Two nights after Barack Obama's election, as the Sean Hannitys and Rush Limbaughs braced for the Red Terror, an animated, inter-faith gathering took place at Pasadena's All Saints Church. There, peace activist Tom Hayden joined Leo Baeck Temple Rabbi Emeritus Leonard Beerman, the Muslim Public Affairs Council’s Maher Hathout, Oxy politics professor Peter Dreier and All Saints' retired pastor George Regas in a “Post-Election Reflection.”
The panelists, like many in the church’s auditorium, were gray-haired veterans of many a march and rally, and were concerned about how to temper the heady idealism of the Obama campaign with the inescapable realities facing the new president and his supporters.
After Hathout urged his listeners to push Obama to make the forging of peace with Iraq his administration’s first priority, Hayden cautioned that the competing demands of statesmanship, the media and resentful Republicans will force Obama into the kind of expedient deal-making that progressive purists abhor.
“Now [we]’re entering that Machiavellian dark side,” Hayden said, “and it’s not just Cheney who occupies that world.”
No one in the room doubted Obama’s sincerity nor his self-awareness of what his victory means to America at this pivotal moment in history. Hayden called his election “a genuine social movement masked as a presidential campaign.”
Both Regas and Dreier warned that the president-elect needed to be pushed by a continuous movement in the streets to carry out his vision – but a movement that doesn’t go overboard.
“If we’re too impatient,” Dreier said, “we’re going to lose. If we’re too patient, we’re also going to lose.”