Obama’s Legacy, Decision and November 8, 2016

I am giving up almost this entire blog post to the words and images of people other than myself.  I will have my say here and there but this is an opportunity to review where we stand as a nation at this moment.  Any reader can see some of my own political views in general here and here.  My comments on the Obama administration include post like this and this. There are many other posts where I have tried to make things clear as to where I stand, what I think and what needs to be done. On this particular election I have had  a few posts including this one and this one.  I was fairly early to recognize the significance of the trump campaign and posted that here.  At that time much of world opinion had hardened against Donald Trump already — although others were excited by his bid for office. The recent post I did  almost entirely on the election was fairly summary and brief. But for America this week is not the week when the larger changes I would like to see will be set into motion. It is an election where we hope that a new President will be brought peacefully into office.

So I yield the bulk of this post to others not because I have nothing to say. But because I am not on the ballot.

trump-and-hillary

The election to be held on November 8, 2016 is not likely to be the kind of international event that Obama’s first inauguration was. It is not likely to have the same sense of history even if Hillary is elected. The Obama presidency has been historic. The opposition does not contest all points of his presidential achievements but only some of them. Countless times I have heard the question raised in my life as to whether we would ever have a Black President of the United States. Now we have had a President who identified as Black for eight years. The record of his presidency belongs forever to history and not to conjecture. The United States has survived as a recognizable constitutional and sovereign nation. Beyond that things do get debatable.  The images below from the White House website are real images not subject to being discredited over time. The world witnessed this transition to power and it has its place in history.

There is a lot of discussion about the lack of civility in this electoral cycle. But in fact that is not so intensely concerning in and of itself as the context in which that lack of civility occurs. The fact is that communication between disparate groups, a real understanding of federalism, the courage to deal with the pressures and demands of our specific form of constitutionalism– these are realities which may anger, discourtesy and discord more dangerous. The dangers of things coming apart from the costly and unpleasant burdens of reality are really enormous dangers. Back in 1860 few if any Americans expected the cataclysm which was about to engulf the nation.  Even once they conceded that war was a formal likely hood on paper and maybe  probable on the field most Americans believed that if started it would end quickly with their side victorious.  James Chestnut, South Carolina’s senator and the famous Confederate  diarist Mary’s husband, offered to personally drink all the blood shed in the struggle. What happened was an all out clash of millions and an ordeal of years. William J. Cooper Jr.’s book, We Have the War Upon Us does a good job of capturing the sense of that precipice on which America stood. Perhaps the most important lesson to learn from the last year or so before the actual shooting started  is how unexpected it seemed to so many.

There is no way to reach any really clear assessment of the Obama Presidency just yet.  He may have saved us from a Great Depression, maybe not. He may have done much better in the War on Terror than his predecessor who allowed the attacks on 9/11 which changed us so much. Or he may be responsible for disasters which have engulfed Egypt, Syria, Turkey, Iraq, Jordan, Iran, Israel, Libya and Tunisia and other countries in a struggle which will endure for generations. He may have solved the fundamental problems of our healthcare crisis or he may have plunged us deeper into a new healthcare crisis. Certainly there will be no answers that satisfy those who are the most demanding observers and analysts  right now. But the election is not in fifty or a hundred years. The election of the next President of the United States is Tuesday. There were fewer prominent Democrats on my ballot than I ever remember seeing in so many races and I usually vote  for at least a few Democrats but this time I voted almost entirely for Republicans. However, I did vote for Chris Keniston for President of the United States. His Veterans Party will not take the White House however. So who will take it?  Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will almost certainly take the Presidency. I am not happy with who we leave behind nor either option to which we now proceed. But I do hope that we will  have a  peaceful transition to a new administration.

So what do people say about where we need to go from the Obama administration? Well, here is what the principal  Republican website says:

When RNC Chairman Reince Priebus laid out his vision for Republican leadership, he outlined the Principles for American Renewal.

These are the core principles that unite and drive the Republican Party. These are the core principles that inform and inspire our policymaking. And these are the core principles that we need to get our country back on track.

Pick the three Principles for American Renewal that are most important to you:
CONSTITUTION: Our Constitution should be preserved, valued and honored.
ECONOMY: We need to start growing America’s economy instead of Washington’s economy so that working Americans see better wages and more opportunity.
BUDGET/DEBT: We need to pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution, make government more efficient, and leave the next generation with opportunity, not debt.
HEALTHCARE: We need to start over with real healthcare reform that puts patients and their doctors in charge, not unelected bureaucrats in Washington.
VETERANS: Our veterans have earned our respect and gratitude, and no veteran should have to wait in line for months or years just to see a doctor.
SECURITY: Keeping America safe and strong requires a strong military, growing the economy, energy independence, and secure borders.
EDUCATION: Every child should have an equal opportunity to get a great education; no parent should be forced to send their child to a failing school.
POVERTY: The best anti-poverty program is a strong family and a good job, so our focus should be on getting people out of poverty by lifting up all people and helping them find work.
VALUES: Our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty, and hard work.
ENERGY: We should make America energy independent by encouraging investment in domestic energy, lowering prices, and creating jobs at home.
IMMIGRATION: We need an immigration system that secures our borders, upholds the law, and boosts our economy.

The values and principles outlined in this quote surely resonate with many Americans and with many others around the world. The  Republicans represent the values and beliefs which a huge section of the country hold most dear in political terms. The Democrats also represent very important values which Americans hold dear.  the entire country will have to live under the leadership of one of these parties or a divided government of the two parties for the next four years as we move from Obama to something else. So what does the other side have to say?

Hillary Clinton has set out her views about what America should be doing too in speeeches as has Trump. But I am going past the candidates in both cases.   The Democrats also have put out a lengthy platform. The Preamble is reproduced below:

Preamble
In 2016, Democrats meet in Philadelphia with the same basic belief that animated the Continental Congress when they gathered here 240 years ago: Out of many, we are one.

Under President Obama’s leadership, and thanks to the hard work and determination of the American people, we have come a long way from the Great Recession and the Republican policies that triggered it. American businesses have now added 14.8 million jobs since private-sector job growth turned positive in early 2010. Twenty million people have gained health insurance coverage. The American auto industry just had its best year ever. And we are getting more of our energy from the sun and wind, and importing less oil from overseas.

But too many Americans have been left out and left behind. They are working longer hours with less security. Wages have barely budged and the racial wealth gap remains wide, while the cost of everything from childcare to a college education has continued to rise. And for too many families, the dream of homeownership is out of reach. As working people struggle, the top one percent accrues more wealth and more power. Republicans in Congress have chosen gridlock and dysfunction over trying to find solutions to the real challenges we face. It’s no wonder that so many feel like the system is rigged against them.

Democrats believe that cooperation is better than conflict, unity is better than division, empowerment is better than resentment, and bridges are better than walls.

It’s a simple but powerful idea: we are stronger together.

Democrats believe we are stronger when we have an economy that works for everyone—an economy that grows incomes for working people, creates good-paying jobs, and puts a middle-class life within reach for more Americans. Democrats believe we can spur more sustainable economic growth, which will create good-paying jobs and raise wages. And we can have more economic fairness, so the rewards are shared broadly, not just with those at the top. We need an economy that prioritizes long-term investment over short-term profit-seeking, rewards the common interest over self-interest, and promotes innovation and entrepreneurship.

We believe that today’s extreme level of income and wealth inequality—where the majority of the economic gains go to the top one percent and the richest 20 people in our country own more wealth than the bottom 150 million—makes our economy weaker, our communities poorer, and our politics poisonous.

And we know that our nation’s long struggle with race is far from over. More than half a century after Rosa Parks sat and Dr. King marched and John Lewis bled, more than half a century after César Chávez, Dolores Huerta, and Larry Itliong organized, race still plays a significant role in determining who gets ahead in America and who gets left behind. We must face that reality and we must fix it.

We believe a good education is a basic right of all Americans, no matter what zip code they live in. We will end the school-to-prison pipeline and build a cradle-to-college pipeline instead, where every child can live up to his or her God-given potential.

We believe in helping Americans balance work and family without fear of punishment or penalty. We believe in at last guaranteeing equal pay for women. And as the party that created Social Security, we believe in protecting every American’s right to retire with dignity.

We firmly believe that the greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior on Wall Street must be brought to an end. Wall Street must never again be allowed to threaten families and businesses on Main Street.

Democrats believe we are stronger when we protect citizens’ right to vote, while stopping corporations’ outsized influence in elections. We will fight to end the broken campaign finance system, overturn the disastrous Citizens United decision, restore the full power of the Voting Rights Act, and return control of our elections to the American people.

Democrats believe that climate change poses a real and urgent threat to our economy, our national security, and our children’s health and futures, and that Americans deserve the jobs and security that come from becoming the clean energy superpower of the 21st century.

Democrats believe we are stronger and safer when America brings the world together and leads with principle and purpose. We believe we should strengthen our alliances, not weaken them. We believe in the power of development and diplomacy. We believe our military should be the best-trained, best-equipped fighting force in the world, and that we must do everything we can to honor and support our veterans. And we know that only the United States can mobilize common action on a truly global scale, to take on the challenges that transcend borders, from international terrorism to climate change to health pandemics.

Above all, Democrats are the party of inclusion. We know that diversity is not our problem—it is our promise. As Democrats, we respect differences of perspective and belief, and pledge to work together to move this country forward, even when we disagree. With this platform, we do not merely seek common ground—we strive to reach higher ground.

We are proud of our heritage as a nation of immigrants. We know that today’s immigrants are tomorrow’s teachers, doctors, lawyers, government leaders, soldiers, entrepreneurs, activists, PTA members, and pillars of our communities.

We believe in protecting civil liberties and guaranteeing civil rights and voting rights, women’s rights and workers’ rights, LGBT rights, and rights for people with disabilities. We believe America is still, as Robert Kennedy said, “a great country, an unselfish country, and a compassionate country.”

These principles stand in sharp contrast to the Republicans, who have nominated as the standard-bearer for their party and their candidate for President a man who seeks to appeal to Americans’ basest differences, rather than our better natures.

The stakes have been high in previous elections. But in 2016, the stakes can be measured in human lives—in the number of immigrants who would be torn from their homes; in the number of faithful and peaceful Muslims who would be barred from even visiting our shores; in the number of allies alienated and dictators courted; in the number of Americans who would lose access to health care and see their rights ripped away.

This election is about more than Democrats and Republicans. It is about who we are as a nation, and who we will be in the future.

Two hundred and forty years ago, in Philadelphia, we started a revolution of ideas and of action that continues to this day. Since then, our union has been tested many times, through bondage and civil war, segregation and depression, two world wars and the threat of nuclear annihilation. Generations of Americans fought and marched and organized to widen the circle of opportunity and dignity—and we are fighting still.

Despite what some say, America is and has always been great—but not because it has been perfect. What makes America great is our unerring belief that we can make it better. We can and we will build a more just economy, a more equal society, and a more perfect union—because we are stronger together.

 

So where is America today on the verge of this election? Do we have any real idea how we are to make things not only functional but in fact successful in dealing with new and rising challenges? I think we have a lot going for us but we face a lot of very serious challenges as well. Today, besides being All Saints Day is the last day of Early Voting in Louisiana. I will be going to Mass if possible in a few minutes. This evening the polls where I voted  last week will close until Election Day. Then we will see what happens next. We will keep seeing it for a long time….

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