 Says:

    Well, you know, I can’t pass up the opportunity to note I cast my first vote for Barack Obama way back in 2004. I’ve been saying as far back as ’05 that if I could handpick the next president, it would be Barack. And he’s also the first candidate that I’ve ever donated money. I tell what, I’ve been so addicted to following every ebb and flow of this election since last year that I’m going to need a drink or a cigarette when it’s finally over.

  3. barboo77 Says:

    This is Ricky on Barbara’s account, of course. Not that she isn’t an ardent Obama backer too.

  4. Amy Hilliard Says:

    Beautiful Joe! Obama ’08!

  5. Julie Says:

    Amen, amen, amen, amen! Couldn’t have said it better!

  6. Andrew Says:

    Joe, I didn’t know you were a socialist!

  7. eljoe1235 Says:

    If I’m a socialist for my views, I’m probably far from the only one.

    I’ve been called worse.

    Joe

  8. Michael Lynch Says:

    I’m not sure I’d use the phrase “wildly underqualified” in a pro-Obama post. It may not produce the desired result.

    Michael Lynch

  9. eljoe1235 Says:

    It certainly SHOULD produce the desired result. State senator over Chicago for seven years, then three years as U.S. Senator over a state of 12.8 million people certainly doesn’t show me the inexperience card…

    Now, mayor of a town of 6,000 for six years and then a year and a half of being governor for a state of 600,000 people… well, it’s more experience than I have, but less than other lesser political luminaries like David Duke or Lurleen Wallace. She is cute though.

    Joe

  10. April Says:

    Congratulations, Joe.

  11. eljoe1235 Says:

    I hope we made the right decision. I feel good about it, but ultimately, time will tell. Now the tough part begins!

    Joe

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