November 11, 2008

Long divisions ahead

Obama’s message of unity serves only to alienate those not subscribing

[img id="77003" align="alignleft"] “We are choosing unity over division,” said President-elect Obama in his November 4 victory speech. In other words, “those who voted for me are choosing unity over division.” The other people, the other 46 percent, have chosen division.

Those who have spent the last eight years fuming over a Clear Skies Act that weakens pollution regulations and a Healthy Forest Initiative that opens national forests to logging can now expect a new generation of linguistic outrage. As an Obama voter who chose “hope over fear,” however, I sincerely hope that “unity” will be the lone word to face the guillotine under this new regime.

Obama’s campaign has made America substantially more divided. It is true that McCain ran a remarkably divisive campaign, especially in the closing weeks when his running mate began to fulminate that Republicans alone represent the “real America” of small-town God-fearers. But what Palin shouted, Obama insinuated. If Obama represents unity, as he suggested, then a vote against Obama is a vote against unity. If Obama represents hope, then a vote against Obama is a vote against hope. If Obama represents America, as the “Obama is America” buttons would have us believe, then a vote against Obama is a vote against America. By claiming that a McCain victory would signify that America is unready to elect a black man, members of Obama’s claque in the media implied that a vote for McCain is a racist vote. Apparently, the world will no longer be divided into “values voters” and those without morals, only between racist voters and tolerant ones. There is no longer a blue America and a red America, only a progressive America and a backwards America, an America driven by hope and an America driven by fear.

Obama fanatics such as The New York Times columnist Frank Rich loved to point out that there was hardly a minority face to be found at the GOP rallies and convention, while Obama events were lushly attended by blacks and hispanics, as if the integrity of a campaign could be judged by the color of its supporters rather than the content of its platform.

While many have castigated John McCain for running a campaign built on fear, Obama’s success depended in no small part on Americans’ fears for each other. As Thomas Friedman, another Times columnist, wrote, many Americans who might otherwise have voted Republican voted for Obama instead “because they sensed how inspired and hopeful their kids were about an Obama presidency, and they not only didn’t want to dash those hopes, they secretly wanted to share them.” They feared dashing those hopes, just as many were induced to vote for Obama in part because they feared dashing the hopes of countless blacks for the election of the first president from among their number. Playing people off each other to get them to vote in unison is not choosing unity over division, but sowing division to achieve a momentary and superficial unity. When the euphoria left over from the Obama victory inevitably fades and those people who voted for Obama in order to avoid the global letdown of an Obama loss wake up to a president who does not share their principles, they will resent the adoring throngs who coerced them into thinking that change really was something they could believe in by the sheer intensity of their emotions.

The totally unhinged excitement of the many Obama supporters who have driven themselves into a speaking-in-tongues frenzy over the election of their redeemer will magnify the resentment of the 55 million McCain voters many times beyond what they would have felt had a Clinton or a Biden won the presidency. The millions of Americans who took principled stands in favor of the Republican platform can only watch in shock as Obama partisans jettison all humility in the wake of triumph and all traces of respect for the seriousness of their opposition. They will not soon forget how alienated they were made to feel.

Nathan Bloom is a fourth-year in the College majoring in NELC.