THIS IS OUR TIME. Four years ago, we were confident. No way would America, in its right mind, perpetuate the unfolding national nightmare. Sure, we weren’t giddy about his opponent, but we had no doubt that George W. Bush would never serve a second term. And everyone we knew—everyone we knew—agreed. And we all know what happened.
Let us join the overwhelming chorus of voices endorsing the election of Barack Obama for President of the United States. In our two-plus decades of publishing, we have never endorsed any candidate for any office. We do not have expectations we’ll do so again. But never before have we encountered a candidate so compelling on so many levels, or a time for change so imperative. We won’t recount the prose for Obama nor the case against McCain; our case has been made persuasively, we think, by many others. Not only from the expected, like the New York Times, but the unexpected, like the Chicago Tribune, perhaps the most historically Republican newspaper in America, which endorsed its first Democrat, ever, since its founding in 1847. Or, if skeptics think it just hometown favoritism (a favor not bestowed in kind on Chicago Democrat Adlai Stevenson in 1952 or 1956), note that the LA Times gave the Democrat its nod, too, a first in its 126-year history. The New Yorker committed more than 4,000 words to its endorsement, waxing both eloquent and loquacious. This is a very large and loud chorus.
DO NOT BE COMPLACENT. THE ELECTION IS NOT OVER. Our first clue that our confidence was not consensus, four years ago, came when we left the Democratic solidarity of Chicago and drove toward parts north. As the tollways of Illinois gave way to the greenways of Wisconsin, we saw strange things with increasing frequency: signs and bumper stickers supporting the reelection of the president. Something was not right. And it was not.
Here in Chicago, we live in a cocoon of political comfort. We watch MSNBC. Everyone we know is a Democrat; everyone we talk to supports Obama. Every publication we read endorses him. At dinner in a Korean restaurant during the primary season, the owner asks us, when he sees us watching the election coverage on his television, “Want to know what they call Obama in Korea? Neo.” The whole world knows he’s the one. Could America be so stupid as to not see this? Alas, it can be, and the prevailing evidence emanating from Washington is our daily reminder. So do not be complacent. The election is not over.
THE CAMPAIGN IS LONG AND INSUFFERABLE. BUT RECONNECT TO THE EXCITEMENT YOU FELT AT THE BEGINNING. Although we may be late to print our endorsement, having waited till our final issue before the election, we’ve been long planning to do so. For never in our lifetime, either the lifetime of this publication, or the longer lifetime of its publishers, has a living political leader so inspired. We saw something special the night of the Iowa caucuses, when we traveled to Iowa City and experienced youthful political enthusiasm the likes of which we’d never imagined possible. Cynicism ceased, and for one night the America of grade-school civics lessons was real. This is the moment when the candidate, Barack Obama, and all that he represents, became the hope of the nation.
Since then, we’ve been through a long and challenging primary season. And now we endure the discouraging general-election campaign, bearing witness as a candidate we once respected, John McCain, throws away his legacy in an increasingly desperate gambit to mobilize the right, which seems to respond only to the language of hate and the tactic of character destruction, so thoroughly have its ideas been discredited by the failure of the Bush regime. And though Obama has been impressively cool in the face of these attacks, no matter how vile and personal, and though Obama has redeemed our early faith with a campaign generally impressive in substance, tactic and decision, it is hard not to be worn down by the incessant pecking of the sound bite, to grow weary of it all. Now is the time, then, to think about what first engaged you in this candidacy: yes, the promise of redemption, in part, for America’s original sin through the election of an African American; yes, the excitement of a candidate who preached and practiced a new style of post-partisan politics; yes, the wonder of a candidate who reinvigorated the idea of America as a progressive nation, not one mired in the dead-end belief that the only freedom that mattered was that of the market; yes, the pleasure of seeing a candidate who unabashedly evoked the inexplicably abandoned ideal of America being led by its best and its brightest. And yes, even the personal connection to a candidate from our generation and from our city. The campaign is long and insufferable. But you must reconnect to the excitement you felt at the beginning.
SO WHAT MUST WE DO TO ELECT BARACK OBAMA?
VOTE. EVEN IF IT DOESN’T SEEM NECESSARY. BECAUSE IT IS. You live in Chicago, most likely the strongest Obama stronghold anywhere, so it might seem okay to, well, not go through with the actual trip to the polling place, especially if the lines are long, if the weather’s bad, if you’ve got a hangover or a hangnail. But your vote, every vote, counts—this time—more than ever. The imperative to deliver a resounding, unambiguous message in the popular vote should motivate us all. And if the election night turns out closer than polls now project, as it might, and the electoral college is close, an overwhelming popular vote will speak. Never forget Florida 2000.
VOTE. FOR PERSONAL POSTERITY. You will always remember this vote. You will want to tell your grandchildren you voted for Obama. Trust us, you will.
GET AT LEAST THREE OTHERS, WHO YOU DON’T THINK WILL VOTE YOUR WAY, TO VOTE YOUR WAY. We have an uncle who, just about every day, emails us the latest dispatch from the right-wing hate machine. Sometimes it questions Obama’s heritage or patriotism, sometimes it riffs on his “extreme liberal socialism” (oh, the irony). We all have uncles, grandmothers, cousins with profoundly different world views than ours, who say things we cannot abide, but who love us and we them, nonetheless. Like Barack Obama, and his white grandmother, who he described as “a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.” These are the ones we must reach out to, as challenging as it seems, to register our heartfelt requests. You might not change their politics, but you might convince them that this one is for you. This one is for your future. So what must we do to elect Barack Obama? We must not be complacent. We must reconnect to the excitement we felt at the beginning. And we must get out our vote.
This is our time. See you in Grant Park.