You must read this, and now. It is an encapsulation of how I feel, and why I felt let down in myself when I voted for Obama yesterday.
My sister, and others, tell me that you can't live in Fantasy-Land, you have to live in reality. And my belief in the unreality of the change Obama brings is interpreted as cynicism -- when I view it is optimism of a rather different sort. As Larson points out, by the standards of political realism, those who wished to stop slavery had no hope, and for a long time, no candidate. Larson says
...if in your heart you feel your true beliefs are at great variance with Obama's record and apparent sympathies, then I would submit that you have a moral duty to express yourself honestly, by voting for an alternative candidate who better reflects your opinions.
In that way, political cultures change. Causes like ending slavery, womens's suffrage, the trade unionist movement, and racial civil rights all began in the streets and with political outsiders. Who today would argue that persons advocating those interests should have ignored principle and accepted contrary conventional political realities?
During a 1924 debate on the death penalty, opponent Clarence Darrow noted the many torturous forms of punishment once common. "Gradually, the world has been lopping off these punishments," he said. "...[T]he only way we got rid of these laws was because juries were too humane to obey the courts."
Just so, electoral progress in the public interest begins with appropriately-voting citizens.
Now, I don't expect my friends to agree with me. But as I see their point, I wish they would see mine as something other than "fantasy land" or wistful thinking or waiting for perfection or engaging in an absolutism of progressive politics. If indeed was must be audacious, as Obama says, should I not be audacious enough to hope that a candidate in line with my beliefs should have a chance some day? That someone like Nader or Kucinich, with whom I have disagreements but of a radically lesser extent than with the people who actually lead us would have a chance? Is that naive? Or is it hopeful? Who gets to decide when I'm following Obama's message of hope and when I am being too silly, too demanding, too audacious for change?
I can be happy for what today represents, but I guess it's hard for me because I feel lonely in my feeling of what was also lost for me personally in my vote. I believe in what Larson is saying, and I can be happy for symbolism if others would take the time to accept and respond to Larson's and other's point other than dismissing it is, essentially, hogwash or extremism. I go out of my way not to dismiss the legitimate reasons for voting for Obama, maybe I don't succeed and I sound too dismissive. But simply being called cynical or starry-eyed is not a very satisfying or encouraging response. When I say what I say about Obama, people don't talk to me about (with one exception -- Go D!) going forward together to get to changes I see, they talk about accepting what is today. They talk about how much worse McCain would be. That's all well and good, but you know what? I will be inspired and hopeful despite my feelings on the somewhat futility of symbolism if people who disagree with me, rather than expressing bewildering bemusement, tell me how we can work with and on Obama to not simply slow down things going wrong, or have a moderate agenda, but rather when they tell me they will work with me to accomplish our wildest dreams, to push for a world where our "progressive" candidate is not menacing Pakistan and backing free trade rather than fair trade. When we say we will work together to make hunger a bigger issue than terrorism, while millions of children die each year from hunger in a world with surplus food while thousands of people die from the no less, but no more tragic incidences of terrorism.
I thank D for that, for being pumped about it, and trying to keep me pumped about it -- for, essentially, making the positive case on meeting our ideals. But as far as I can tell, she's the only one so far, the only one who doesn't say "But look who we have now!" or "Be real!" or "You can't achieve perfection!" or simply ignore or shrug off the history even our most "liberal" presidents have of ending up unindicted war criminals (like Carter helping Indonesia wipe out a bunch of its indigenous population).
I, myself, am going to have the audacity to hope for perfection. And as my many accomplished friends know, you don't get to "good" or "very good" by shooting for them; you get to be great by shooting for awesome, and get to awesome by shooting for the stars. I believe that, "Yes, we can!" reach the stars. If I can believe you're with me, then I can believe in the triumph of today.