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Several weeks prior to the primary vote, when it was clear that Obama would win, we began to see essays that pleaded for restraint against lording it over Clinton supporters, despite the intensity of that long, fierce fight. The public compliance with that plea was, at least from an Obama supporter's pov, impressive.  Obama and his new administration will face a similar but far greater challenge in the wake of the election, and it will be just as important, maybe more important and even more difficult, to make that same extended effort.  

There've recently been calls on several sites for, eventually, a kind of "Truth and Reconciliation Commission" as a way to address the frustration not only of over-the-top conduct by McCain, but even (or especially) the actions of Bush et al. One such suggestion prompted comments like "yeah, but don't forget revenge! we need to punish them!" Which of course defeats the point of a Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and - most importantly - exacerbates the critical, tragic divisiveness that Obama is trying to overcome. Punishment, public humiliation, acknowledgement may be intellectually and emotionally gratifying in the short term, but at enormous long-term cost.

"Affinity politics," as used by the editor of the Anchorage paper in conversation on NPR, is alogical participation in the democratic process, where the voter instinctively decides "this candidate is like me" and closes down any further consideration of issues or facts. Faced with facts like a birth certificate, affinity voters will invent a story to spin it rather than step back and think about either the fact or the spin. And the flip side of this is that those of us in the loyal opposition are seen, by affinity, as surrogates for our candidate. So if I (carelessly, regretfully) make a 5-second snarky comment on Sarah Palin in a gym full of Cavuto fans, they perceive it as Obama directly insulting themselves.

Let's all meditate on Maya Angelou's famous quote "they will never remember what you said or did, but they will always remember how you made them feel." That's the secret of Palin's success with her base, and it is the key to Obama's long-term effectiveness (and perhaps even to his safety). Please, let's all summon the discipline and community that we strived for following the primary, and find those common bonds with even those who seem most mystifying to us. Don't expect them to reciprocate, but do hope that they will restrain themselves as well, and that a year or so from now we will find ourselves all a little closer to Obama's goals.

Originally posted to mmiddle on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 06:58 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Oh those dirty thieving hobbitses. (2+ / 0-)

    We hates them forever :-)

    In the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope.

    by MBNYC on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 07:03:06 AM PDT

  •  I am not sure that we need or (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    pengiep, MBNYC, Eclectablog

    want a T&R commission. We have laws, we still have the rule of law (as damaged as it has been by the Bush criminals) so I am more interested in working the system.

    It may fail, but until it does we should try to stand by the rules of our society. T&R commissions are most common when there has been a total overthrow of a government (peaceful or not), that is not what we are going to see in this election.

    •  not really advocating a TRC (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      juliesie

      but it's the issue that gave rise to the suggestion that's important. Really, even such a non-punitive commission would be ultimately counterproductive.

      •  Welll, there has to be (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        beemerr90s, pengiep

        investigation and prosecution no matter what. If we do not do that, then the Law is a lie. I will not be party to that. Too much of our history has been about trying to expand and protect the idea of Law. If we leave that we are truly lost without a rudder.

        •  Agreed. I cannot condone walking away from (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pengiep, Something the Dog Said

          clear violations of law and from investigating what clearly deserves being investigated.

          However, I also think we should be very careful not to swing the pendulum too far back.  Obama, IMHO, believes in working with all sides, listening to all concerns.  I think this is wise.  I hope it is where we go.

          I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

          by beemerr90s on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 07:22:32 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  I do trust (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            beemerr90s

            our future president will be a moderate balanced voice in this. He is after all a lawyer, and the law is about balance. He will do what needs to be done, not for revenge but because the law demands that it be done, without passion, without pre-judgment, without fear.

  •  Maybe "restraint" is why (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    MBNYC

    all the police departments are putting on big shifts for Nov. 4.

  •  Big Ditto. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    juliesie

    The country is in too much of a mess now to lose time and energy in us/them mentality. This is serious shit, folks! Suck it up for restraint and reconciliation

    •  Revenge is not justice (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      pengiep

      however, justice does allow for proper punishment of those that break the law. We have unindited  war criminals serving in high office. We must investigate because torture has been the policy of our country. No country gets past that stain until they investigate and punish the offenders. It might take 40 years, but this will hang around our collective necks until we deal with it. That it comes at a bad time is no surprise, these things do not exist in isolation.

      •  I disagree. (0+ / 0-)

        Sometimes you just have to let go, for the greater good.

        •  I cannot agree. (3+ / 0-)

          We cannot just "let go".  We need to be restrained from a "witch-hunt" mentality, but justice MUST be pursued.  Serious crimes have been committed.  At a minimum, we have to find out just what happened.  We have to insist that there be consequences to the usurpation of the Constitution and willful felonious activity.  We can let the small stuff go, but in many cases we are NOT talking about small stuff.

          I'd rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.

          by beemerr90s on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 07:28:27 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  If you let it go you are harming the (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aunt Martha

          greater good in this situation. War crimes not a causal thing. Systematic violations of the Constitution are not a small thing. In law if you let something like this pass, it makes it a precedent and it will allow others in the future to justify the same acts.

          The only way to end this is investigate. Indict those that are culpable, try them and see if you can convict. Otherwise we lose the very thing that makes this country work, the Law.

        •  Let's just decimate the Constitution (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Something the Dog Said

          and dance all over it to a happy tune because happiness and dancing is all for the greater good.

  •  Ah yes, the high road... (0+ / 0-)

    really the most difficult and hopefully the most satisfying!

    "Remember there's a big difference between kneeling down and bending over."
    Frank Zappa

  •  I agree (0+ / 0-)

    President Obama (nice, first time I've typed that actually!) is going to have a tough enough time governing even if he wins by a landslide. He needs to prove that he's Presdent of all the people even if they didn't vote for him.

  •  Revenge is dangerous (0+ / 0-)

    Punishment, public humiliation, acknowledgement may be intellectually and emotionally gratifying in the short term, but at enormous long-term cost.

    You'd think we'd have learned that lesson after 9/11. We've been at war since then, and it was gratifying in the beginning. But all that it has accomplished in the long term is drained our economy, alienated our allies, and divided us here at home.

    Looking for an inclusive yet challenging spiritual blog? Come visit our SPlog at Spiritual Persistence

    by sunflight on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 07:35:21 AM PDT

    •  So, you would let war crimes go? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Aunt Martha

      Torture is a war crime. You would say that it is more important that we let this slide in an effort to reconcile than it is to be sure that it never happens again?

      That is the choice. If we do not investigate and try those culpable, we can be sure that some not so distant administration will torture again.

      You are free to choose, but understand that you can not have both.

      •  There's a difference between (0+ / 0-)

        justice and revenge.

        Justice is done to bring a situation back into balance (remember the scales of justice?). Revenge is done for the gratification of feeling in control of someone or something--it seeks to weight the scales on one side.

        Big difference.

        Looking for an inclusive yet challenging spiritual blog? Come visit our SPlog at Spiritual Persistence

        by sunflight on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08:08:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  You are right. I don't support (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Aunt Martha

          talking about justice for that reason. However, Law requires action when crimes are committed. To fail to do so is to undermine the Law. When that happens democracies fail. We are talking about a very real and ongoing threat to the very idea of our country.

          As unpleasant as it may be, as divisive as it may turn out, we must not just let this go. I don't give a damn who did it or what their motives were or what party they belong to, if you commit crimes and it is known you must face the law. If they do not we are in far more trouble than a divided electorate.

          •  You don't support talking about justice? (0+ / 0-)

            Maybe I need more coffee to understand what you're saying, but if you're talking about the law, you need to address the concept of justice. The law is not an instrument of revenge.

            Looking for an inclusive yet challenging spiritual blog? Come visit our SPlog at Spiritual Persistence

            by sunflight on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08:22:47 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I am not talking about revenge at all. (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              Aunt Martha

              I don't believe in it. I also don't talk about justice because the word gets misused far too often.

              I believe in the law, uniformly and impartially applied. Leave justice and revenge to those that are interested in them. We have laws, that they apply to all of us is the only way to be fair. We are talking about the fair application of the law.

              •  I believe in justice as well as the law (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Something the Dog Said

                because I think it has an ethical component, but I certainly understand your point.  Obviously, the law can be misused as well, so I think that the fair application of it is both impartial and ethical, and therefore constitutes justice.  So ultimately we're in agreement, even if we use slightly different terms to get there.

        •  Who is talking about revenge (0+ / 0-)

          besides the diarist?  I and others here are saying that it's important to uphold the law and the Constitution, something that seems to have been in short supply lately.  The diarist seems to think that that's revenge.  Do you?

  •  Couldn't Agree More! (0+ / 0-)

    I'm in rural Western Ohio (OH-4)an area that has been republican dominated since FDR. The tide is changing. The local party has been "infiltrated" by true progressives and we have made great gains this year with the electorate.

    As the (new) Chair of the county Democratic Party, earlier this week I called for a post-election unity movement. We settled on a county-wide food drive and an open peace & unity vigil. This has been a nasty election cycle with plenty of epithets, theft and vandalism.

    The truth is that the angry candidate doesn't win and the angry party can't govern. WE NEED TO BE THE CHANGE WE'VE BEEN WAITING FOR (sound familiar?). We need to follow Barack's lead and we need to lead! He will need ALL of the support we can garner for the tough times ahead. Let's work our tails off until the polls are closed and cleared on Nov. 4. On Nov. 5. let the healing begin!  

  •  So are you saying that we should just ignore (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Something the Dog Said

    the fact that Bush et al have decimated the Constitution, with Republican and far too much Democratic complicity?

    •  I think that historians will be far more likely (0+ / 0-)

      to hold the miscreants of this era fully and permanently accountable if present-day seekers of justice give them carte blanche to do so. That version of accountability will be far more productive than a feel-good fest by people who may botch the job they try to do. Law is a complex thing and you should never take an outcome for granted.

      •  "Feel-good fest?" (0+ / 0-)

        I'd say you're joking, but I know you're not.  By your logic, it's fine for people to break laws with impunity.  Great!  I'm going to rob a bank and tell everyone about it and no one can punish me because it's simply revenge and that's only a feel-good fest.  I like that; it will solve all my economic problems in one fell swoop.

        Law!  The Constitution!  A feel-good fest.  Hmmmm.

        •  nope (0+ / 0-)

          Trials would operate on several levels, one of which would be a feel-good fest for people so inclined. A prime purpose of punishment is deterrence, and trials like these would not deter future such misconduct. Another purpose is retribution, of course, and that's what I'm objecting to here, for political, bipartisan reasons.

          •  You seem to know a lot about the future (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Something the Dog Said

            since you speak with such absolute certainty about what will happen.

            What you're telling me is that you don't care about the Constitution nor do you care about the rule of law.  And that's just sad.

            •  wrong. (0+ / 0-)

              I am a lawyer, and called early on for impeachment proceedings. But I do know some history, and I also know that clinging to unexamined assumptions, such as the ones you're making here, is wrong no matter what party you're from.

              •  As a lawyer (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Aunt Martha

                how can you possibly be in favor of letting felonies, and high crimes go?

                History is not the province of the law. You know this, you are a sworn officer of the court! You owe your thoughts and efforts to upholding the law. If you don't like the result of that, then you have the same choice as the rest of us to work to change the laws.

                Would you really advocate that a burglar not be brought before the court just because he was also a popular city council member?

                For that matter would you ever argue against indicting a suspect for political reasons? That is what you seem to be saying.

              •  Then I suggest you reread your diary (0+ / 0-)

                because it seems to argue that we should not seek to uphold the law--and your subsequent comments seem to argue that as well.  Is that really what you, as a lawyer, want to argue?

                BTW, what unexamined assumptions am I making?  Besides arguing that the Constitution actually means something?

  •  "Respect, Empower, Include" Obama promises to (0+ / 0-)

    represent all Americans, not just those who supported him. We can do no less. We have no time for partisan negativity. We have far too many critical issues facing our country and our planet right now. We MUST work together!

    •  And what exactly does this mean? (0+ / 0-)

      Are you saying that we should not uphold the Constitution?  Are you saying that those who broke the law should go unpunished?

      •  Sorry for such a late reply...there should be (0+ / 0-)

        accountability, absolutely. The rule of law must be upheld. When I posted this comment, I was thinking more of the supporters of McCain and Palin, and even Nader and Ron Paul, not so much the Bush crime family.

        But even with those who have commited crimes: justice is not the same thing as vindictivess. One of the reasons for due process is that everyone is treated fairly, and that as much as possible, the legal system and it's outcomes are impartially applied; without hate.

        We need to support Obama's vision of 'a more perfect union", and to help make his vision a reality. This is going to be hard work in many ways, and overcoming our own anger and frustration is not the least of the difficulty we face.

        When I was a girl (over forty years ago) we went to visit my great-aunt Martha in Portland every summer. Thanks for reminding me of those lovely visits.

        Peace,

        juliesie

  •  I am for a truth and reconciliation commission (0+ / 0-)

    and here's why:

    I believe in the rule of law. It fueled our war of independence, and also the French revolution (though for a variety of reasons it did not sustain in the French situation).

    The law is not working very well just now. Just look at the administration. If we could invite folks to tell the truth without fear of recrimination as they did in South Africa, we'd all be better off. Plus, it makes a statement that we want to get to the truth and that Obama wants to go forward and not recriminate. It's a good idea, and I support it.

    "No one ever went broke underestimating the taste of the American people"--H.L.Mencken

    by commonmass on Thu Oct 23, 2008 at 08:42:02 AM PDT

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