Friday, November 07, 2008

Transitions

The other night, in his post-victory speech, President-Elect Barack Obama noted that this was only the beginning. There's a lot of work-- and sacrifice-- ahead of us.

That sacrifice began at home for us. First off, with Senator Obama soon to become President Obama, we're losing one of our Senators. Speculation has begun over who Governor Blagojevich will appoint to fill the empty spot. One of the jokes going around Chicago is that he'll nominate himself; it's widely believed that it's only a matter of time before he's indicted for corruption.

In reality, there are a few names going around. Emil Jones, the African-American speaker of the State Senate is one of them. Another is Illinois Director of Veterans Affairs Tammy Duckworth. A couple of years ago, she was narrowly defeated in the fight for the the House seat that was opened when arch-conservative Henry "Youthful Indiscretions" Hyde retired. Another person on the short list is Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose father Mike Madigan is speaker of the Illinois House.

Another sacrifice has been my Congressman; I live in Rahm Emanuel's congressional district. It was great having a guy who was a powerhouse in the Democratic Party as my congressman. But it'll be even greater having a guy who is good at getting things done as the White House Chief of Staff.

Overall, its nice to know that I'll soon have a President who is not only very, very intelligent and open to new ideas, but will surround himself with people who are intelligent and full of ideas-- not hacks, ideologues and idiots.

As a nation, we should all step back and think about this moment, before we roll up our sleeves and set about fixing the damage of the last eight years and then moving into the future, what we've done in 232 years. Some time in the next couple of months, take an hour or so of your time and read the US Constitution. It's a remarkable-- and partly flawed-- document. It is at times brilliant, guaranteeing rights-- free speech, freedom of religion, right of peaceable assembly and other rights-- that were radical at the time, and in most of the world still not guaranteed. Some of the founders wanted slavery banned. Unfortunately, many of the founders were slaveholders. In order to get them to sign on, and to get the Southern states to join the union, slavery was allowed.

The Southern states wanted their cake and to eat it too; they wanted to count slaves when apportioning the number of House members, but not to give the enslaved people a vote. Slaves counted as 3/5's of a person when determining the state's population for the purpose of determining how many House members represented a state. At the time, this might not have seemed so peculiar; most white "free" people did not have the right to vote. The Constitution allowed the individual states to determine who voted. Most states allowed white male property owners to vote. This represented a tiny minority of the population.

Over time, suffrage has steadily increased. Non-property owners, women, African-Americans-- over time, with great struggle, the right of political participation has opened up.

Tuesday night, as i sat at my best friend Jim's house listening to Senator Obama's speech in Grant Park, I thought of a lot of things. I thought of the people who had paved the way to that moment. I thought of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner, three civil rights workers who were brutally slain in the 1964 "Freedom Summer" in Mississippi. The ringleader of the mob that killed them, Edgar Ray Killen, was finally convicted in 2005. I thought of Martin Luther King, Violet Liuzza and many others who paid the price to bring this country to living up to it's promise that "all men (and women) are created equal."

One person I also thought of was Karole, a woman I dated in the late eighties. She was one of the smartest, funniest and prettiest women I dated. She was also African-American. I'd met her one night in the Gingerman tavern. I was drinking a Foster's beer-- you know, the one that comes in a can that's about the size of the old oil cans. She turned to me and asked "What, were you a quart low?" It was probably the best opening line I ever got.

One night, I was out with her at Danny's tavern, a bar in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago. We were hanging out, talking, enjoying a beer, when a woman stopped to talk to us. She started telling us what a nice statement we were making. Finally, I stopped her. I wasn't dating Karole because she was black; I'd dated other African-American women-- and latina, jewish, catholic, white, etc. The circle I ran in was very mixed. I wasn't out with her, I pointed out to the well-meaning lady, to make a statement. I was out with my girlfriend.

When things ended with us, it was not because of the difference in our races; it was a difference in our maturity levels. I was an idiot in his twenties who was suffering from the "grass is greener" syndrome. As I finally got a little older and wiser, I regretted not having hung on to her. I was lucky that when I was ready to appreciate someone who was intelligent, funny and pretty, Kim came along.

So when I listened to Senator Obama's speech, I was moved by the history. I was moved by Jesse Jackson's tears, and came close to shedding a couple myself. Yes, it's great that we're going to have an African-American president. But most important, I'm going to have a president who is intelligent, intellectually curious, compassionate and looking out for my interests. I listened to Obama speak and thought "Hot damn-- this guy is going to be my President! Good for me!"

13 comments:

Dr. Monkey Von Monkerstein said...

Tht would be great if Tammy Duckworth got appointed to fill Obama's seat.

Bubs said...

Tammy Duckworth has my vote too. I don't think she's at the top of the list for two reasons:

1) She's not on the list of people who might run for governor against Blago--he might want to appoint a potential opponent to get them out of the way, and

2) She's not black. Blago will be under some considerable pressure to engage in some good old-fashioned northern Illinois racial politics and just plug in a suitable black candidate.

It's a shame it's up to Blago. He's the most disgusting and corrupt governor since the last governor (George Ryan, currently serving federal time) and he's perfect proof that corruption in Illinois perfectly accomodates both parties. It's even money whether he'll get indicted before his term is up.

One particularly nasty rumor going around now is that one of President Obama's first moves will be to transfer/reassign Patrick Fitzgerald as US attorney, to get him out of here so he can no longer keep prosecuting so many Daley/Blagojevich cronies.

SamuraiFrog said...

I like Tammy Duckworth, but I think Bubs is probably right as to why she's not at the top of the list.

I am pleased to see Rahm Emanuel take the Chief of Staff position. I know he had ambitions to ultimately become Speaker (which I'd have loved to see), but it's a great political choice by Obama because it addresses those vicious rumors about him siding against Israel.

dmarks said...

"but will surround himself with people who are intelligent and full of ideas-- not hacks, ideologues and idiots."

Rest assured it will happen. Every President has appointed at least some. I have heard rumors that Obama might appoint John Kerry as secretary-of-state. I sure hope not. He's a bit if a dolt. He's the one who said that the Vietnames re-education camps really were not bad at all.

Rahm? Abrasive and partisan, but not a dolt. OK choice so far.

kirby said...

Tammy Duckworth? Really? She was impressive as hell speaking at the convention.

Dale said...

Good for you, good for everyone! Nice post Johnny Yen, I love it when you think and write.

Johnny Yen said...

Dr. Monkerstein-
Yes, it would!

Bubs-
Good points. I would think that would put people who could mount a primary challenge to him on the list. Lisa Madigan, maybe?

Samurai-
Yes, he'll be great. And he can always return here and take the seat back-- it's pretty safe.

The whole thing about Jews not voting for Obama was overblown. I saw on CNN the next day that they voted for him by like 80%.

Dmarks-
Sure, there'll be poltical appointments, but not like the Bush Administration, e.g. putting someone who's a total incompetent in charge of FEMA.

I don't think most people share the assessment of Kerry as a dolt. He's actually known as a bit of an egghead. I assume you're referring to this quote:

http://www.breitbart.tv/html/3274.html

I think that taken in context, he meant that the camps were bad, but not as bad as Western countries feared they'd be. I don't think that can be construed as him saying "they weren't bad at all."

I agree with you on Emanuel. That's pretty much the chief of staff's job, isn't it?

Kirby-
I didn't see her, but I read about it. I'm impressed as hell that she bounced back from her horrific injuries in the war to do what she's done.

Dale-
Thanks!

Various pundits have pointed out that the United States, being the most militarily powerful country in the world, and having such a huge economic and cultural effect, essentially elects a president for the world. I'm reading that people around the world are breathing a sigh of relief.

yournamehere said...

I like Rahm, because he's been described as "an asshole who gets things done." We need that.

MacGuffin said...

I like the Rahm choice. Shows Obama's going to get stuff done and not be a pushover.

Freida Bee said...

Oh gosh. I just spent 45 minutes after clicking on Emanuel's Wikipedia page reading about this and that and eventually concluding that Obama's family tree is more complex than mine. This is such a relief.

Erik Donald France said...

Amen, brother!

dmarks said...

It is not Obama-bashing to say that there is a "Brownie" in the future of his administration. Every President does it.

LegalMist said...

nice post.