The one time I heard Barack Obama speak in person was April of 2006 in a school auditorium in St. Louis Park. Then Senate hopeful Amy Klobuchar warmed him up by using the phrase, "The audacity of hope," which I later discovered was Obama’s line and would, a few months later, become the title of his second book.
Like Obama’s speech that day, "the audacity of hope" is a turn of phrase that seeks to inspire the chasmed-out Americans who have given up on politics and false leaders, and for good reason. But to me, the more memorable slogan Obama invoked that afternoon is the one that still resonates as we enter into what can with no exaggeration be called the most important presidential election year of our lives:
"Have you had it with the okey-doke?"
Obama said it that day almost as an aside, like he was saying it to himself, or to history itself, for while the crowd was certainly made up of kindred spirits, it was also young and mostly white. And while it would please me to report here that the crowd rose up en masse to chant that they indeed have had it with the okey-doke, no such thing happened. But that doesn’t mean that they and millions of others don’t know exactly what the junior senator from the salt-of-the-earth Midwest meant.
The okey-doke first entered the national lexicon in 1932, used by Depression-era African-Americans to describe, as the Urban Dictionary has it, "a con." In other words, it can be used to succinctly sum up the cultural and political quicksand we find ourselves in. The New York Times’ Frank Rich could have been talking about the okey-doke in his Dec. 16 column when he wrote: "For those Americans looking for the most unambiguous way to repudiate politicians who are trying to divide the country by faith, ethnicity, sexuality and race, Mr. Obama is nothing if not the most direct shot."
That describes me, and a multitude of others. Obama’s poll numbers are ratcheting up as voters catch the corpse-whiff of Beltway politics, business-as-usual promises, and a political process that smacks of Sports Center updates more than serious discussions. I haven’t heard Obama use "okey-doke" since that afternoon in Minneapolis, and a Google search confirms it hasn’t become a campaign slogan or T-shirt. Maybe his advisors concluded it was too ambiguous or too slang, and so "Barack and Roll" became the rallying cry. Fine. But for me, the okey-doke perfectly describes what we’re all up against.
So, yes, senator — as a matter of fact, we have had it with the okey-doke. We’ve had it with criminals in the White House, partisan politics and the media who do their bidding, and all the rest. Most of all, we’ve had it with being lied to, condescended to and being taken for stooges.
We are working people with families who ask not what our country can do for us, but what we can do for our country, and we have had it with bullies, the status quo, the way things are. Here’s hoping our neighbors to the south of us in Iowa have also had it with the okey-doke — or whatever they call it these days in the Hawkeye state.
Happy new year. Emphasis on "new."
Jim Walsh grew up and lives in East Harriet.