Now the real work begins
Election campaigns are one of Amer-ica’s most vital, yet most divisive, rituals. The right to choose our own leaders is a hallmark of our society, something that most of us take enormous pride in, and rightly so. Still, the process leaves us tired, wrung out and, come Election Day, ready to move on.
So it is for many Americans and many Aspenites after this dramatic 2008 election. A black presidential candidate on the Democratic side and a female vicepresidential nominee on the Republican side, huge voter turnout, unprecedented television viewership of the party conventions and presidential debates, all in a context of economic turmoil and huge challenges for this great nation, both at home and abroad.
It has been an unforgettable 2008 and, Barack Obama’s triumph will be remembered for a as a watershed moment in American politics. We can all feel somewhat lucky to have experienced it, however exhausted we might be. Because, for all the historic gravity of this election year, it has also been bitter and nasty ” not just on the presidential level, but also at the state and local levels.
A crowded ballot of state amendments and referendums played out in a confusing melee of negative television and radio advertisements, many of which were misleading or flat dishonest. Races for seats in the U.S. Senate and the Pitkin and Garfield county commissions turned surprisingly ugly. And campaign signs in the Roaring Fork Valley were defaced or destroyed when passions ran a little bit too high.
This is the dark side of American electoral politics. Undoubtedly it is good when more Americans exercise their right to vote and to advocate for their chosen issues; democracy is built on vigorous debate and argument. But too often we slide into finger-pointing, character assassination and, in the case of the defaced signs, pure vandalism. We can and should do better.
We’ll have to wait for our next campaign season to see if a civil dialogue can emerge.
If last night was any indication, perhaps this is a possibility.
It began when Sen. John McCain, gracious in his concession speech, said: “I urge all Americans who supported me to join me in not just congratulating him, but offering our next president our good will and earnest effort to find ways to come together to find the necessary compromises to bridge our differences and help restore our prosperity, defend our security in a dangerous world, and leave our children and grandchildren a stronger, better country than we inherited.
And Obama, in a riveting delivery, posed the question: “So tonight, let us ask ourselves ” if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper [who voted yesterday at the age of 106], what change will they see? What progress will we have made?” It will be up to Obama to lead Americans through a profoundly challenging time. He will absolutely have to be a uniter and not a divider.
In the same bipartisan, forward-looking spirit, we hope Americans of all political persuasions can set aside their differences and help pull this country out of the ditch.
The election is over. Now the real work begins.
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