As a Democrat who left one career behind in 2001 and made politics my new one after Bush was elected, who vowed to fight every wrong-headed policy foisted on America by the Bush administration, I feel a profound debt of gratitude to Sen. Obama and his family, his campaign, his tireless and devoted staff, and his volunteers and supporters across the country. As well to Hillary Clinton - who was true to those who respect and love her, proving the detractors wrong and crisscrossing the country on behalf of the Obama-Biden ticket - and to her supporters, volunteers and staffers who joined hands with their primary opponents and worked around the clock to arrive at this amazing day.
Ensconced in Hillary's war room from January 2007 to June 2008, I quickly realized what an impressive organization Barack Obama had assembled. Several of his staff and advisers were colleagues of mine at the Kerry campaign, Bill Burton, Susan Rice, and others, and I knew what a talented group it was. Also, as an early practitioner/proponent of online politics, I knew from the campaign's outset that Sen. Obama had put together a creative and innovative Internet department and as Hillary's Internet Director I had my work cut out for me.
What I didn't yet know was how centered, thoughtful and disciplined Sen. Obama would prove to be in the fierce storm of a presidential election, competing with two formidable opponents. As others have noted, it augurs well for his presidency (should tonight's results turn out as anticipated). Most importantly, I couldn't possibly know the stamina and dedication of his strategists, staff, volunteers, donors and supporters, who are poised to finally slay the dragons that defeated Gore and Kerry.
Last week I said I hoped the netroots would get their due for keeping the flame of hope alive when Bush was at record high ratings and Democrats were in the wilderness. I wrote:
One thing that shouldn't be overlooked is the tortured path to that day and the ragtag group of activists who, from the fear of knowing that America had taken a terrible turn at the dawn of a millennium, embraced a new medium and labored tirelessly, thanklessly, defending the Constitution and the rule of law. Day after day, they congregated on websites, blogs, message boards and any other online forum they could find to write, debate, argue and resist a radical administration and a lockstep Republican Party. Mocked and feared, dismissed as 'angry' and treated with disdain, they fought their opponents, fought their own party, fought the media, fought one another, all to a single end, the defense of inviolable American ideals against a brazen onslaught from a shameful and shameless administration.
When we look back at the eight years beginning with a grim night in 2000 when George W. Bush was declared the victor over Al Gore, we should give credit to those who held tough when Bush was at the height of his swagger; we should honor the 'ten percenters' who took pride in opposing Bush when his approval rating was near 90%, the media fawning over him, the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice, Ashcroft, Yoo, Addington, Wolfowitz, Rove and Gonzales holding sway over the nation, with Coulter, Hannity, Savage and Limbaugh spewing hate and liberals labeled traitors. We should acknowledge that the netroots kept hope alive when our system of checks and balances was in mortal danger, kept hope alive when civil liberties were fast becoming disposable niceties.
Reading Fred Barnes today - someone I wouldn't normally quote - I have a feeling that the influence of online progressives will be felt in the coming years:
There's an old saying that politics in America is played between the 40 yard lines. What this means, for those unfamiliar with football, is that we're a centrist country, never straying very far to the left or the right in elections or national policies. This has been true for decades. It probably won't be after today's election. For the first time since the 1960s, liberal Democrats are dominant. They are all but certain to have a lopsided majority in the House, and either a filibuster-proof Senate or something close to it. If Barack Obama wins the presidency today, they'll have an ideological ally in the White House. A sharp lurch to the left and enactment of a liberal agenda, or major parts of it, are all but inevitable.
What Barnes considers a dire warning I welcome as a long-awaited blessing. After all, the whole point of the progressive agenda is to make this a better world for all people, to make progress on the path to liberty, justice and equality.
Paul Waldman, someone who, unlike Fred Barnes, I'm happy to quote, makes a great point about voting:
[F]or a day, we can remove the heavy cloak of cynicism that covers us for the rest of the year. For a day, we can revel in our own participation, and feel ourselves not subjects but citizens, the very embodiment of the democratic promise. For a day, we can indulge our fondest hopes, we can expect that new leadership will transform our nation, we can ask "Why not?" to what we want our country to be and believe that the question will be answered. There will be plenty of time later for doubt and disgruntlement.
If you have children, take them to the polls with you. Remind them that for most of human history, people had no say in who would lead them, that violence and fear determined who controlled the institutions of power. Tell them that even in our own country, founded on the most noble of democratic principles, people have had to labor and protest and fight and even die to secure this right for themselves and for others. Tell them that there are many things you can do to exercise your citizenship, but this is one thing you must do. Tell them that election day is when you act not for yourself but for your community and your country. Tell them that although campaigns can be small and mean, election day is when our nation can also be bound by hope.
So today, as I vote for President Obama, with history at my fingertips, I want to say THANK YOU to everyone who worked so damn hard to elect him and Democrats across the nation.
Follow Peter Daou on Twitter: www.twitter.com/peterdaou