For 230 years, Americans have been united by a simple, common dream that tomorrow will be better than today. The promise of American life, handed on through a dozen generations, rests on this basic bargain: All of us should have the opportunity to live up to our God-given potential, and the responsibility to make the most of it.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, co-author,
“Saving The American Dream“
What is the American Dream? Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton talk about it and write about it. (Senator Obama’s The Audacity of Hope was subtitled “Reclaiming the American Dream.”) Both candidates appear to assume that we Americans are dreaming the same dream they are. But I believe that this primary season has shown that the American Dreamers have very different visions of what it means to be a success in America, and that those visions inform their voting habits more than race, sex or religion.
The American Nightmare: Acquisition Overwhelms Responsibility
I want the works / I want the whole works
Presents and prizes and sweets and surprises
Of all shapes and sizes
Don’t care how / I want it now
Don’t care how / I want it now
Veruca Salt, “Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“
Part of the American Dream has always been to acquire. We wanted the nice house, the backyard, the kids, the big cars, the promotion. We wanted to show up our neighbors by being the first to have the latest, coolest gadget – from the first TV to the first Wii. But ever since Ronald Reagan started glamorizing greed and telling us that we could buy now and pay never, our dreams of acquisition have turned into nightmares.
We refuse to admit that we have a responsibility towards our neighbors, whether it’s the ones down the street or the ones across the ocean in Old Yurp (they’re either with us, or against us). The madness of the economic and social libertarians has strangled the effectiveness of government (remember Reagan’s “nine most terrifying words?“) so that natural disasters, like Hurricane Katrina, are made into national tragedies. “Fuck you, I’ve got mine” has become the siren song of the conservative movement, and due to that movement’s almost total control of the corporate media, of much of America. Pardon me for saying so, but I don’t think this is what the Founding Fathers meant by “We, the people.”
The most dedicated Obama supporters are, in my opinion, mainly invested in the Acquisition portion of the American Dream. Obama is the coolest new product on the market, and they Just. Want. Him. The Obama Rules state that it is our duty to shut up and elect him. Icons like Jesse Jackson stress his blackness as a reason to support him. Howard Dean is proud not to be a member of “the white Party.” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi appears to think he is a gift from God. Only very recently have high-profile Democrats become concerned that Obama’s shiny packaging might be concealing the candidate’s essential emptiness. Obamans don’t care how – they want him NOW!
But what kind of President would the Senator from Illinois be? That question is rarely asked by Obamans. After all, when you are in an acquisitive frenzy, you don’t often stop to think if buying that awesome Hummer is really the best idea in the long run, or if you really wouldn’t be better off with a dorky, but so much more practical, hybrid minivan.
Activism: The Other American Dream
Senator Obama taps into the idea of activism in many of his speeches. It’s shockingly hypocritical, because there is absolutely no evidence of activism in the candidate himself. He has the thinnest record of selflessness and accomplishment of any presidential candidate I’ve seen in my lifetime, yet he appears to ask the American people to do something he’s not willing to do. Don’t worry, though, it’s all part of the product. Obama makes people feel good about themselves, but asks for nothing real in return. The idea of electing a post-racial, post-partisan, transcendent figure is enough. The activism starts and ends with electing Barack Obama.
Here is where PUMA comes in.
It turns out that a lot of us PUMAs grew up in the time of Ronald Reagan and Bush 1, and were old enough to be politically aware in the 90’s. We saw firsthand what a Democrat could do as President, even with Congress fighting him every step of the way. We saw that President Clinton was serious about building the middle class and getting Americans back to work, and by refusing to kow-tow to the borrow-and-spend politicians on both sides of the aisle, he instituted responsible tax-and-spend policies instead. Most of all, the two-term President re-balanced the American Dream. Sure, acquisition is fine, but don’t buy that Hummer unless you can pay for the gas. And so we thought it would be, forever and ever, Amen.
After eight years of the Worst President Ever going through the American Dream like a wrecking ball, we Democrats were ready for a change. Many of us PUMAs couldn’t have cared less which Democrat made it to the top of the ticket this year – we thought they were all pretty good and were ready to vote for anyone the voters picked.
But as the primaries progressed, we PUMAs noticed a disturbing trend: no matter what Hillary did, no matter how many big blue states and swing states she won, she could not catch up to Obama’s pledged delegate count, because red-state caucuses suddenly meant more than blue-state primaries to Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi and Donna Brazile (not to mention that they took two of Hillary’s biggest states out of contention for extremely suspicious reasons). Meanwhile, although we might not have begun as Hillary supporters, many of us suddenly started seeing the Senator from New York as she really was: a tireless champion of Democratic values, our generation’s FDR, and a true public servant who could turn the old American Dream back into reality. A responsible government that gives all Americans the opportunity to make the most of what they have? I don’t care how many times Obama says “Hope!”, that’s one inspirational message.
PUMAs and Hillary: Purrrrrfect Together
We PUMAs had found our purrrfect partner in Senator Clinton – a candidate who made us believe that America could still do good things; that Americans could participate in the world without destroying it; that we could fix our economy, our environment and our foreign policy. Thus, when Hillary was driven out of the race by the screaming hordes of Obamans, we PUMAs exploded into activism. In just under three months of existence, we have grown to comprise millions of members – and there are so many more who have never heard of PUMA, but feel the same we we do. Even more amazing, we have changed the relentless drumbeat of the corporate-owned media. PUMAs are appearing all over cable news and being interviewed in newspapers. Our first success was getting Hillary’s name in nomination at the Convention – something that, despite her huge delegate count and unequaled primary achievements, was not going to be “allowed” by the Obama/DNC Conglomerate.
The Future of the American Dream
Ultimately, Obama is right about one thing, although he doesn’t mean it: We ARE the ones we’ve been waiting for. No matter what happens at the Convention or in November, we PUMAs will continue our activism. The American Dream is a good one and true, and we each must do our part to make it a reality. To do any less would be…irresponsible.