The Democratic Party is broken. In fact, I don't think too many people would disagree with me if I were to say that, right now, the entire country is not in particularly good shape. Ever since that terrible September morning in New York -- which had the most shockingly beautiful blue sky I ever remember seeing in my city -- I'm not sure we have even gotten close to being who we were or, at least, who we hoped we were. What makes that even more sad is that, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum, today should be a truly glorious day. After last night, America really never will be quite the same -- and that's a good thing. I would even argue that it's a great thing.
But, in the spirit of full disclosure, I have been a supporter of Senator Clinton throughout the primary season. Her tactics have often annoyed and sometimes even disgusted me, but I still thought she would be the most effective president during a time when the country seems to need grit and determination and the grinding tedium of hard work to get ourselves back on track. Unfortunately, I think she and Senator Obama have been caught up in a bizarre maelstrom of non-stop punditry and over-analysis and media-fed miscommunication -- most of which has just made me feel like going somewhere and lying down with a cool cloth on my forehead.
Everywhere I have gone today -- both in the real world, and in the peculiar, highly charged environment known as the Internet -- instead of celebrating the fact that we've been catapulted into a new era, people seem short-tempered and tense and confused. When you think about it, that's really quite heartbreaking. And, day after day, the division between the two competing halves of the Democratic Party seems to be growing even more ugly and intractable.
One often hears the question "What can Senator Obama do to unify this vast sea of wildly opinionated, intensely involved citizens?" I have a very simple suggestion, which -- at first glance -- will sound rather banal and meaningless. I respectfully ask anyone who happens to read this to stop and take a second glance.
There is simply no way for the deplorable wounds of racism and sexism to be erased during a single campaign season, no matter how groundbreaking it truly is, in so many ways. But, I have been waiting for Senator Obama to do something -- anything --that would make me say, okay, it isn't just pretty words, or the fervent wistful projections of a battered populace, but that he really is capable of bold, transformational action.
I would love, for example, for Senator Obama to be able to take Al Gore's graceful and elegant position on gay marriage, but I recognize that it would not be an act of wisdom during a heated election. But, there is actually a different, long-dormant issue that still lurks, privately, as a tremendous disappointment to millions of Americans -- myself among them.
It's a blast from the past, but remember the ERA? There are many people who will probably think, oh, please, that is such old news -- but, you know, it isn't. It mattered then, and it matters now, even though no one ever mentions it anymore. What if Senator Obama came out and said that one of his first acts as president would be to do everything in his power to bring the ERA back, and try to get it ratified, once and for all? Yes, I suppose it seems like ancient history, but the words are very simple: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex." At the time, many people found the entire concept irrationally terrifying, but does it still seem scary and radical? Or does it just seem -- logical?
And is it within the realm of possibility that if Senator Obama took that position, openly and proudly, a statistically significant percentage of Senator Clinton's most devoted and intelligent supporters would suddenly feel much more comfortable with -- and maybe even enthusiastic about -- his candidacy? I will be honest -- it would certainly make a difference to me. It would be a symbolic gesture, but an important one.
Would those 24 words end the war in Iraq, fix the economy, or provide universal health care for one and all?
No. But, those 24 words matter.
They always have.
They still do.