Remember when Michelle Obama said in 2007, “For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback.” She took some flak for it, like Cindy McCain saying, “I have and always will be proud of my country.” But Cindy McCain may not be that familiar with the African-American experience. Michelle Obama was expressing a feeling that comes at one of the points where the “long arc of history may be bending towards justice.” Give her a break. After all, that didn’t last too long.
I heard something at Doug Jones’ victory party in Alabama last night that gave me pride. It may be the first and possibly the last time. The crowd started chanting, “U.S.A., U.S.A., U.S.A.” I normally find that chant to be boorish, snobbish and inappropriate. It is like the bully prancing around the playground telling everyone that he or she is the greatest. There is no modesty involved. I must wonder what athletes from other countries think about the chant when they hear it at the Olympics, or elsewhere. It’s so, “In your face.” Even if the venue is not the Olympics and it’s a rally in the U.S., it almost reflects the pleading of a child who can’t find other sources of self-esteem.
But hearing it from an Alabama crowd was different. In recent decades, we’ve come to learn that the Civil War is not over, or if it is over, it seems that the Confederacy won. So, instead of singing the Alabama fight song and waving Confederate flags, we heard Jones supporters saying something that might reflect a profound change in loyalties. They were proud to be citizens of the United States, not just Alabama. That’s one of the beauties about races for federal office; they give the winners opportunities to do something that can truly advance the quality of life in our country as a whole. It’s not parochial about their state. That perspective often leads to a “race to the bottom.”
Doug Jones wants to restore fund for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program). That’s a true dollar and cents issue, and one that impacts all needy children in America. His words are steps towards improving quality of life, and clearly demonstrating that Democrats are more interested in the economic needs of people in lower-income brackets. The Republicans have tried to snooker people into thinking that is their concern, but look at their tax plans and you see who they clearly favor.
Another great point from last night was when Charles Barkley was first dropped the cliché, “the great people of Alabama,” and then corrected himself. He said that he wanted others to know that there are some great people in Alabama, but there are also rednecks and knuckleheads. Kudos to Barkley. Instead of the lame connotations of any state being great, he acknowledged that it is a fabric of mixed characteristics. It is a work in progress and blindly praising the state can offer excuses to not deal with real problems. Barkley has previously hinted at running for office in Alabama; he seems to have at least one foot in the sea of reality.
Finally, there is Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill. Here is a man who voted for Roy Moore, because he felt that it would be better for the U.S. Supreme Court and other issues. But when the votes were counted, he sounded as respectable as any Secretary of State could. He made it clear that Jones’ 1.5% margin was three times larger than the 0.5% difference to trigger an automatic vote recount. He said that the people of Alabama had spoken. He clearly outlined how certification of the election would proceed.
He seemed to take his office seriously. Even when Chris Cuomo needled him this morning about his vote for Moore, he maintained his integrity. It’s all something to think about. Life may not be as simple as we often characterize it.
So, congratulations to Doug Moore and those in Alabama who want the state to be a full participant in helping the United States address its economic and social issues. But with the shift of eleven thousand votes, it would be Donald Trump, Steve Bannon and Roy Moore who would be crowing. It’s a ‘W’ for the Democrats, but tenuous at that. If Alabama is in play, it’s like the rest of the country. Democrats clearly have the high ground when it comes to policies, but they still have a lot of ‘splaining to do. Victory can be fleeting.