Election Day 2008: Dr. King's Dream And Ours

05/25/2011 12:50 pm ET

I had one, final chance to reach South Carolina voters in my market this morning. One last attempt to prod them to look deeper, think more clearly and do the right thing rather than falling victim, again, to their longheld fears and biases. One final column on the op-ed page of my newspaper.

It was one of the hardest pieces I've ever had to write. I tell folks the only way a progressive columnist in the Deep South survives is with a wicked sense of humor. Most of my columns are snarky. My readers, most of them conservatives, stick with me only because they want to read the punchline. They may hate what I say, but they love the rhetorical slapstick. I couldn't deliver one today. This election is too important.

So, to paraphrase another writer, I sat down at the keyboard and opened a vein:

After a very long, ugly, and too often brutal campaign season, it seems we have arrived. Election Day. This is an election unlike any other in our history. This is a day in which we may well redefine who we are as a nation. In some ways, whatever the outcome, we already have.

Election Day 2008 falls exactly forty-five years, two months and seven days after Dr, Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke these compelling, prophetic words:

"I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal...'

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character..."

Senator Barack Obama's candidacy alone has fulfilled Dr. King's dream of a better, more inclusive America, a nation in which racism no longer crushes the dream of any American child to grow up, make the most of his/her education, work hard for deeply held principles and become a successful public servant--one elected to office by voters of all creeds and colors.

An Obama victory today will mean more than a win for the Democratic Party. It will mean more than simply and end to the Bush Era of war, corporate cronyism, scandal and the near-death of the middle class.

An Obama win will mean there are far more Americans who respond to a message of positive change and humane governance than there are those who allow racism to determine their vote. We will have risen above the absolute, immutable black/white divide.

An Obama win will mean that most Americans, at long last, have found the moral character--and the conscience--to reject the old Atwater/Rove politics of the hate- and fear-mongering campaign; the vicious, distorted name-calling campaign. It will mean we're no longer buying the dishonest, frenzied, win-at-any-cost sales pitch. It will mean idealism trumps ideology, that intelligence trumps invective.

And it will mean, overnight, that the entire world sees we are better than our behavior in the last eight years indicates we are. The Bush-era age of belligerent rhetoric, unilateralism, pre-emptive war, defiance of the U.S.-inspired Geneva Conventions, and the loss of our international moral standing, will be ended. We will still have much work to do in repairing our image abroad, but an Obama victory will jump-start the process in a way no other candidate's rise to the presidency could have done.

The path ahead won't be an easy one. We'll face more economic woes before things improve. We'll have to dig deep, sacrifice and have a little patience while a new administration begins pulling us out of the chasm dug by the previous one.

But we will have sent out a clear signal to each other and to the world about who we are. About who we want to be.

Dr. King would be proud. We have touched the dream. What remains to be seen, at the end of Election Day 2008, is whether or not we have grasped it.