2008 isn’t over, but it’s already one for the books, one of those historic years in which America was changed in profound ways, a benchmark.
On November 4, 2008, America elected its first African American president, and gave him more votes than it had ever given a presidential candidate. The moment he was declared the president-elect was electrifying, stunning, overwhelming, and millions of Americans smiled, wept, and laughed.
In 2008, the worst president in this nation’s history wound down his disastrous eight-year effort to reduce America to something he could carry around in his pocket and threaten people with.
But, according to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Congress “doesn’t have time” to impeach Bush, though he has committed more high crimes and misdemeanors than there are.
And, in 2008, an unprecedented financial crisis knocked America asunder.
Not only did we finally fulfill America’s promise this year by electing Barack Obama, a young African American man, president, but America itself shook off the foul debris that had accumulated during the 40 toxic years that began with the assassinations of Martin Luther King, jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and will end next month with the departure of Bush,
As presidential candidate Obama moved around the country last fall, speaking eloquently of the efficacy of hope and the need for change, he
attracted larger and larger and more enthusiastic crowds. More people watched his speech at the Democratic convention than watched the opening of the Olympics. Voter registration soared. Millions of people made small donations to his campaign via the internet. The energy and spirit that had long been dormant filled the air.
It was as if, in choosing a young, enormously talented African American to be their president, the American people had, in one stroke, liberated themselves from all the mindless old habits, biases, superstitions and rules that had long inhibited America’s progress, and theirs.
Obama was the real thing, made in, of, by and for America. His mother was a white American, his father a black Kenyan. He grew up in Hawaii with his white grandparents, went to Occidental College in Los Angeles for two years, transferred to Columbia in New York , worked as a community organizer in Chicago, and then went to Harvard law school.
The young lawyer settled in Chicago and married another Harvard Law graduate, They have two daughters. He became a state legislator, a Senator and… President.
On January 20, 2009, Barack Obama will become the 45th president of, in his words, “not the blue states or the red states, but the United States of America.”
Journalists and pundits are now summing 2008 up on TV and the internet and in newspapers. Their summations are concise, and tidy – until they get to the “financial crisis,” which, thus far, no one has been able to explain.
In fact, its seeds were sown in 1982, when President Ronald Reagan said what American business men and women had been waiting to hear for 200 years: “We’re the party that wants to see an America in which people can still get rich.”
In his 1987 film, “Wall Street,” Oliver Stone, whom Garry Wills has accurately described as “America’s Dostoevsky,” and his co-writer Stanley Weiser reduced Reagan’s line to its essence: ”Greed is good.”
And it was — for a small number of people, who got richer and richer and ultimately owned almost all of everything
The number of American millionaires hit a record high of 9.5 million in 2006, but last year growth of the millionaire class slowed. Surely, that was a portent of the current crisis, but all the so-called experts missed it.
To no one’s surprise, when the financial meltdown occurred, hundreds of billions of dollars were rushed to Wall Street, with a two-page deal memo, but in order for the automobile industry to get a $15 billion “bridge loan,” auto workers had to agree to take a major pay cut.
Clearly, millionaires are a protected species in the Reagan/Bush version of America. Auto workers are not.
Wall Street millionaires played five or six too many tricks with money, and, in the best trick of all, stuck American workers with the bill, courtesy of the Bush gang.
In a few weeks, the gang will depart, and President Obama will undertake the resurrection of the dream that died 40 years ago with Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. and the repair of the damage done by his predecessors, as well as making the major changes he called for and millions of us voted for.
The renaissance of America is underway