Political Science Fiction by Celeste Whiting
Everyone had left the hall except the Secret Service and Obama, who lingered behind the podium. He was reviewing his notes and looking up at the balcony seats. It had been a spectacular rally -- a momentum builder.
"Excuse me, Senator Obama. Have you got a minute?"
"No, but I have hope, the hope that we can change America," he bellowed past me.
"I just need a moment," I said.
"Alright then, how can I help you?" he boomed from the podium, sending his words to the back of the hall.
"I really feel pessimistic about the 'change' meme. It's value neutral. Who gets to decide what our common values are? What if I don't like your version of 'change'," I asked him.
"Change in America will be a balm for the broken spirit, a turning of the tide, a reckoning of accounts," he bellowed. "It will be the moment we seek our better selves in service to the best we can become."
He paused. "And it will be hard," he told the empty balcony seats.
I approached the dais and with Obama's nod the Secret Service let me climb aboard the soapbox with the Senator. The view was grand, inspiring even. The sort of thing TV preachers seek to fill every Sunday. But Obama was managing it day after day, state after state.
"Senator, I respect your passion and your sincerity, but people can't eat hope or change," I said. "Hope doesn't prevent swindling mortgage brokers or outsourcing America's manufacturing base."
"Hope is like a tiny seed..."
"Hope doesn't feed hungry children whose parents have been unemployed for over a year," I said.
"I'm asking you to believe in your ability to bring forth change in Washington," he said slowly, gathering his papers and starting for the door.
"You know, you could talk specifics. Give a sense of how you will accomplish what," I said.
"I think when people are sufficiently inspired by my message, they will seek and find the details that support my vision and their hope for change," he said. "It's all on the website."
Shaking my hand, looking into my eyes, he repeated, "I am asking you to believe in your ability to bring forth change in Washington."
He descended the stage flanked by Secret Service and I was alone in the hall. His message was still echoing. Hope. Change. Believe. Change. Hope. A formula for stirring the masses of frustrated, fed-up voters of all ages, races, income levels. A recipe for electoral stone soup. Bring your agenda and drop it in the change-hope-believe pot. Cast your vote and maybe, come next year, things will be better.