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Choosing the winning storyline

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If Americans believe that “we are a better country” than what we have seen for the past eight years, as Democratic Presidential nominee Barack Obama said in his acceptance speech Thursday night, then that sense of hope will help propel him into the White House.

In what was an inspiring speech, Obama’s soaring rhetorical style encouraged Americans to dream again of a country that leads the world, not by military might, but by the force of its optimism and a promise of opportunity available to all:

“It’s a promise that says each of us has the freedom to make of our own lives what we will, but that we also have the obligation to treat each other with dignity and respect,” Obama said. “It’s a promise that says the market should reward drive and innovation and generate growth, but that businesses should live up to their responsibilities to create American jobs, look out for American workers, and play by the rules of the road.

“Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves — protect us from harm and provide every child a decent education; keep our water clean and our toys safe; invest in new schools and new roads and new science and technology. Our government should work for us, not against us. It should help us, not hurt us. It should ensure opportunity not just for those with the most money and influence, but for every American who’s willing to work.

“That’s the promise of America - the idea that we are responsible for ourselves, but that we also rise or fall as one nation; the fundamental belief that I am my brother’s keeper; I am my sister’s keeper.

“That’s the promise we need to keep. That’s the change we need right now.”

But Obama’s speech wasn’t just about hope. He also asked the American people to look critically at the failure of the Bush administration over this past eight years, and not excuse that performance.

“We meet at one of those defining moments,” Obama told the nation, “a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil and the American promise has been threatened once more. Tonight, more Americans are out of work and more are working harder for less. More of you have lost your homes and even more are watching your home values plummet. More of you have cars you can’t afford to drive, credit card bills you can’t afford to pay and tuition that’s beyond your reach.

“These challenges are not all of government’s making. But the failure to respond is a direct result of a broken politics in Washington and the failed policies of George W Bush.”

He broadened that criticism by charging that Republican nominee Sen. John McCain has subscribed to the Republican’s failed theory of trickle-down economics, where the policy of the land is to enrich the wealthy and let the money trickle down to the vast majority of Americans. “It’s time for them to own their failure. It’s time for us to change America.”

It’s not that difficult to imagine how McCain and the Republican camp will fight back. They’ll simply deny the charges. They’ll suggest that the Iraq war was the right one to pursue; they’ll downplay the difficulties in Afghanistan and suggest Americans are safer today than we would have been under a Democratic administration. They’ll play the fear card, time and time again, because putting fear in the hearts of Americans is what has worked for Bush these past eight years. And they’ll suggest the economy is strong and getting stronger, that health care works better without more government involvement, and giving tax breaks to the wealthy is really the best way to go… just trust them. And then, of course, they’ll preach God and Country, as if only Republicans are the only real Christians and patriots among us.

It’s divisive, demeaning and dishonest, but it’s a strategy that has worked before.

The nation’s hope is that American citizens are able to choose the storyline that will best serve the nation’s long-term interest.

Angelo S. Lynn

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