"Let Me Finish" by Chris Matthews, MSNBC, from Hardball with Chris Matthews, November 5, 2012
The big ‘if’ on Election Day for President Obama
Chris Matthews, @hardball_chris
Let me finish tonight with tomorrow’s election.
Tonight it’s all about this: “If.”
If President Obama wins the election, it’s because of some vital actions he’s taken in office.
He rescued the American auto industry, one of those decisions that separates the two parties. This is important. Mitt Romney’s opposition to the rescue of Chrysler and General Motors wasn’t some isolated decision. His entire philosophy was against it.
A second step Obama took was to give legal relief to young people brought into this great country by their parents. When the Congress held him up on the DREAM Act, he did what he could by executive action.
Those he helped are not just the innocents here. They are future Americans because of him, hopeful of their lives, secure in their prospects because of this president. Instead of helping them “self-deport,” as his rival recommended, he welcomed them in our country and cheered them. Again, the action mattered and it separated him from the other candidate in vital ways.
If President Obama wins tomorrow, it’s because of other actions that carry tremendous vitality.
Equal pay for women. It’s the law and its enforceable because of the Lilly Ledbetter Act this president passed into law.
And open service—again, it was this president who established open service in the U.S. military. No more “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” That’s gone. You don’t have to pretend. You don’t have to hide to serve. You don’t have to hide a part of your life to put all of it on the line for your country.
And, as commander-in-chief, he led the action that achieved, finally, the mission of this country since 9/11: justice for the person who masterminded the killing of so many thousands of innocent Americans.
And he ended the American war in Iraq, and is ending it in Afghanistan by date certain.
And it’s been in the headlines what an exemplary job that he’s done leading the recovery effort from Tropical Storm Sandy, done so in a way that perfectly displayed bi-partisan cooperation in a tough situation.
He did that. Barack Obama.
As I said, the word tonight is “if.” If this president is re-elected tomorrow it’s because of the bold, controversial actions he’s taken. His margin of victory will have emerged from his margin of guts. He acted where others might have flinched or flubbed or said “we don’t need government to do these things.”
Now to the biggest “ifs”…
What the American people do tomorrow, what they’ve begun doing since voting first opened in this election.
If Barack Obama is re-elected, it is because of the historic alliance he struck when he asked New York Senator Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State. Offering her the most exciting, most distinguished position in the cabinet was a gesture that will go down in the history books. Her acceptance of this high position, along with her requirement of full autonomy in sub-cabinet appointments, was the deal-maker.
I grew up with the phrase “Democrats in Disarray” as a cliché, a headline written up when nothing was new, the old norm, the joke.
Today, tonight, the Democratic Party is united, with former President Bill Clinton losing his voice because he’s worked so hard for the president (the former president spoke tonight in Philadelphia and Scranton as the Obama campaign’s closer). There could be no more dramatic testament to this powerful alliance than what we’re seeing in the campaign’s close.
Powerful. That’s the only word to describe the Obama-Clinton alliance that could define the Democratic Party for years ahead. If Obama wins tomorrow, it’s due in powerful part to what Bill Clinton has been doing for weeks, the excellent work Hillary has been doing for four years.
If President Obama wins tomorrow, it is because of other Americans are doing their part.
Progressives. People on the progressive side of the party have stuck with this president, and stuck strong. Recognizing you can’t get it all, and certainly not all at once, they have seen the full dimensions of this race. They have looked at and heard the words spoken on the other side and have been left with an even surer sense of what matters. If the president wins tomorrow night, it will be because the progressives stuck, stuck hard and worked. They have kept the faith.
If the president wins tomorrow, it is because women learned the hard way that it still matters: the Supreme Court is perilously close to going the other way on reproductive rights, that belief in a woman’s right to think and to care and to be good is not something shared equally across the political spectrum. The crazy things said by certain Republican Senate candidates is not background music; it is coming from the same right-wing mindset that loves nothing, including human freedom, more than it loves the past, indeed, the distant past.
If the president wins it will because all the people who benefited from what he had the guts and foresight to do stand up and do their part. He wins if those who despise racial and ethnic prejudice act wake tomorrow hearing those horrible words that have been called out angrily against this president.
They will vote because they know deep in their suffering souls that those words, that villainy that has been rained on the president – that he’s not legitimately one of us, that he’s not really an American, that he is “lazy,” that he does not really love this country, is not aimed at him alone.
Not my any means. This diatribe from that side is not aimed at one, lone man. Those words—”food stamps” and “welfare” and “lazy” and un-American and all the rest—have been handcrafted by history to destroy the rightful place in this country of too many good people to be counted. They will not stop from being spoken even if Obama wins to tomorrow. But let those words win tomorrow and you let those who spoke them win. And they will do it with more vehemence and all the more full-throatedness the next time and the next.
So tonight, I think of that word “if” because tomorrow, perhaps late tomorrow, it will be different. We will know who showed up and who didn’t. We will hear of the angry voter out to rid himself of Obama. The big “if” is whether we will hear the same of the young, the hopeful, the believers in a better country, a fair-er country, a country where opportunity is democratic and American, where justice is reachable, closer to reality because of what we—all of us—do tomorrow.