"You have nothing to fear but fear itself." Hearing those words from Franklin Delano Roosevelt quoted again today, they rang true in a whole new way. The fear is out there. Of course it's there -- when the Dow Jones drops a spooky 777 points in a day -- that fear's inevitable -- and the hurt's real enough -- in people's pensions and their pocket books.
But bail-out supporter or not, there are lots of reasons to celebrate the vote that so many powerful people are wringing their hands about today. There's a lot of arm-twisting going on right now, and a new package may be put up for a vote as soon as Friday, but what happened Monday is a game changer moment and it's worth taking note: calls into Congress came in 9 to 1 against the bailout. Even after every powerful opinion pusher in the land preached the urgency of the bailout. The politics of pure panic failed. Chicken Little croaked.
People in this country have been told to fear so much for so long -- from terrorism, Islam, abortion, gay marriage, Iraq, deficits, trade, no-trade; layoffs, no layoffs, environmental regulations -- you name it -- that finally, they just didn't buy it.
What they did buy was some time for someone to come up with a better, more democratic package. The question is, who? It's not hard to notice there's a vacuum at the top. When it comes to popular legitimacy, our political leaders have none. John McCain and the Republicans flailed and lied last week. Nancy Pelosi was unable to rally the votes she thought she could Monday in Congress and no one knows now whether she'll seek those votes from right or left.
People are fed up, but it's also worth noting how little they seem to be blaming Barack Obama for his support for the bailout. Generally up in the polls, the Democratic candidate is clearly riding the reputation for change he built up early on.
Now Obama's got to drop the baggage the voters seem to have dropped: the Fear baggage. Your ideas can't soar like your rhetoric, Senator Obama, if you're carrying around so much weight. And they need to. It's long past time for some leadership and some transformational thought.
Laura Flanders is the host of RadioNation and GRITtv. Watch GRITtv on Free Speech TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415) or 8 pm ET on Channel 67 in Manhattan. OR on a cable station near you, or online at GRITtv.org. And become a subscriber.