The Historic Election of 2008: Hope vs. Fear. Unity vs. Division. Success vs. Failure.


“In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
“The first is freedom of speech and expression. …
“The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way. …
“The third is freedom from want. …
“The fourth is freedom from fear.”

Those Four Freedoms were enshrined in the State of the Union speech by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in January 1941, just months before Pearl Harbor, the most devastating attack on America to that date. Today, seven years after another horrific shock to our collective system, we are embroiled in an election that the entire world recognizes is of truly historic proportions — and not just because of the amount of pigment in one candidate’s skin, or even the centuries of slavery and discrimination with which his race has been burdened. Simply put, the election of 2008 is no less than an epic contest between hope and fear: hope that can set us free, and fear that can be — and is — exploited to keep us divided and to some degree conquered, by powers-that-be, both foreign and domestic.

Government, Though Imperfect, Is Not the Enemy. It Is Us!

“We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.” — Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

Surely unrecognizable to Abraham Lincoln — who gave his all to preserve the federal government of the United States — the Republican Party today has as its bottom line the mantra that government is part of the problem, not part of the solution. But government, of course, even as imperfect as it is, is the one and only body constituted for we citizens to secure our liberties, as by reigning in those who would — intentionally or inadvertently — oppress us.

That truth has come down through history to our challenging modern times, when corporations exert more control over the lives of ordinary individuals than any government ever did at the time of our revolution. There is nothing inherently evil about a corporation; it is, of course, a truly remarkable creation for turning a profit. But by the same token, there is nothing inherently benevolent about a corporation; it exists in law for the enrichment of its shareholders, not necessarily the benefit of society at large. It is, thus, a legitimate and vital role of government to regulate the commerce of corporations, so that the rights of all are protected.

Indeed, even the security of corporations themselves is enhanced by prudent government action. The severe financial crisis we are experiencing today is a direct result of the deregulation — not the regulation — of business in recent years. New Deal reforms saved the banking system — and thus American capitalism itself — during the Great Depression; it will take likewise wise and far-reaching action by our government to quell the current crisis and restore confidence in our historically debt-ridden public and private sectors.

For the GOP to continually attack government as the enemy is tantamount to attacking whatever we as a people can and must do together in order to survive and thrive, as it has necessarily been since the dawn of civilization.

“[T]hat the strong may not oppress the weak.” — From The Code of Hammurabi

Obama: Uniting Our States

“A house divided against itself cannot stand.” — Abraham Lincoln, Paraphrasing Jesus Christ

This year, as four years ago, the electoral map of the United States is eerily reminiscent of the Free State / Slave State map of the Civil War. Moreover, that pattern of Blue States and Red States is repeated throughout the country as “blue counties” and “red counties” — the former more urban, the latter more rural, the swing votes mainly in the suburban and exurban regions.

That divide seems at times to be as unbreachable as it is untenable: No nation can long survive as a nation if its people are permanently balkanized along lines of race, creed, religion, or any other difference. Looking at it another way — and that is how a democracy is supposed to function, isn’t it? — it is easy to tell a nation’s enemies from its allies: Your foes want to divide you; your friends want to unite you.

“[T]he end of the U.S. as united states” — The Stated Goal of Usama bin Laden

“We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”– Benjamin Franklin

Most remarkable to me in the current election — and emblematic of why this is indeed a historic contest for the spirit of America — is that when Sen. Barack Obama’s poll numbers go up, that divide between Red States and Blue States becomes more “violet”: Such swing states as Nevada, New Mexico, Colorado, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, and Florida break up the monolith of Red States with patches of blue, representing millions of Americans responding to the senator’s inspiring calls for unity and hope, appealing to the better angels of our nature.

But when Sen. John McCain’s poll numbers go up, those newly Blue States return to the big Red block, as he and his ruthless running mate play politics with personalities while calling for more of the same economic and foreign policies that under the current administration have led our nation to the brink of economic and military ruin. And none of that would have been possible without the support of Republican lawmakers, 90% of the time including the hypocritically self-proclaimed “maverick” McCain.

“Nothing is more terrible than ignorance in action.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Reject Fear, Embrace Hope!

“America was not built on fear. America was built on courage, on imagination and an unbeatable determination to do the job at hand.” — President Harry S. Truman

Fear comes easy. Vincent Price, master horror moviemaker, said fear is the most primal emotion. In contrast, hope takes courage. Whether it is taking your first steps alone as an infant, saying wedding vows with your spouse, putting your confidence in others on the job, volunteering with a church or other group in your community, or supporting candidates and initiatives — yes, by our government — that will restore our nation to greatness, putting your faith in something that entails real risks as well as potential rewards takes not only courage but also sound judgment.

And it takes cooperation between great numbers of us “little people” to stand up as necessary to the powers-that-be, both foreign and domestic, who profit by purveying terror and other forms of fear or hatred and other forms of divisiveness.

“The great constitutional corrective in the hands of the people against usurpation of power, or corruption by their agents is the right of suffrage; and this when used with calmness and deliberation will prove strong enough.” — President Andrew Jackson

The greatest things this nation has ever accomplished — from winning world wars and establishing Social Security and Medicare to putting men on the moon — have come about only through teamwork: popular movements supporting and led by bold, bright leaders.

Likewise, the greatest things this nation will next achieve — re-establishing stability in the financial markets, restoring equity to our tax system and fiscal responsibility to our budgets, fixing the broken health care system, inventing new Green technologies and American jobs to counter Global Warming, and yes, even bringing justice to those who actually did attack us seven years ago today and who are still undoubtedly plotting against us in regions where Bush and McCain have not concentrated our forces — will require vast efforts and inevitably some sacrifices from our citizenry as well as intelligent, ethical, effective action from our leaders.

ddphoto120x160.JPGAmerica has succeeded. America can succeed. And America will succeed, but only if we work with each other, not against ourselves, through the much-maligned auspices of the government of the United States — the duly constituted power of the people.

“Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us — the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of ‘anything goes.’ Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America — there is the United States of America.” — Sen. Barack Obama, From “The Audacity of Hope,” His Keynote Address at the 2004 Democratic National Convention

Doug Drenkow

Doug Drenkow is a writer/editor, webmaster, and producer. A fourth-generation Democrat, Doug has produced progressive political talk shows — on radio, cable TV, and the Internet — hosted by Barry Gordon, longest-serving president of the Screen Actors Guild and former candidate for Congress, featuring senators, congressmen, bestselling authors, and other top guests in the nation. Doug’s progressive political commentaries have appeared in print, on radio, on cable and broadcast television, and online — as in DailyKos,, BuzzFlash, UPI, and BBC News Worldwide. Having met his wife through the Internet, Doug is a firm believer in the power of new media!


  1. says

    So many of my political contacts around the country are saying that the current situation — filled with so many lies, apparently fooling all-too-many voters — is just “surreal,” yet very real. The points you make can help people see the truth more clearly. I hope enough will before election day (and in Diebold/ES&S I do NOT trust).

  2. Chukar says

    Unity vs Division – Where we’re at.
    Hope vs Fear – How we see.
    Liberty vs Totalitarianism – What we face.

    The forces that lie, repeatedly and continually, are arrayed against us. Such forces have won in the past (1930’s Germany & Italy, for example) and there are no guarantees for victory of either side in the future. Can the Lie be conquered by Truth, or only by bigger lies?

    In the hope that Truth is the better path, the winning path, here’s how the opposition is organizing their campaign.

    The Nine Primary Principles of Effective Propaganda

    1. Big Lie – Always choose the big lie over the small; the masses will believe it more readily.

    2. Focus – Use only one or two selling points.

    3. Repeat – Say them over and over until even your enemies know them by heart.

    4. Blame – Never waver, acknowledge no doubt, always blame – never credit – the other side.

    5. Provoke – First attract attention, then appeal to emotions.

    6. Crisis – Shades of gray don’t work: issues must be love/hate, good/evil, life/death.

    7. Emotional Symbols – Good slogans have no literal meaning, only a strong emotional appeal.

    8. Pander – Ignore intellectuals and reasonable arguments; target the unthinking masses with emotional pitches.

    9. No Limits – Ignore all moral limits when stakes are high.

    Inoculate yourself against the lies. Pass this on to others so they can do the same.

  3. JuliaH says

    You’ve hit the nail on the head in this article! Thank you!

    I am combing the headlines trying to find any mention of this troubling report but it remains suspiciously elusive, so I’ll post here in hopes of finding answers and stimulating action:

    I heard on NPR today that the Republicans have publicly announced that they will try to block victims of foreclosure in the state of Michigan from being able to vote. Ironically, or not, the majority of voters in foreclosure in Michigan are African-Americans who are registered Democrat.

    Question: Is it legal to deny a registered voter the right to vote if they have lost their home to foreclosure? How does being in foreclosure make one a criminal who is ineligible to vote? Pardon me for being naive, but I, too, am a victim of the predatory lending debacle and am at risk of being foreclosed on myself in California, does that make me ineligible to vote?

    Do we have a voice to help the people in Michigan who are being foreclosed on? One wonders if we have a voice at all these days.

    –Employed in high-tech, slipping from the Middle Class, and frustrated in CA

    • says

      Dear Julia,

      My heart goes out to you. My sister- and brother-in-law are also losing their home to foreclosure.

      And it irks the hell out of me to read in financial articles online how so many brokers et al. each made millions and collectively drained tens and hundreds of billions of dollars out of the financial system, in what has amounted to an elaborate “confidence game” (“If the bank says I should be able to afford the payments, then it must be so; they don’t want me to default.”) or Ponzi Scheme / Pyramid Scheme, with the bill now coming due.

      Here is an excellent description of what has happened and what is happening: in Fortune online.

      However, as yesterday’s front page article in the New York Times online said, no one — not the financial bigwigs nor the U.S. government — knows what will happen next. We’re in “uncharted territory” (My neighbor lady and I are praying for a good outcome, and also having faith in Obama).

      Just hope that the entire “house of cards” — internationally — doesn’t come tumbling down, as it did in the Great Depression: I hope that the deregulators haven’t stripped away too many of the safeguards that FDR enacted during the New Deal.

      My late father lived through that and saw this coming, years ago.
      He must be turning over in his grave. Damn the Right!

      As for the voters in Michigan, yes, apparently just when you thought the GOP couldn’t sink any lower — McCain’s campaign is apparently even disgusting Karl Rove! — they have devised an apparently legal strategy to impede primarily African American Democratic voters in Michigan. There are numerous articles online, but this article from the Michigan Messenger seems to cover all the bases:

      State election rules allow parties to assign ‘election challengers’ to polls
      to monitor the election. In addition to observing the poll workers, these
      volunteers can challenge the eligibility of any voter provided they ‘have a
      good reason to believe’ that the person is not eligible to vote. One
      allowable reason is that the person is not a ‘true resident of the city or
      township.’ …

      ‘At a minimum what you are seeing is a fairly comprehensive effort by the
      Republican Party, a systematic broad-based effort to put up obstacles for
      people to vote. … Nobody is contending that these people are not legally
      registered to vote.’

      ‘When you are comprehensively challenging people to vote … your goals are
      two-fold: One is you are trying to knock people out from casting ballots;
      the other is to create a slowdown that will discourage others,’ who see a
      long line and realize they can’t afford to stay and wait.

      And by the way, a big foreclosure lawyer, profiting from this mess, is a big McCain contributor — his offices house the McCain campaign’s regional headquarters — and as that article above concludes, “the Republican-led [Michigan] state Senate has not moved on the anti-predatory lending bill for over a year and yet [Republicans] have time to prey on those who have fallen victim to foreclosure to suppress the vote.”

      Apparently Jim Crow is alive and well in some key swing counties of Michigan. And now the GOP leaders in Columbus, Ohio, are taking notice of these efforts in Michigan and may mount challenges to voters from foreclosed properties even before the election.

      As for here in California, I would definitely contact your county registrar of voter, to determine your rights before, on, and after election day.

      Good luck, and God help us all.

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