We Have Met The Enemy...And It Is Us genre: Econ-Recon & Polispeak & Six Degrees of Speculation


An interesting and potentially problematic phenomenon is emerging in the process to select a Democratic candidate for the presidency…as well as our next president. A preview of the issue began with anecdotal televised images from a caucus room on the Las Vegas strip. My growing concerns were validated in an analysis of the actual votes.

Before the votes were tallied, I took note of an interesting dynamic. For the most part, African American Obama supporters and Hispanic Clinton backers were chanting slogans for their respective candidates from opposite sides of the room. At first blush, I was inspired by the enthusiasm…and rightly so. The mood was animated, but by no means did it appear to be hostile. Regardless, it forced me to begin thinking about the mechanics of opportunity.

These particular caucus locations were created to make it possible for Culinary Workers Union members to participate. By and large, the union is made up of lower income ethnic voters...groups that have often felt neglected and inclined to believe many politicians treat them as an afterthought.

I suspect the focus on providing targeted caucus locations coupled with the fact that a woman and an African American are the leading Democratic candidates created a growing sense of opportunity in these overlooked and underappreciated groups. That’s an encouraging development.

At the same time, opportunity is an odd creature. Strange as it may seem, its absence often brings passive acceptance, as the flames of hope aren’t strong enough to fuel the fires that light the way to a better place. On the other hand, the emergence of opportunity is often accompanied by chaos and conflict as the downtrodden sense the possibility to transcend the certainty of a lesser lot in life.

Once opportunity rears its head on the distant horizon, the dim light that allows us to see its outline is apt to ignite dreams of better days that have long been kept in check. Simply stated, when opportunity is nowhere to be found, the certainty of status brings complacency; and conversely, when opportunity is palpable, the promise of progress often promotes impassioned participation.

As I pondered the fact that African American voters broke overwhelmingly for Senator Obama and Hispanic voters chose Senator Clinton by wide margins, I couldn’t help but consider the heinous nature of ethnic immobility and its propensity to divide rather than unite those who fight each day for a tiny share of a shrinking pie.

I suspect poverty brings clarity…and little else. Let me attempt an explanation.

Those who live each day like the one before…struggling to make ends meet…are undoubtedly forced to be cognizant of their limited resources as well as the need to jump to seize the scarce supply of opportunities that rarely appear. They know too well the large numbers of those who watch each day for a glimmer of hope…a chance to break the chains that bind and grab the rope that can deliver them from their darkened destiny…one clenched hand over another…hanging perilously above the pull of gravity that seeks to return them to the depths of despair.

Hence the chance to cast a vote of consequence is bound to inspire…and incite. With history as the point of reference, the knowledge of limited resources is, of course, the logical source of strife.

As we nominate a Democratic candidate and prepare for the 2008 presidential election, we needn’t and mustn’t allow the powers that be to portray the passions of hope as a reminder of racism. Rather, this process must be a rejoinder of our refusal to ignore the plight of the poor.

For far too long we have asked the least of us to be patient…to endure…to remain silent and satisfied with what little they receive. To be shocked when we witness a groundswell of emotion and the inevitable enmity that has become inured in those who know they are not welcome at the table is to ignore our part in setting too few place settings at that table.

We can make this election cycle about what separates us, or we can make it about what we choose to do to put an end to the dynamics that have long been allowed to divide us.

These simmering conflicts need not be evidence of the Democratic Party’s or this country’s inability to coalesce around one candidate. Rather, it should be fair notice that the Democratic Party will no longer accept the premise that the least of us need not be relevant or respected. I believe the voices of dissention are simply the sounds of destiny calling us to a new awareness.

Instead of silencing the voices of those who have yearned for change…and may now have the courage to demand it…we must add our voices to their clamor and grasp this opportunity to signal that we will no longer turn our heads to the plight of the have nots.

This is a moment that can either transform us or further fragment us. Instead of giving lip service to America’s greatness, it is time we once again demonstrate it. If we love this country we will. If we continue the trend of simply loving ourselves at the expense of the underrepresented, I suspect we’ll continue down the path of carelessly severing what’s left of the threads that so carefully created the cloth we call these United States.

Isn’t it time we put down our cynical and self-serving scissors and begin the hard work of stitching together a tapestry big enough to bring shelter and solace to all?

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The Nevada caucus provided a glimpse of what may divide the Democratic Party. I believe the voices of dissention are simply the sounds of destiny calling us to a new awareness. We can make this election cycle about what separates us, or we can make it ... [Read More]

Tracked on January 20, 2008 2:29 PM

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