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. Continue reading