This morning, I received an e-mail from a friend of mine in Germany. We became friends in high school. His first real experience of America was the time he spent in Alexandria, as an exchange student at Alexandria Senior High.
My friend’s family is originally from Turkey. His parents immigrated to Germany before he was born, and though he is still a son of Germany, there is no doubt that he (and his family), like countless other Turkish immigrants in Germany, has been discriminated against– not only because of his faith, but also because of his ethnicity.
When he lived in America, he made friends with everyone and, in the process, fell in love with our country (even though daily life in Alexandria, Louisiana probably wasn’t what he expected prior to boarding his flight from Frankfurt).
I haven’t ever spoken to him about this specifically, but I think, in many ways, his experience in America inspired a belief about his own future. Today, he is finishing his law degree in Germany, with a focus on international law and with a hope of, one day, being involved in U.S.-German relations.
Since his stint as a foreign exchange student, he has returned to Louisiana several times, and he’s stayed connected with his friends and his host family.
When my father passed away, he was one of the first people to call, early in the morning, from his home in Wolfsburg to express his condolecenses.
And early this morning, he wrote me for a different reason: To express his joy. He’d stayed up all night watching the returns.
By now, it may be a hackneyed thing to say, but last night’s election proved something, to the entire world, about the hope of America. You don’t have to take my word for it. Read the international papers, look at the photographs, watch the videos of the reaction across the world. Last night, the world learned that America is, in fact, a nation of limitless possibilities, a nation that, as the President-elect said, is “built on the enduring power of our ideals.”
Last night, a nation with a shameful history of slavery and racism, a nation that, only forty years ago, discriminated against African-Americans not only as a practice but also as a policy, and, indeed, a nation that still struggles in understanding the discourse of race decided, with its votes, to elect as its President an improbable candidate, a black man with a mother from Kansas and a father from Kenya, Barack Obama.
Pardon my hyperbole, but I strongly believe that last night’s election has both redefined and reaffirmed the promise of America. Even if you voted for another candidate, it is difficult to deny what Mr. Obama’s victory reflects about our country and what it demonstrates to the rest of the world.
As an aside, I am, of course, disappointed Louisiana broke its 40-year-old streak of picking the winner in the Presidential election and perhaps even more disappointed by State Representative Michael Jackson, whose campaign was premised on the notion that he could unwittingly capture African-American voters for Obama (a campaign financed, in large part, by a major Republican donor) simply because he too is an African-American. Mr. Jackson, after losing in the special election and then becoming an Independent, accepted money from someone who is, most likely, diametrically opposed to those Democratic policies Jackson ostensibly supported.
Polls never showed Jackson receiving more than 12% of the vote. He didn’t raise much money, but the bulk of the money he did raise was from a Republican donor. Certainly, he should have known that he was literally being paid to be a spoiler. (Contrary to what a certain State Senator told me at the Democratic National Convention, I do not believe that this spoiler campaign somehow reinforces a candidate’s inherent legitimacy or represents an honest and faithful attempt at enfranchisement, particularly in this context and climate).
Instead of putting the needs of his constituents first, Mr. Jackson put his ego first and, in doing so, undercut the very cause he sought to promote: being a reliable Democratic champion for Louisiana and promoting the needs of his district to the Obama administration.
As the results demonstrate, Michael Jackson effectively spoiled the election for Don Cazayoux and handed the seat to a Republican. With all due respect, Dr. Cassidy may have won the election, but the real winner is Lane Grigsby.
On a brighter note, Karl Rove lost in Louisiana.
His hand-selected candidate, John N. Kennedy, was defeated by Mary Landrieu by nearly six points, a remarkable feat when one considers the margin of victory for John McCain. (Reluctantly and despite my previous prognostications, I admit that Mr. McCain and Mr. Kennedy definitively won Rapides Parish; however, notably, Mr. Obama and Ms. Landrieu actually carried Alexandria).