The End Of The Road
I recognized that is was an ambitious undertaking. Four years is a long time to maintain a focus of the kind I was envisaging, and I surely wasn't always up to the task. But when people asked me what I would do after 2008, given the name, "On The Road To 2008", I always replied that the name was my exit strategy, and that come 2009 I would retire this blog. My goal was that I would write my final post on January 20th, 2009 - Inauguration Day - and my hope was that by then we would have voted for that "change".
Fortunately, we did.
So here we are, over 1200 blog entries and 400,000 words later, at the end of the road to that moment so many have been waiting for. And while no one could have predicted all the events and outcomes that have led to this particular moment, it can be defined at its essence as the end of the failed presidency of George W. Bush, and the beginning of a new government that we'd like to think better represents who we are as a nation.
Yet clearly we are passing through exceptionally difficult times of a kind we haven't experienced in a lifetime, and while I rejoice at the ending of Bush's regime, I recognize that the new leadership will have its hands full reversing, let alone fixing, the damage done over the past eight years.
Let us not be naive. In Obama we perceive a man of intelligence, thoughtfulness and common sense, but whose liberal policies will be tempered by a desire to govern nearer the center, seeking consensus among opponents, and common ground within diversity, because it will take the shared effort of many to do the work that needs to be done. We have great hope that he will lead us to a better place politically, economically, socially and morally, but we need to recognize he will not be infallible, and what ails the nation will take more than one or two terms of an Obama administration to heal, if such healing is possible at all.
Nevertheless today is a day for great hope. We have elected this country's first African-American president, and that's an amazing thing in itself. This is a "who would have thunk it" moment, and I still find myself thinking it hard to believe it actually happened, despite my long support for the eventual winning candidate. The festivities surrounding this inauguration are akin to the revelry of a New Year's Eve - and the anticipation is being felt not just by political junkies, but by millions of citizens and non-citizens alike. I always believed that Obama was unique among all candidates in possessing the qualities of leadership we would need to galvanize the energies and spirit of a nation to put us back on a road to recovery. As president-elect he has already shown indications he is up to the challenge, all while the outgoing president has continued to do nothing but leave a leadership vacuum that's needed serious filling for a long time.
With Obama's swearing in he is expected to hit the ground running. Few can recall a more prepared and active transition, and these difficult times have made such expediency and groundwork necessary. While we've been waiting, the world's problems have not stopped accumulating. Israel's Gaza offensive reminded us of the fragility of the Middle Eastern geopolitical environment, and the Bush administration's dismal handling of the Palestinian situation during their watch. It will take the goodwill of parties that appear to harbor none toward each other to once again offer a chance for peace in the region. Hopefully the Obama administration will make such a goal a top priority again. Indications are that he will.
The Iraq war was the primary focus of this blog when I began writing in 2004. My very first post, the subject of a letter to a newspaper (that I later turned into a blog post after this blog's creation), was about how long term a commitment ours was likely to be in Iraq. Despite my desire that we pull our troops out of Iraq, naivety would also be to believe that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars will quickly come to a resolution now that Obama will be in charge. There will be policy changes, but a military effort of such scope cannot so quickly be unwound. I expect many Obama supporters will be unsatisfied by the realities that govern the pace of withdrawal from Iraq. Meanwhile, just what length of commitment the redeployment of troops to Afghanistan engenders is a complete unknown. There be monsters facing us at every turn, down every road we take.
Back in the USA, we're living in dire economic times of a scope we really have yet to fully accept. As a nation we've never been good at proactively dealing with looming problems, and the situation this time around has been no different. Policies and practices have led us down a path that has put the nation in more debt than anyone could imagine just a decade ago, jeopardizing our future, and causing us to seek solutions that only exacerbate our debt load in the process. Few can really see a clear way out of the mess we're in. Obama has tough choices to make and again he won't be pleasing a lot of people a lot of the time over the next four or eight years.
Then of course we have other troubles that need attention. Global climate change. Renewable energy sources. Mass transit. Health care. Poverty. Inequality. Education. Taxation. Pollution.
And on, and on, and on.
It is any wonder anyone would want to be president at such a time.
At least there is the renewed promise that science, and scientific research and discovery will once again be provided an opportunity to flourish. While some have scoffed at a Democratic administration driven by "hope", we have suffered greatly in the hands of an administration driven by faith and directed by dogmatism. I begrudge not a person's religious beliefs, but we elect a commander in chief, not a preacher in chief, and it is time that the preacher's pulpit be removed from the Oval Office.
Religious diversity has been one foundation of this nation, but of late it has turned into religious intolerance, and extremists have sought to define morality and ethics in religious terms, while ignoring many of the tenets of religious teachings. The evangelicals beguiled the Republicans, and conservatives have been left wondering what happened to the party they once knew. Now is a chance for them to take it back, and for the separation of Church and State to be defined anew.
The road to 2008 that I embarked on took me places I did not envision. A single voice in a multitude of blogs meant that I was never likely to be a heavily read blogger at a national level, but my gradual evolution to writing about more local issues was far more about educating myself about them, than it was about finding a mass audience. Instead I soon developed a dialog with fellow local bloggers, and got to meet most of them in person at gatherings such as Drinking Liberally and other organized events. Today I count many of them as friends that I would never have met otherwise, and as I conclude my own blogging activities I have nothing but admiration for their ongoing efforts.
Unpaid, sometimes reviled, often dismissed, political bloggers spend an awful lot of time writing about issues, and rarely is there any payoff for the effort. We champion candidates or policies, some that win election or passage, but many that don't, and sometimes we're lucky if we simply help shape the debate, but I cannot imagine a world anymore without blogs, and the collective impact they've had on news coverage, information, and the pursuit of the truth in a matter. Left to their own devices the mainstream media would continue to let us down, and we'd have few places to turn to truly understand an issue. With the demise of daily print news, online resources will only continue to grow, and bloggers will be at the forefront of that change. It isn't a perfect forum, but it is an invaluable one.
As a software developer I also had the opportunity to offer something else than just my 2 cents. During the protracted 2005 Washington State gubernatorial court challenge I developed a better way for local bloggers to highlight their collective thoughts about it and other issues: the Pacific Northwest Topic Hotlist. The first iterations were promising but clumsy, and certainly awkward for bloggers to apply, but I soon evolved it into a relatively simple to embed sidebar widget, and a far more sophisticated aggregator and portal. Last year the Sunlight Foundation awarded me with a $5000 mini-grant that helped me pay for a better hosting solution, and will allow me to improve the service over the next few years. I've always felt that most other aggregators are pretty mindless groupings of generally unrelated blog postings, so the PNW Topic Hotlist truly offers a differentiating service I'd like to see more people take advantage of, and I'll be looking at ways for it to become more appealing. So, while I will no longer be blogging at this site, I will continue to support the Topic Hotlist and help propagate the readership of the local blogging community.
So while I will ensure that my collective writings at On The Road To 2008 will remain for search bots to find them, the time has come for me to move on and focus my time and attention elsewhere. While our nation makes a new start of things, it is time for me to bring an end to this blogging journey. So after this final blog post, and on the occasion of the inauguration of Barack Hussein Obama as the 44th President of the United States of America, I bid my readers adieu.