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In order to survive we must keep hope alive — William Parker

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TEN ESSENTIAL REASONS TO ELECT BARACK OBAMA 

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In This Issue:

David’s Notes
10 Essential Reasons to Elect Barack Obama by Dan Siegel
Election results from the Virgin Islands
Some Links Worth Looking Into:

Michael Chabon’s Obama vs. the Phobocracy

Obama’s Latino pitched, Spanish language, Texas campaign video

Frank Rich on The Audacity of Hopelessness

The Judevine Mountain Emailite #42

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David’s Notes:
This issue is for everyone on my email list but it’s especially, for obvious reasons, for those readers in Vermont, Rhode Island, Ohio and Texas.

First, Dan Siegel’s excellent 10 reasons to vote for Obama. Then the primary election results from the Virgin Islands, where our guy didn’t do too bad. Then, a few links: to Michael Chabon’s Obama vs. the Phobocracy, which outlines the Bush/Cheney generated climate of fear and loathing. And, just because it’s so much fun, a video of the Latino pitched, Spanish language, Texas Obama campaign video. Then Frank Rich on the war in Iraq as a metaphor for the Clinton campaign. And finally, a link to The Judevine Mountain Emailite #42, also about Barack Obama.

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10 Essential Reasons to Elect Barack Obama! 
by Dan Siegel
1. Obama Offers Genuine Hope in the Age of Fear: Let’s start with the obvious but essential. The Bush/Cheney years will be remembered as a time when a president used a terrible attack on American shores as an instrument to terrorize his own citizens into accepting a disastrous war, curtailing the Bill of Rights, and usurping near dictatorial powers for the Executive Branch. The cynical use of fear calls out for a strong force of principle and light who can appeal, in Lincoln’s words, to “the better angels of our nature,” a leader who can walk in the shoes of Franklin Roosevelt and remind us that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

John McCain belittles Obama’s message of hope as he hoists the big banner of “Bad World, Be Scared!” The Fall election will clearly boil down to whether Americans respond at this historic moment to the whipping up of fear of “radical Islamic extremism” or the power of hope that encourages a new citizenship and charts an enlightened course for America in the world.

The cultural zeitgeist reflects and shouts out for Obama. Take film. Dark Films this Oscar season (There Will Be Blood, No Country for Old Men, Sweeney Todd) reflects the brooding of Cheney’s snarl and the bloody cost of misguided adventures. At a time when our highest leaders defend almost daily the finer points of torture, why are we surprised that our movie screens are filled with rampaging Texans seeking oil, blood and senseless violence (not to mention the splatter in video games and movie rentals). This is not to predict the bambification of Hollywood in the Obama era, yet it is to say that even our finest storytellers are projecting on screen what the gun slinging oil boys have heaped upon us and the rest of the world.

The groundswell of loyalists lining up behind Obama’s message of hopeful change draws sometimes accurate but often cynical ridicule by the Commentariat. Hope is not the preferred currency of the punditry, which thrives on division, attack and cable channel shoutdowns. But those who stand with ironic and detached distance should bear in mind that the Obama surge is not the result of messianic over promises and rhetoric, but is a deeper reflection and response to the dreadful underachieving of the political class in our time.

2. Obama Will Protect & Defend the Constitution: This is the most sacred duty of a President, one that has been severely trampled upon by the Bush/Cheney regime. One of the unfortunate and often overlooked legacies of 9/11 and its aftermath is the degree to which politicians, the press and the public stand ready to sacrifice our basic legal rights and freedoms as a price for fighting the Terror War.

Imagine for a moment if a truly catastrophic attack strikes in an American city. The trauma and panic unleashed would open the door for a leader who stands ready to further roll back our constitutional freedoms in the name of defending us. Perhaps we should not judge a presidential candidate by whether they can keep us safe (can they truly?), or how they would track down terrorist aggressors (surely they all would). We might rather ask: who has the calm and constitutional faith to not overstep their authority in such a game-changing moment for America as an open society?

As a professor of Constitutional Law, who recently voted against the extension of the FISA bill that would give immunity to telecom companies that spy on us in the name of the Terror War, Obama would uphold our freedoms more vigorously than Clinton or surely McCain.

3. Obama Inspires Us as Citizens: In The Audacity of Hope, Obama notes, “the vast majority of Americans–Republicans, Democrats and independents–are weary of the dead zone that politics have become.” Like Obama, I was born in 1961, and came of age in the post-Vietnam, Watergate era of Nixon and political disillusion. As a late Boomer, I was too young to be moved by JFK’s clarion call to “ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.” I survived the Reagan/Bush years, and felt that the Clinton chapter, while offering a step forward, was change lite, never bold enough to offer a new path for domestic renewal, and failing the imagination and courage to transform the Cold War paradigm (rebranded as the Terror War by Bush/Cheney).

Obama has the uncanny ability to tap and call forward the deep-seated civic impulses of the populace while weaving together the hopeful visions of leaders past (Lincoln, FDR, JFK, MLK). He does so with brilliant tactical skills that transcend any politician of recent memory.

Barack thinks like a community organizer (since he was one), realizing that any hope of true and far-reaching reform and change comes by mobilizing citizens to stand up and demand and create change, in part by providing backbone support to politicians who battle powerful special interests.

4. Obama Mobilizes Young People: My teenage children, like myself in the Nixon years, have grown to know the highest reaches of politics to be filled with deception, cynicism, and law breaking. That is why I am especially on fire to see the enthusiasm and engagement of youth across America respond to and rally to the Obama campaign as a new way to believe in political leadership and to see a path to help build the world they want to create. Just think how frightened and disillusioned young people might feel about the state of the world their elders have created: the promise of an endless “war of terror”, a mounting climate crisis, genocide in Darfur, a house of cards economy, and so on. All of this without any serious call by our political leaders to young people that they have the power and opportunity to step up and make a difference. Obama makes that appeal and call to service.

5. Obama Brings Us Together: How does a solidly liberal policymaker attract a healthy share of independents and even Republicans (Obamicans) to vote for him? His character, eloquence and temperament not only flatten out potential fears about his race, but so far seem to overcome liberal baiting of the past. For this I think we can thank the power of well-crafted words, brilliant strategy, and a perfect messenger for our divided times.

Obama is no doubt the candidate that the country is so hungry for it may have willed him into existence. America–even in the abstract ideal–has been fractured over the past 15 years from any united sense of national purpose, save for the months following 9/11. More than any other president, George Bush has been the Great Divider, pleased as punch to rule forcefully with the slightest margins of electoral victory (or defeat) and governing authority. He has stiff-armed not only the Democrats, but the media and any political powers and cultural forces that stood in the way of the Cheney/Rove plan.

It is hard to imagine any other Democrat or Republican running for president this year or in recent history who could bring along a majority of the country to create a new sense of a common good that transcends narrow ideological camps and cultural divisions. As Obama says:

“It’s time for us to put aside the partisan food-fighting. If you know what you stand for, if you know what you believe in, if you know who you’re fighting for, then you can afford to reach out to those who don’t agree with you on everything. We can create the kind of working majority that we haven’t seen in this country for a long, long time…We can do everything that we want to get done.”

6. Obama Can Potentially Launch A Generation of Change: This election calls for a leader who can deliver not just a victory in November, but a fundamental generation of change. Not just four years, or eight. But 16 or 24. We have a lot of digging out to do, and a lot of transformation to get done. The Obama surge might just deliver in November the start of a long-lasting governing majority needed to avoid the triangulating politics of the Clinton years that made a half a loaf seem like victory. The GOP is now the splintered party with outmoded ideas for the future, having run into the ground the anti-government rhetoric of the 1980-2004 elections. This is the window and time for a major shift and realignment of our politics.

7. Obama Can Help Reshape America’s Role in the World: Barack’s biography and global outlook offers the world a strong message that America can turn the page on cowboy militarism. His background is a confluence of a globalizing world (Kenyan father, Kansas mother, raised in Hawaii and Indonesia). In terms of simple perception and style, Obama would help to rebrand America in a world that has lost faith and respect in our leadership and policies.

That said, foreign policy has been the Achilles heal for most presidents the past 50 years: JFK, LBJ, Nixon, Carter, Reagan and Bush. Each of them were undermined by failed wars, national security scandals, or unexpected crises. It is likely to be an international minefield for whoever takes the White House in 2009.

While his background is not in global affairs, I do think that Obama’s chapter The World Beyond Our Borders in his book offers an informed and perceptive worldview about America’s historic and challenging role in the world. He would be a fresh and welcomed face to revive the peace process in the Middle East. His roots would win over Africa and re-engage us in a region badly neglected by Washington.

Let’s not forget that Obama took the politically courageous step of opposing Bush’s march to war in Iraq in the fall of 2002, when it was seen as a possibly fatal step for someone seeking the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois. His analysis of what could unfold a few years down the line in Iraq proved quite prescient.

Most importantly, by stating that he “wants to change the mindset” that got us into Iraq, Obama offers hope for serious restraint on our impulse to disastrous interventions around the globe. It is long overdue. Almost 20 years after the fall of the Berlin Wall, we still await an “American Gorbachev” who can change our way of thinking about America’s role in the world, transforming it from an empire to a global citizen.

8. Obama is African-American: Race is perhaps the most particular feature, and stain, of the American story. Obama is an African American man of mixed heritage who has the biography and skills to bridge our historic racial divide. Even Bill Clinton, the so-called “first black president”, underestimated the universal appeal of Obama when he tried to marginalize him as a “black” candidate following his South Carolina primary victory. Weeks later, Obama captured the majority of white men in Virginia against Hillary, and now appears capable of capturing every demographic in our diverse society.

What a proud moment it would be for all if Barack Obama holds his hands on the Bible and is sworn in as the 44th president of our country. Every African American struggle for freedom, and every great leader and participant in those movements, will be affirmed and advanced. So too will the richness of America’s growing diversity. By the middle of this century, half of America will be made up of people of color. Obama is the bridge to that mosaic.

9. Obama is Reflective: The dead certitude of a dim-witted president has been a costly deficiency for our nation. Even intelligent leaders often suffer from the arrogance of power when walled off by yes men in the White House. It is unclear what kind of president Obama would be, but he seems to genuinely possess the strength of character and openness of mind to listen, reflect and grow. In his recent victory speeches, he admits right up front that he will make mistakes and surely disappoint. In The Audacity of Hope, he ponders the passing of age even as a relatively young man, and notes:

“If you are paying attention, each successive year will make you more intimately acquainted with all of your flaws–the blind spots, the recurring habits of thought that may be genetic or may be environmental, but that will almost certainly worsen with time, as surely as the hitch in your walk turns to pain in your hip.”

Blind spots and arrogance have marked many of our rulers the past 40 years: Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon and George Bush. Each of these Presidents bogged down in disastrous wars, and the stubbornness, deceit or shallowness of their characters led to agony, scandal and wasted lives.

Obama appears to have a strong inner compass of values, which is combined with deep wisdom and the agility to learn and change course, which is well suited for our challenging times of opportunity and upheaval.

10. Obama Opens the Space for Wider Change: Inspired leaders are usually the catalysts for more wide-ranging movements of political and cultural change. Think of FDR and JFK, and how they helped to spark more far-reaching reform and social movements that changed the landscape of America in the 1930s and 1960s.

The presidency shapes life far beyond politics: The mood of people. The sense of possibility. The experience of art and culture. The role of faith and spiritualism. What we all dream about, fear, and hope for.

It is indeed time to create and tell a new American story.

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Dan Siegel is a writer, political observer and social entrepreneur. His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the Boston Globe, Newsday, and the Oakland Tribune, among others. He can be contacted at hope.obama@gmail.com.

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On February 9th The Virgin Islands had their primary. The results were as follows: Barack Obama got 89.95 percent of the votes, 1,772 votes. Hillary Clinton got 7.56 percent or 149 votes. 2.49 percent or 49 votes were uncommitted.

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Some Links Worth Looking Into
Michael Chabon’s Obama vs. the Phobocracy is at:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/02/03/AR2008020302526.html

Viva Obama!: a Texas, Latino video for Obama is at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0fd-MVU4vtU&eurl=http://gawker.com/359398/barack-obama-un-candidato-luchando-por-nuestra-nacion

Frank Rich, The Audacity of Hopelessness, on the war in Iraq as a metaphor for the Clinton campaign at: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/02/24/opinion/24rich.html?ex=1204606800&en=a2cdf699407ebf16&ei=5070&emc=eta1

The JUDEVINE MOUNTAIN EMAILITE #42, also about Barack Obama, is at: http://www.davidbudbill.com/jme42.html

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