Friday, December 19, 2008

Lessons at the End of The Long and Winding 2008 Campaign Trail

December 19th, 2008

My Dear America:

"It is Over", a sign read in a long distant Presidential Campaign of many decades past. That sign was a sad one. A depressing one, announcing the burial of George McGovern by Richard Nixon in a landslide victory that still stands as one of the most stunning presidential campaign defeats of all time in the political history of the United States. Clearly if Nixon had simply campaigned above board and on the level he still would have won a convincing victory over George McGovern in 1972. But Richard Nixon was a very strange character and he saw the world in a very disturbed way. He saw and felt enemies everywhere and that was his downfall. Certainly he had his share of enemies but they were nowhere near as dangerous nor as powerful as he was and in the end his paranoia killed what might have been and in some significant ways still is a Presidency of enormous accomplishments. Nixon opened the door to China and although the Chinese are killing us in the marketplace there is much less tension in the world since Tricky Dick opened the door to China. But far more memorable than Nixon in China is Nixon's involvement in "Watergate", a burglary that came to symbolize the worst of what politics is capable of becoming.

"It is Over" once again in December of 2008 and this time the mood among left leaning Liberal Democrats is far different that the mood of 1972.

It is no longer a view of hopelessness and continued death and destruction in the world. It is, in fact, a view of hope for the future and a turning around of the destructive and mind numbing policies of the George W. Bush era.

Clearly there are Countless Lessons that can be learned by the Triumphant Victory of Barack Obama in the Election of 2008. What I am going to try to do is to discuss some of those lessons that I see as most significant.

Lesson 1 - The United States of America is truly No Longer a Racist Nation

Certainly that statement could not always be truthfully said about America. Our tortured past includes a history of slavery in America that is beyond shameful. Slavery in America has not only been tolerated it has been responsible for incredible brutality against human beings. This legacy of brutality was mainly in the southern states during our country's infancy but slavery was also tolerated in the northern states, as well, during the early years of our country. When I recently watched the HBO Television Mini-Series, "John Adams", I was struck by the fact that many of the signers of "The Declaration of Independence" and the United States "Constitution" had slaves waiting outside of Independence Hall to pick up their masters after a hard day of figuring out how to keep Americans from becoming slaves to the English King. Fighting for Freedom to many of our American Forefathers, however, did not mean fighting for Freedom for all Americans, merely for white Americans.

For many years after the American Revolution the system of slavery continued in The United States of America. In fact, two of our most beloved Patriots and Presidents, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson not only defended slavery but were themselves practicing slave owners.

The United States of America, in fact, had to wait until the Presidency of Abraham Lincoln before an American President had the bravery and decency to insist that the practice of slavery was not consistent with the American tradition of Freedom. Lincoln freed the slaves and got a Civil War Victory but his personal reward was a bullet fired by a racist actor who became a hero to many southerners.

Luckilly, for Black Americans, Lincolns death did not resurrect slavery but the residue of slavery continued to contaminate mainly the southern states throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. For long periods of time even up to and including the 1950's, blacks, who were supposedly free, ended up being killed in many types of murderous ways in the American South and even at times in the northern states, as well. For several generations of southerners Lynching became something of a southern tradition, which sometimes led to photographs being taken of smiling whites in front of a hanged, charred and mutilated human being. The truth is that were it not for the bravery of Martin Luther King and his followers and the dawning of the Television Age Lynching might still be the continuing sport of racist southerners who feel nothing but contempt and anger for people of color.

Martin Luther King went the way of many other freedom fighters, however. He, also took a racist bullet the day after he wisely predicted that his death was near and that his people, like those of Moses, would "get to the Promised Land."

Certainly there is evidence that in certain pockets of America, racism is alive and well and just as dangerous and insidious as ever. We even have reverse racism, which in today's society black gang members are just as feared and many times just as deadly as white racists. Racism is not as widespread or as blatently deadly as it used to be between blacks and whites. But racism is still alive and can still be just as deadly as it ever was.

That being said, there is something to be thankful for as we now see Barack Obama getting ready to lead our nation during the next four years. To be honest I was not sure just how racist a nation we were. I heard racist statements being made during this past election by people who surprised me by their level of hostility to Barack Obama. I did not know if, in fact, Obama's positive qualities could, in the end, win out over racism in America. Barack's election indicated that racism, while certainly not dead, was not the most important factor in the election of an American President.

LESSON 2 - In an Increasingly Unstable World, It is Encouraging to Realize
that the United States of America is Capable of Changing its Government in an Orderly and Calm Manner by Informed Voting And a Bloodless Coup.

Certainly our Forefathers, the Leaders of the American Revolution and the Writers and Signers of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution were brave and honest men. Some of them were also brilliant and scholarly men.

Some were also slaveholders and some, although they respected women, would never have entertained the idea that a woman would someday vote, never mind the fact that one day a woman might someday run for President of The United States and very nearly win the Presidency.

Certainly many of those same early Forefathers also never thought that The Presidency of the United States would be actually won by a Black Man. In a society, much of which was based on Slavery, the idea of a black man voting was outrageous enough. The idea of a Black Man running against a White Woman for the Presidency in 2008 was surely a concept that none of our Forefathers could even have dreamed could happen. Surely those were ideas that out Forefathers could not and would not fathom yet here we are today with a Black Man about to take the Oath of Office for the Presidency of The United States.

While we Americans in 2008, ready to leap forward to 2009, can hardly fathom the world that our American Forefathers lived in, we need to be grateful for many of their decisions regarding the country which they created and lived in. Because of these strange and divergent individuals living in a difficult period of time in a world far different from ours they could have looked the other way and accepted the difficult hand they were dealt. They did, for a time, do just that but as black hearted rulers tend to do, King George pushed our forefathers to the limit and beyond. And beyond that limit was waiting a Democracy the likes of which the world had never known. Beyond that limit was America.

It is difficult for most of us who were born and raised in America to understand what the rest of the world is like outside of America. No country is more free, more generous or as welcoming as America. While many countries of the world have difficulty keeping their residents from trying to escape their borders, America has the opposite problem. In Amereica anyone who wants to get out is free to do so. Our problem is that those fleeing from other countries are looking to get into, not out of America.

How do we as Americans over 200 years down the line from our country's birth understand the miracle country America always was and continues to be. To be sure it is at least partly a miracle that America still exists, never mind the fact that America is truly a leader in the world. Despite its troubles and handicaps America still continues to be the leader in almost every way in the year of 2008. A reminder of America's leadership in the world is what has happened to the economy of the world in the waning months of 2008. When America's economy took a nose dive so did the economies of nearly every country in the world.

In December of 2008 we are still in serious economic trouble but we have been there before and we will undoubtedly be there again in future years but who do the worlds economies look to to lead the way out of economic turmoil. America, thats who.

After 8 years of Bush era deregulation turning Wall Street and the American banking system into a money making machine in which there were no rules other than "getting rich quick". To be honest it is amazing tha the economic collapse took this long to occur.

On the plus side, however, is the fact that the economic meltdown seems to have put Barack Obama in the enviable position of being the one Last Candidate Standing who seemed to have ideas other than those which had been in operation for Bush's 8 unbearable years of American decline. John McCain claimed to have all the economic answers but his answers seemed foolish and awkward at best and at worst, answers guaranteed to keep the rich richer and the middle class poorer and the country in awful shape.

An economic system with the kind of money on the line that America had was one more thing that would have been hard for our American Patriotic forefathers to predict. How did they know then just how to set up a Democratic Government that would be capable of continuing itself from 1776 to 2008 and beyond. A good question, certainly but one which is difficult to answer.

Surely having intellectuals like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and John Adams didn't hurt. Also having brilliant soldiers like George Washington didn't hurt either. Clearly there were a lot of factors that these lonely rebels had to think about in setting forth a new country. Surely they must have all thought that there chance was a slight one to end up building a solidly democratic new country. It must have at least entered their minds that their chances of starting a new democratic nation was much less likely than their ending up on the hanging end of a rope.

But they did it, those brilliant brave buggers. They accomplished the impossible and now every four years we accomplish the impossible too. Our country goes through the painful throes of an election every four years and we come out of it shaken but willing to accept the verdict of the American people, whatever that verdict might be. And before, after and during the elections we praise our Forefathers once again for being smart enough and brave enough to do what they did in America so many years ago. They probably didn't even dream of how capable they were of establishing a Democratic Government capable of continuing itself. But they were capable in their time and we are capable in ours of bringing forth a new and charismatic leader, whose leadership ability seems to have blurred the lines of color in America and hopefull will be able to lead us once again to peaceful economic security.

Lesson 3 - The Majority of American Voters wanted the United States Millitary Forces out of Iraq.

Clearly it does not take a genius to figure out that Americans are tired of sacrificing the lives of our soldiers in Iraq. Iraq was a misadventure from the beginning. Certainly Saddam Hussein was a brutal dicator who needed to be watched closely and when the time came gotten rid of in one way or another. What Bob Woodward makes clear in his book, "Bush at War", is that George W.Bush and probably Dick Cheney had their eye on invading Iraq and toppling Saddam from the first days of their Administration. Bush had put out the word to his Top Pentagon officials long before 9/11 that he wanted to see a plan for the invasion of Iraq. That plan was prepared but interrupted by the 9/11 attacks and the response to that attack in Afghanistan. But after gaining wide support for the Afghanistan mission, Bush took his eye off that ball and lasered in on Iraq, where he claimed the mission was to defuse "weapons of mass destruction" first. Then when it became obvious to the world that this reason to invade Iraq was not flying and that we should get out of this misadventure then came new reasons for us to be in Iraq. "Regime change" and "to bring democracy to the middle east" sudenly popped up as the new reasons for the USA to be in Iraq.

The United States Armed Forces have been fighting in Iraq longer than we have been fighting in any other US war. I often wonder how long it would take me or you to become a terrorist if another country, lets say Canada, invaded the United States deposed our president and made it a policy of shooting our neighbors, at will and kicking in the doors to our homes in the middle of the night to cart off our relatives or ourselves to Abu Garib or Guantanamo. How would I respond to a week or two or a month or so in Abu Garib, if I was lucky enough to make it out alive or not be sent to Guantanamo. Our policy in Iraq was clearly from the first moment to depose Saddam and prevent his sons from continuing the brutal legacy of Saddam's family. To be honest this was probably not a bad goal in many ways. The trouble was that this was not our country to do with as we pleased. We were, and as of today's date continue to be, occupiers of this land of brutality where civilization started and, god forbid, may be finishing.

Yes, of course, nobody misses Saddam in Iraq except his syncophants. We are all glad he is gone but what a price our millitary and the Iraqi people paid to get rid of this monster. Now to the Iraqi people it must look as though we are the monsters. Any and every poll taken regarding what Iraqi's want in terms of our forces are overwhelmingly in favor of the United States Armed forces getting out of Iraq as soon as possible. Although we were, in fact, greeted as liberators for a short time in the early days of our invasion, the Bush/Cheney Administration seem to have done nothing, or at least very little right, in their conduct of this disastrous struggle.

Barack Obama has made no secret of his opposition to the War in Iraq from the earliest days when he was not even a candidate for the Senate. In the early days of his Presidential Campaign he used this issue to constantly challenge other candidates regarding their initial complicity with George Bush in giving him the power to conduct the war. Although the Iraq war has never been a dead issue in the Obama Presidential Campaign it took a back seat in the later days of the campaign to the United States and worldwide economies as the primary campaign issue.

Those of us who voted for Barack will certainly look forward to his following through on his campaign promise to end the War in Iraq in a timely manner. Barack needs to think very clearly about the lesson of history when it comes to Afghanistan. Osama bin laden has made it clear that he wants to do to us what he helped do to the Russians. Namely, bleed us dry financially so that our power is depleted with our funds. If there was one country that was responsible for the downfall of the USSR, it was Afghanistan. Certainly getting bin laden is an essential goal of the United States but we need to be wise in how we go about it. Partnership with Pakistan, Black Operations with bin laden and other terrorists as the target are the way to go. While we do not want to turn over Afghanistan to the Taliban, we also do not want to do what we did in Iraq and stay so long that we and not the Taliban or bin laden become the most hated enemy occupiers. The middle east is a complicated place with a complicated history of troubles and strife. We need to understand that warlords, tribal chiefs and complicated interactions are the way of life in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and every other middle eastern country with which we deal. We need to be smart enough not to play into the hands of Al Quida and other terrorist organizations. We have learned some hard lessons in the middle east. It is time to put those hard lessons to good use in our foregn policy of the Obama Administration.

Lesson 4 - The Election of Barack Obama in 2008 was an Election that was Highly Influenced by the use of the Internet by the Presidential Candidates and by the American People.

2008 was not the first year that the Internet proved to be influential in American Politics. Certainly 2006 was a year that saw current Democratic Party Chariman, Howard Dean, raise enormous sums of money through his campaign's Internet appeals to like minded Democrats and Independents. Unlike previous Democratic Presidential Campaign Fund Raising, Much of Dean's money was raised by many small contributions rather than a few large contributors. Television coverage of the Dean Campaign Fund Raising Phenomenon almost immediately turned Howard Dean from a largely unknown former Doctor and Governor of Vermont to the Democratic Party Front Runner in 2005 and 2006. Dean remained the Front Runner up until the 2006 Iowa Caucus results, when his Iowa loss turned his voice weird and his Internet coffers dried up along with his 2006 Presidential Aspirations. The next Democratic Front Runner in 2006, John Kerry, did not have much to say that was positive about his rival, Howard Dean. But Kerry surely paid attention to Dean's Internet campaigning and as Dean's Internet fund raising ability sunk to disastrous levels, John Kerry, using many of the Internet fund raising skills developed by the Dean Campaign, began to fill his campaign coffers with money that had probably once been destined for Dean.

Also in 2006 Republicans also began to pay attention to what the Democrats were doing in Fund Raising. The Bush Backers were still largely the Wall Streeters, Pharmaceutical Companies, Insurance Companies, War Contractors and Oil Companies, whose management and Investors had become bloatedly Rich during the first Bush term. These tax dodging fat cats had lined up in 2006 to help George Bush, who had spent his first four year in office helping them to line their own pockets while the average hard working Americans picked up the tax tab for their greed. Line workers and Union members were losing their jobs at an alarming pace in 2006 while Republican ripoff artists walked away from their failures at being CEOS with million dollar lined Golden Parachutes.

Although the Bush Campaign in 2006 did not need the kind of funding that the Democrats did, they certainly paid attention to some of the Democratic Campaign techniques such as building up a base of E Mail addresses, where the candidate could communicate with the voter by E Mail. This technique proved valuable to Republican operatives as they promoted their dire warnings about the evils of Gay Marriage and Abortions. These issues Karl Rove felt would be the Republican ticket to success in 2006. E Mails about these issues and George Bush's intent to protect the nation from the evil gay marriage and abortion seekers joined the direct mail lies that Republicans also sent, which, along with some serious methods of voter manipulation eventually kept George Bush living on Pennsylvania Avenue for another four years. Of course once Bush was reelected the issues of gay marriage and, to some extent, abortion became non issues to him once again

In 2008, however, it was a different day and a different time and a completely different take on George W. Bush. While it was expected that Democrats would certainly trash W in their seemingly endless string of debates, it was a bit more startling to see and hear how much the Republican candidates tried to distance themselves from the President.

The Republican Candidates seemed to use the Internet sparingly in their campaigns, with the exceptions of Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul. Although Paul and Huckabee were not successful in winning their party's endorsement both of these out of the mainstram candidates proved to be relatively successful in their Internet Fund Raising efforts. Other Republican candidates seemed to rely on the tried and true methods of direct mail and personal contacts and phone calls to raise funds and drum up support.

On the Democratic side of the 2008 Presidential Race it appeared as though John Edwards seemed to be the first Democratic Candidate to hit the Internet running. That was understandable since Edward's first Campaign Manager in the 2008 Election was Joe Trippi. Trippi had been Campaign Manager for Howard Dean when Dean's campaign hit high gear in fundraising for the 2006 Campaign. Following the disastrous 2006 Iowa Caucus results Trippi was thrown overboard with the hope that new blood would jumpstart the Dean Campaign. It didn't. Trippi did not last forever with Edwards either but Trippi made a practice of sending out E Mails letting Democrats know what was going on in the Edwards Campaing and, of course, asking for money. Personal messages from Johnnny E. also arrived frequently in Democratic E Mail boxes also asking for Money. As the campaign rolled on and Edwards was mildly successful in fund raising on the Internet at least a few of his competitors, namely Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama came online not only to Fund Raise but also to get out their messages. Hillary announced her candidacy online.

Obama's campaign seemed to have little chance against the more experienced candidacies of Clinton and Edwards. Early on there were a lot of Democratic Candidates besides the big 3 of Obama, Clinton and Edwards. Joe Biden and Bill Richardson's Campaigns ran out of steam and money quickly. Mike Gravel was almost an invisible candidate who disappeared from view quickly. Chris Dodd was somewhat successful in getting his message out, as was Dennis Kucinich, who had very good messages and good ideas to promote. But none of these candidates were able to break the spell over the Democratic voters that Obama and Clinton seemed to have been able to cast.

And then suddenly, seemingly without warning, Obama's fund raising with individual small amount donors seemed to go through the roof and with each passing month seemed to become even more unbelievably successful, eventually leaving not only Hillary Clinton far behind but even leaving the Republican Fat Cat sponsored Republican Party Front Runner, John McCain, far behind, as well.

Fund Raising on the Internet was just one part of the story when it comes to Barack Obama's Campaign use of the Internet. The story of how Barack and Company used the Internet to help get him elected is a story of brilliance personified. A visit to the Obama site was enticing even to some poor Democrat who had little interest in Obama. There were blogs designed to let the visitor tell their story to Obama and in every manner of speaking the Obama website was a masterpiece of online engineering, campaign recruiting and fundraising that will undoutedly stand the test of time as a guideline for online presidential campaigning for many years to come. You Tube, which had barely existed in 2006 was available to the Obama campaign in 2008. On You Tube Obama commercials Which would cost a fortune to air on commercial television aired for free. Even Obama Girl took You Tube and the country by storm. Although the Internet was not the only reason that Obama waas successful in his bid to become the President of the United States, It was certainly a primary Reason that Obama will take the oath of office in January 20th, 2009 to become The President Of The United States.

Sincerely Yours

Jerry Gallagher

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