The Olympics begin today — with some very personal excitement at People For. David Banks, the son of Executive Vice President Marge Baker, is competing on the U.S. Olympic rowing team in Beijing. I know many of us will be up in the wee hours cheering for David and the team, and looking for a glimpse of Marge and her family in the crowd.
This year, American viewers of the Olympics can expect to see a lot of ads for our presidential candidates, bringing our domestic politics more noticeably into an event that always strikes me as a complicated mix of internationalist spirit and patriotic rooting for the home team. And here in the U.S. we’ll go pretty much straight from the Olympics into the political parties’ nominating conventions and into the final sprint toward Election Day.
All that has me feeling a sense of excitement — and gratitude — for the potential for progressive change achieved through the democratic process. As flawed as our election system is, as frustrated as the candidates will make us, as maddening as some of the campaign coverage will be, American voters have the opportunity to make a tremendous change in the leadership of our country — and influence our future and the world’s.
The political Right has long tried to co-opt patriotism, and use it as a bludgeon against progressive candidates. But I hope those efforts have less and less effect in the wake of the very evident damage right-wing leadership has done to America. Of course we progressives are motivated by our love for this country and the freedom and power it grants its citizens, for our deep desire to see it be true to its highest ideals. Our patriotism leads us to reach for a better, more progressive America — one that holds true to core values that have been sadly corrupted by the Bush administration.
People for the American Way is dedicated to making the promise of America real for every American. Equality. Freedom of speech. Freedom of religion. The right to seek justice in a court of law. The right to cast a vote and have that vote count. That’s the American Way! And thanks to pressure from People For members and allies, we’re seeing a reassertion of checks and balances — like the House Judiciary Committee voting recently to hold Karl Rove in contempt of Congress.
So, I’m hopeful. In the coming weeks I’ll be cheering for David and other athletes who represent the best of the American spirit. And I’ll be working with all my colleagues to help ensure that our leaders are committed to the values we believe represent the best of American ideals. (To this end, People For has a petition out now urging Barack Obama to pick a progressive running mate).