Editor’s Note: With just hours to go before voters went to the polls on November 4, McCain campaign robo-calls targeting heavily Cuban areas in South Florida delivered the fictional message (some might even call it “a lie”) that Fidel Castro had endorsed Barack Obama. Like the other sleazy strategems employed by the Republicans in 2008, this tactic didn’t work.
Fare thee well now,
Let your life proceed by its own design.
Nothing to tell now,
Let the words be yours, I am done with mine.
John Perry Barlow
An election that seemed nearly as endless as a George W. Bush war is now mercifully over. Voters just said “no” to a “fear and smear” campaign that threatened four more years of rule by the party whose incompetence and malfeasance brought us to a point where 85% of Americans believed we were on the wrong track.
It’s now easier to understand Michelle Obama’s newfound pride in America. And a majority of the electorate can finally share that pride.
During the Bush years, it’s been difficult to distinguish patriotism from jingoism and to be proud of our policies, either domestic or foreign. For example, Americans usually get defensive when foreigners, here or abroad, criticize U.S. actions and leadership. But when the BBC reported that an America missile had destroyed a building in Dusamareb, Somalia — which may, or may not, have housed an al-Qaida leader — along with several neighboring homes, it was hard not to feel ashamed.
Do we have the right to kill a dozen civilians, including women and children, because terrorists might be hiding nearby? In the Bush era, this sort of collateral damage has become so routine that the public has become numb to it, and the mainstream media largely ignores such tragedies.
Initially, this election looked like it might not be politics as usual. Barack Obama is a more courtly candidate than most, lacking the Clintons’ take-no-prisoners toughness. And John McCain indicated he’d eschew the sort of ruthless sleaze that Bush and the Machiavellian Karl Rove had used to derail his 2000 primary run.
But, as his prospects cratered and his desperation grew, McCain ratcheted up tactics that would have done Rove proud. In addition to losing the White House, he soiled his reputation for straight talk, independence, integrity and bipartisanship.
One McCain surrogate, the ever-amusing Minnesota congresswoman Michelle Bachmann, demanded a “penetrating exposé” of lawmakers who, like the Obamas, hold “anti-American views.” Sounding like a parody of the buffoonish Senator Johnny Iselin in “The Manchurian Candidate” (who was himself a parody of Joe McCarthy), she channeled Ann Coulter, alleging “the American people are concerned about” congressional liberals who “hate America and God.” To this, voters merely yawned.
By this point, the electorate was probably jaded by Republican name-calling. When Obama advocated rolling back the same Bush tax cuts that McCain had called “irresponsible” in 2000, he labeled Obama “a socialist.” In North Carolina, a McCain spokesman hinted he might be “a communist,” and Tom Delay called Obama “a Marxist,” as did the hyperbolic and hysterical far-right propagandist Sean Hannity.
In an MSNBC interview, one GOP strategist warned that, with Obama, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi in charge, the U.S. could become “a dictatorship.” McCain rally attendees called Obama “an Arab” and “a Muslim,” and Republican bigots warmed up McCain crowds by emphasizing his scary middle name, Hussein, while some supporters yelled “kill him.” Fortunately, most Americans said “no” to this sort of overkill as well.
To his credit, McCain kept race, including Rev. Jeremiah Wright, out of the campaign until the last few days. But the vicious right-wing media couldn’t restrain themselves. GOP-TV (Fox News) repeatedly referred to our next first lady as “Barack’s baby mama,” urban slang for unwed mother, the racism of which is unmistakable.
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