On Election Day, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! went to Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem to interview voters. She asked 18-year-old Diamond, a first-time voter, why she voted for Barack Obama: “Because he’s the best … Obama’s going to make a change, going to cure everything, make everything perfect. I believe in him.”
Listening to Diamond and her friends, with shouts of “yeah Obama!” in the background, one might have gotten the impression Goodman was interviewing the just-saved at a pay-for-heaven revival instead of young voters in a historic presidential election. Diamond’s palpable enthusiasm and her refreshingly naïve faith in her candidate are, paradoxically, both reassuring and unsettling.
Diamond and her friends are among the 95 percent of African American voters 18-29 who voted for Obama. Seventy-five percent of Hispanic and 54 percent of white voters in that same age group cast their ballot for him as well.
That a handsome, intelligent, charismatic man whose genome was sufficiently ambiguous enough to break the color barrier has reached savior status and motivated 2.2 million more young people than in 2004 to vote is a reassuring sign that democracy in America can compete with the insularity of ipods and cell phones.
However, the religious-like furor and blind faith that young—and many older—voters have in Obama that he will single-handedly raise America up from the ashes of the Bush presidency and create a “shining city upon a hill” are unsettling.
President-elect Obama is, first and foremost, a consummate politician who has no doubt compromised himself to become the zenith star of one of the two political parties that control the electoral process, and whose well-heeled and connected sponsors are not at all interested in “change you can believe in” if it adversely affects their bottom line or their particular agenda.
Diamond and her friends should let the post victory euphoria subside and then ask Obama a few questions. They need to call in some chits, which will be redeemable only until November 2012.
Diamond might ask him why he was too busy on the campaign trail last February to go on congressional record by voting for the Intelligence Authorization Bill, which banned torture as an interrogation technique. He owes Diamond more of an explanation than it was a politically prudent absence.
Diamond might ask the President-elect why early in his campaign he promised to begin withdrawing troops from Iraq on day one of his presidency, which played well with the dove vote, only to later adjust his withdrawal policy “based on the advice of military commanders,” which played well with the hawk vote. She might also ask about his apparent support for the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes against any country deemed to be a threat to US security. Obama owes Diamond more of an explanation than Bush-era bromides about winning the “war on terror.”
Diamond might ask the first president of color—though not a descendant of American slaves—how he can support and defend Israel’s brutal apartheid policies regarding the Palestinians, or what signal his appointment of Rahm Israel Emanuel as Chief of Staff sends to Arabs in the Middle East. Emanuel is literally a son of Israel who rabidly supports its occupation of the West Bank, its imprisonment and unconscionable blockade of the Gaza Strip, and its 2006 invasion of Lebanon. This is not a good faith move for brokering a just and lasting peace in Middle East.
Obama owes Diamond more of an explanation than Israel is our most important ally in the Middle East whose “security is sacrosanct” and “non-negotiable.” He needs to explain to Diamond that national politicians must first pledge allegiance to Israel before they can swear to “protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.” Diamond and her friends need to know that Israel’s shadow government on K Street dictates Middle East policy to American presidents. Consequently, in the “war on terror” America’s security is second to that of Israel’s.
Most importantly, Diamond might ask the new president who will be heard the most often. Will it be the voices of the 1.5 million small contributors ($200 or less) to his staggering $850 million war chest, or will it be the whispers of a relatively few on Wall Street and K Street? If Diamond knew that Obama’s economic advisors are the same people who a decade ago helped dismantle Depression-era banking regulations, which has lead to the current economic meltdown and trillion-dollar-plus bailout, she would have her answer.
Moments after Amy Goodman interviewed Diamond, she asked an older, unidentified woman—a mother who wants her daughter to go to college—why she had voted for Obama: “I was going to give my vote to someone else, but since she didn’t win, I gave it to him … I just hope he do—I know he can’t do everything, but just do something better than what it is. That’s all.”
President Obama does not owe Diamond perfection, neither can he “cure everything,” but he does owe her the promise to ”do something better than what it is.”
And “something better” will only happen if Diamond and her friends have not already plugged in their earphones and flipped open their cell phones waiting for President Obama to “cure everything.” If they are not calling or text messaging the White House and making their voices heard above the whispers, their “savior” will continue to be nothing but a politician.