Monday, November 03, 2008

Arthur's Closing Statement

Here's Arthur's closing statement:

I tried to think of what I could say that hasn’t already been said, but there’s not much. I’d bet nearly all listeners of this podcast have already made up their minds, and, in any case, I’ve been pretty clear about my opinions on this election. So, I’m unlikely to convince anyone at the last minute.

So instead, I thought I’d share a little about my life’s political journey that led to this moment, and the reason why I voted as I did.

I wrote on my blog about how one of my earliest memories was political: A mock presidential election held in my Kindergarten class. I talked about how I distrusted the whole set-up because, since we couldn’t yet read or write, we had to depend on the teacher to write down the candidate we wanted. I learned to be suspicious of potential voter fraud at five years old.

What I haven’t talked about before is who I voted for in that mock election, because even now I find it kind of embarrassing: I voted for Barry Goldwater.

You see, I was born into a Republican family. From an early age I was taught the importance of limited government, of individual freedom and liberty. But my Christian upbringing also taught me that we have a duty to care for those who cannot care for themselves, and that we must always strive for justice and fairness.

In 1980, the first election in which I was old enough to vote for President, the Republican Party veered sharply to the right. It became a party I no longer recognised and could no longer support. Their zeal to “reign in” government meant the poor and middle classes were left to fend for themselves, and large parts of society were shut-out entirely. As part of this, a religious fanaticism was unleashed. I never again called myself a Republican.

So my arrival at the door of the Democratic Party was as a refugee—I was escaping the arrogance and intolerance of Reagan’s Republicans.

Over the years, I worked in grassroots politics, alongside some brilliant, talented people, trying to make society better for everyone despite the Republicans efforts to do the opposite. And, I always voted.

Despite everything, I came to believe in the fundamental decency and tolerance of difference that I found present among individual Americans throughout the country. I learned that, more often than not, the failure of American politics is not the failure of the people—the voters—but rather a failure of imagination from the people who would be our leaders. They have been, especially on the Republican side, committed to maintaining what has already passed, and to ensuring that as a people we cannot become better than we are.

But just as they have failed to lead, we have failed to demand more from them. We’ve been content to let them practice their politics of division and reaction; we’ve allowed them to bully opposition into silence, and we’ve allowed them to convince the American people to vote against their own best interests.

Not counting Kindergarten, this will be the eighth presidential election I’ve voted in.

But this year is different from all the others.

I am proud that I cast my vote for Barack Obama for president. In fact, I’ve never been as committed to a presidential candidate as I am to Barack Obama, because he represents the values I hold, and the beliefs I’ve established from the political journey I just described.

Barack Obama offers the best chance we’ve had in more than a generation to bring Americans together in a new, centrist majority. Together with the new Congress, he will have the opportunity to marginalise our enemies on the extreme right once and for all, not by the tired divisive tactics of the past eight years or so, but by finding common ground and restoring civility.

And that means that we can finally start moving forward together. It means we can stop living in fear of the next outrageous attack from the religious fascists as we instead create the society we deserve, one in which all people are equal and deserving equally of the blessings of freedom and liberty.

I have no illusions that President Obama will be able to wave a magic wand and make the political excesses of the past three decades disappear, but he can help us, the centrist majority, to take our country back from the extremists who have been running it.

Imagine a world in which we all strive to be a better people than we are today. Imagine a country that calls upon the “better angels of our nature”, and not upon the basest selfish instincts. Imagine a politics that embraces difference as a strength, and politicians who build a united country. If you can imagine it, we can have it.

It all begins with one simple thing: Hope. Barack Obama offers us the opportunity to create real change. Are we ready and able to accept? If so, there’s one clear first step: We must elect Barack Obama president and let nothing keep us from voting. Can we do that? You know the answer: Yes, we, can.

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