Wednesday, November 05, 2008


I heard an interesting exchange today on MSNBC's "Morning Joe." Joe Scarborough was talking about his sense of how insulting some commentators have been in describing Obama's victory. He pointed to comments such as that Obama's election was a victory of hope over fear, arguing that it is insulting to insinuate that right-wing conservatives vote as they do simply based on fear (vs. voting on heartfelt convictions, differences in worldview, etc.).

It was a humbling topic for me to think about, in large part because I've found myself agreeing with the commentators Joe was troubled by. I believe that the RNC and McCain's campaign was trying to scare the American electorate by pinning emotionally laden labels on now president-elect Obama. They called him "socialist." They made inferences about how he "worked closely" with Bill Ayers. They called him a "celebrity."

It is difficult for me to see these attacks as anything other than an attempt to spread fear, an attempt to play into people's prejudices.

And yet, Joe's point is something to consider. The fear that came out of the campaign must stem from their sense of threat to something they consider dear -- be it conservative values, a candidate they trust and admire, or a hawkish foriegn policy that they feel protects our country.

It feels odd to consider that the policies and worldview I espouse could be considered a threat to anyone. And yet my acceptance of things like gay marriage, my very refusal to condemn such arrangements, feels threatening to people who wish for a society that defines marriage more narrowly. I do not have to be, feel, or act angry in order for them to feel threatened by my point of view. Perhaps I would be considered all the more threatening by staying calm.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not questioning my positions. I hold them proudly. But I think the larger point I'm pondering is one of how we relate to those with whom we disagree. If those of us who consider ourselves Obama supporters seek to follow his call for unity, then perhaps we must take extra care in how we express our joy at this election. Perhaps we must take particular care to assert our perspectives without gloating or shaming or assuming negative motivations in those with whom we disagree.

Peace to you all.


Magdalene6127 said...

I agree Steve. It has been particularly troubling to me how each side has expressed its fear of the other side winning this election... and I am guilty of this myself.

In fact, I never imagined the Republicans in power would "allow" a McCain loss... I honestly assumed the election would be stolen. After Senator McCain's gracious concession speech, I am ashamed of myself.

It's sobering to think that the reality is somewhere in the middle, between the hardened partisan views. God give us all the eyes to see that.

bigboid said...

I have to add that the John McCain who ran for President in 2008 bore very little resemblance to the one who ran in 2000. He was scarred by the torching he received at the hands of Karl Rove in the SC primary then, and I hate that McCain resorted to negative campaigning against Obama. I thought these two men were trying to elevate the discussion of what needs to happen to improve America, and then we got bogged down in ACORN and Bill Ayers. Yuck, yuck, double yuck!