"We have been told we cannot do this by a chorus of cynics who will only grow louder and more dissonant".
Senator Obama spoke these words in New Hampshire last January, it seemed appropriate to revisit them given that over the past two weeks this chorus of cynics has grown in both volume and ridiculousness. The McCain campaign is determined to define Senator Obama's candidacy and the tremendous outpouring of grass roots support as something superficial. Cynically, they dismiss the candidate as a celebrity, and his supporters as a bunch of groupies. What they don't attempt to account for is the substance not only behind the candidate but also behind the grass roots apparatus that supports him. It is in their benefit not to.
It has become increasingly clear that the McCain campaign and the Republican Party are scared of us.
Not the MoveOn crowd or the Democratic activists who have no doubt been a reliable and tremendous asset to the Democratic Party. They were ready for them, ready to paint them as radical liberals. What the McCain campaign didn't anticipate is people like Virginia Davis, Lee Pham, Shawna Eldridge, Jonta Williams, Jordan Thomas, Maxim Thorne and Roberta Semar. This group of grass roots volunteers responded to the Obama campaign's "Listening to America" initiative and rallied dozens of NYObama volunteers to assist in organizing three Platform Events in New York.
The McCain campaign is scared of the 160 attendees in Queens, 200 in Brooklyn, nearly 300 in Manhattan. Participants who came out to be speak, and in the process were given the opportunity to listen to each other. Former City Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge observed that
"Those who testified were caring, insistent and knowledgeable, and when they related their personal stories, very touching. They spoke with conviction and some with anger. What was most astounding to me was the diversity of both the audiences and those who spoke".
The diversity of the audience was only matched by the diversity of topics covered. From healthcare to the environment, education to foreign aid, election reform to animal cruelty, equal pay to "no more pre-emptive wars!" Creative proposals like a "Marshal Plan for Education" and a "Nova Program for Energy" were shared as was a bill that details an institution that specializes in training the next generation of public servants, The Us Public Service Academy. Clinton and Obama delegates listened; volunteers took notes as well as video footage of the testimonies to be returned to the campaign and final platform drafting committee.
Lee Pham, President of Cardoza College Democrats, theorized,
"The change that we seek is to be a part of the process as opposed to subjects of the process."
Not everyone who spoke was an Obama supporter, and yet, the Obama campaign provided Americans from across the country with the opportunity to play a critical role in the process. I know of a Libertarian-leaning small business owner who hosted his own platform event in Indianapolis, Indiana.
These events confirm that Senator Obama is requesting more than just our votes; he is asking us to commit to being the change we seek. The hundreds who came out in New York are a testament to the willingness of the American public is to lend their assistance, to be a part of the process.
The McCain campaign's recent advertisements make a mockery of the political process. For the more cynical, I suppose it must be easier to assume that the individuals who come out to hear Senator Obama speak are groupies rather than concerned citizens. I suppose it's easier to stomach the idea of 200,000 Germans in Berlin gathering for a free concert, or to see "the one", than it is to believe that they were there to embrace the idea of what America could be again. Senator Obama addressed them as "a proud citizen of the United States and a fellow citizen of the world". They want America to be what it always promised to be, a beacon of hope that will inspire and compel other nations to realize that we have a vested interest in one another.
Senator McCain can't compete with that.
Rather than try, his campaign has resorted to ridicule as their primary means of defining both Senator Obama and the people who support him. They're coming after me and you. It's insulting, but it's all they've got.
The Republican Party knows that they can't compete with the volunteers in New York who are already anticipating and planning for canvassing trips to New Hampshire and Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. They discredit us as celebrity-worshipers and hope that undecided voters will do the same so they don't have to. They dismiss our candidate as a celebrity without acknowledging the opportunities that are unique to his candidacy. I can attest to the fact that an Obama Presidency provides the American people with the chance to engage a new generation of active participants. The message that he brings to the White House will resonate for years and decades to come so that ten years from you will see kids aspiring to be politicians instead of celebrities...aspiring to change the world instead of the channel.
I can attest to the effectiveness of Senator Obama's message because my involvement is a product of his candidacy. Prior to this election, my lack of political involvement was never a result of laziness or apathy; rather, it was a response to a notion perpetuated by society that insisted that young people were incapable of making a difference. Senator Obama has inspired Americans to shed their cynicism and recognize that our history is comprised of ordinary Americans doing extraordinary things. He has asked us to build upon their legacy, working towards an America where there is no black or white, red or blue...an America where our attributes don't impede on our ability to pursue opportunity. His policies and the conduct of his campaign reflect this aim.
While inspiration has been labeled "empty" by the McCain campaign, the fact remains that words carry the power to compel people to engage in actions that they might otherwise reject. I will gladly concede that my involvement was sparked by a speech, but it didn't end there, and it won't end with this election.
I only wish that the Republican Party could find pride in this "phenomenon". It is a victory for America. Although they may counter it's affects in this election with trivial ads, the long term effects of how we've changed, of how eager we are to participate, is undeserving of their ridicule. Take it in stride; we'll see who gets the last laugh.