The Real “Hope” Afforded by the Obama Candidacy
- 2 March 2008 by Author 0 Comments
The Real “Hope” Afforded by the Obama Candidacy
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 03/02/08
Michelle Obama, wife of Democratic Presidential hopeful Barack Obama, said at a rally in Milwaukee last week, “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I’m really proud of my country.” The comment was made in the context of the “hope” generated by her husbands’ campaign for the presidency.
At first blush such a comment is inscrutable. How could any American at 44 years of age, not feel pride in anything about our country? After all, this is still the most free country in the world in spite of Congressional efforts to limit our opportunities with increased taxation, and their efforts to limit our individual liberty in the name of global warming, gun control, political correctness, and the “nanny state” mentality afflicting the majority in Congress. The good that has been accomplished by this country in medicine, human rights, technological advancement, space exploration, global magnanimity in times of crisis, and the freedoms afforded to millions in other lands by our military are innumerable. The accomplishments that might foster pride in our country are literally limitless.
The Obama campaign attempted to mitigate the damage by spinning the statement with numerous clarifications and explanations, all of which rang hollow and belied a typical left-leaning animus of America on the part of the candidate’s wife.
This has provided justification for some to question her patriotism, akin to when her husband quit wearing his flag lapel pin last year. That hardly seems proper, as everyone has their own way of showing their love of country. Those on the left think they show their patriotism best when they criticize and demean America and its leaders when they’re of the opposition party. In a perverse sort of way, maybe she was expressing her patriotism.
However, my perception was altered significantly when I heard a gentleman explain it from his perspective. He was in his mid 40’s and his explication put the comment in a completely different light. He said, “I can understand that [what Mrs. Obama said]. Not up until 9/11 did I consider myself a patriot. I just felt like, what was so great about America? I never felt like I was taking part in the American dream, and capitalism, and all that. The opportunities have just never been there for me.”
He continued, “I’m black, and I feel like that’s the reason I’ve never really completely felt like an American. I’ve just never felt like the opportunity was really there. I’m a conservative, and believe in free markets and less government, and less taxes so I can support my family. And I realize I have more freedoms here than I would have had anywhere else. Under President Reagan, I tried to apply his principle of ‘pull yourselves up by the bootstraps’ and I feel like I started to see my opportunities for what they were; that there really was no limitation beyond my own vision for myself. But still, the doors weren’t open for me; I had to kick them open.”
He then explained how he understood where Michelle Obama was coming from. “I don’t think she was trying to say America is not a great country. It’s just that, the frustration as an African-American, you just don’t feel like you’re part of this country. Like we’re not just Americans, we’re African-Americans. We’re qualified with a hyphen. We’re patronized and pandered to all the time like we’re inferior somehow. We even have black leaders. What other racial group has a leader? I don’t see a ‘white’ or ‘Hispanic’ leader out there. But we as blacks have ‘black leaders,’ like Jackson and Sharpton, and I don’t agree with them. But now, to see a black man running for the President of the United States and has a real chance to win, is just liberating to think that’s possible. I have no intention of voting for him, I disagree with what he stands for on almost all the issues, but he has broken through the limitations that I feel society has placed on us. His success to this point has changed my feelings about America and what we stand for. Even if he loses now to John McCain, he has changed how I feel about America. For the first time, I really feel like I’m an American.”
The fact that he was a conservative lent even greater credence to his argument. I can see how the call for hope rings true for many people who feel marginalized by being hyphenated Americans, or for some other reason feel like they’re not part of the America that the rest of us love and cherish. This man’s perceived social limitations trumped his ideology as it related to his sense of belonging.
This seems to be the legitimate hope afforded by the Obama candidacy. His hope is not founded in his policy positions, for they’re right out of a socialist playbook. But by having a legitimate shot at the presidency, he seems to some at least to have shattered racial barriers, whether real or perceived, that have allowed so many to feel alienated in their own country. If this is the case, then the greatest good that can come from the Obama “hope” has already been accomplished.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at email@example.com.