Sunday, January 25, 2009
With the simple declarative sentence, "I won," President Barack Obama left no doubt who is now in charge of the show in Washington D.C. Elections have consequences was a remark made by John McCain during a debate in October of 2008. In a recent search on Westlaw the earliest record of this remark was in 1987 by Rep. Dick Gephart who said at a campaign stop at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa "In America, elections have consequences. If you voted for Ronald Reagan, you voted against your student loans. When you vote, you are not just voting for a candidate or a smile or a television commercial. You are voting for policies that affect your life. I'm not important. What is important is that you get involved. Get out and fight for somebody. Get involved in this election."
"Elections have consequences" is phrase that has been batted back and forth - used by Phil Gramm in 1995 in response to a question about then-President Clinton's nominee for the Supreme Court. It was most famously uttered in recent memory by Senator Barbara Boxer who schooled Jim Inhofe on the ways of the Senate at a hearing with former Vice President Al Gore. No matter who says these unremarkable words - they are no doubt true enough. A win is a win, to the winner go the spoils - my only problem with President Obama's comment is the insertion of the pronoun "I" rather then sticking with his heretofore used "we."
One of the hallmarks of Obama's unprecedentedly successful campaign was his sense of inclusion, his continuous use of the pronoun "we" in place of the omnipresent use of the pronoun "I" by the Republicans. How much more powerful would it have been to hear once again the refrain that marked Obama's campaign as the highly successful campaign it was: "We won" rather than using the pronouns "I' or the equally self-centered "me?"
Didn't "we" win? Wasn't it a collective effort, this monumental race that made history, that broke all previous molds? President Obama, please don't abandon "us" in your role as the first president of color that this country has ever elected. Remember that, in the memorable line brought to us by the late great Molly Ivins, "ya gotta dance with them that brung ya." And you didn't get to where you are on your own - "we" had a lot to do with where you are.