Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why I Support Barack Obama

An anonymous commenter below wrote:

With a seventeen year old son about to sign up for the draft, I would love to see the fighting disappear before the draft appears, but I wonder if Obama has enough power in Congress to follow through with his promises. This is a war about profit not morals.

As a teacher, I wonder about No Child Left Behind and how that will impact us once Bush leaves office. Will Obama know enough to understand the unrealistic expectations of No Child Left Behind has on our educational system?

Does Obama have a solid Health Care Plan?

Will he pull us out of a recession or dig us deeper by trying to do all his promises too quickly?

And while I swear this will not become the all-politics-all-the-time-blog, I wanted to answer the commenter in a real post and explain why I support Obama. (Note that all this is greatly influenced by the Andrew Sullivan article I cite below -- really, go read it.)

The answers to the questions about Obama's education and health care plans are both yes; take a look at his website (under Issues) and you can find thoughtful answers on both subjects, with specific reference to the failure of No Child Left Behind. As for issues of Iraq and the economy, any new president is going to have a tough time dealing with the morass of the Middle East and the fine balance of inflation and recession -- not to mention the nine million other issues that will be on his desk on January 21, 2009 -- but he is an intelligent and judicious guy, and I trust him more than I trust any other candidate to do what's genuinely right and not what's politically expedient.

And that's what my support of Obama is pretty much based on: I trust his brains, his sincerity, and his passion to make him into the president that we need now. The president we need is someone who will be able to bring the country together, to genuinely inspire people, to win the respect of Republicans as well as Democrats, and to restore our country's spirit and reputation both here and abroad after the devastation inflicted by the Bush administration. I think this spiritual restoration is at least as important as whether the president can actually enact his/her policy (and indeed would make it much more likely that s/he would be able to enact that policy), because this country is bruised and bleeding, not just from the war and our teetering economy, but from our loss of faith in public service, public servants, and public ideals.

And Hillary Clinton is simply not the candidate to make that restoration happen. I was watching the debate on Saturday night, with all the talk about change, and I felt sorry for her because she really does have all the years of experience making change in Washington, whether in the White House or the Capitol or the Child; and I do think she has learned from the 1994 health-care debacle and become a better, wiser public servant. I'm proud she's my senator from New York. But she is also the most divisive figure in American politics today, because her history (political and personal), her last name, and yes, her gender just polarize far people than than she brings together. That's not the person we Democrats need at the top of the ticket this November, and more importantly it's not the person the entire country needs as president next January.

(As for Edwards, he's basically running a campaign based on division -- a class war of us vs. them, regular people vs. the special interests, have-nots vs. haves -- and that is not only of limited appeal in an election but of limited use when it comes to governing the whole country. I like the guy, just as I greatly admire Clinton, but I don't think he's the one we need now.)

Which brings me to Barack, who is not just my candidate-by-elimination but my candidate of choice. He is not perfect on the campaign trail -- not always inspiring, warm, gracious, with the common touch, the mixture of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy that people want him to be. And he will not be a perfect president; I imagine there will be a pretty steep learning curve his first months in office as he tries to enact all his promises and runs into Washington gridlock. And will he be able to enact all those promises and get everything right? No.

But one of the things I like most about him is that he's not a political animal -- he's a public servant and an intellectual, two things we are in critical need of in the highest office in our land. He was a community organizer before he went to law school, and a law professor before he went into the Illinois State Senate. He writes many of his own speeches, and writes them well, which counts for a heck of a lot with me because good writing signifies so much else -- clear thinking, an orderly mind, passion. (Who wants to read a book of speeches -- or anything really -- written by George W. Bush?) He is becoming more of a political animal, sure, because you have to be to be a viable senator and Presidential candidate. But I have faith in those community and intellectual roots.

And I like his positions on the issues. People who say he's vague and inspecific must be referring to his statements during public appearances and not his actual policies, because everything is laid out in nuanced detail on his website. (And really, what good politician gets specific about policy during a public appearance? It puts everyone to sleep.) He has called Iraq "a dumb war" from the start and supports talking to everyone in the region, not giving Syria and Iran the silent treatment because they won't play nice. (I think 16 months may be too quick a withdrawal, actually, but getting out eventually is the important point.) He is strong on Social Security, health care, the environment, education. He doubtless resembles the other Democrats much more than he differs from them, but again, I have faith in his principles and ideas, and trust the details to be worked out later. And he is young, but I trust him to get good advice.

Finally, the man inspires. Go to an event. Listen to his speeches. Look at the record turnout in the Iowa and New Hampshire caucuses -- a turnout caused partly by the spiritual desperation of the country and everyone's hope for change, but also by record numbers of youth voters, many of whom are voting for him. Republicans like him and he works well with them. At his best he is an orator in the tradition of King and Kennedy, and I believe he could have a similarly galvanizing effect on this country, in a way no other candidate, Democratic or Republican, will be able to achieve.

So that is why I will support Barack Obama in the New York primary on February 5, 2008, and then hopefully in the general election in November. End of lecture.


  1. Wow. Well said. Well said indeed. Thank you for writing this. It is very well done.

  2. Very nicely done. He's my candidate of choice, too, for many of the reasons you cited.

  3. From the mom of a seventeen year old, I appreciated your response to my statement. There are so many things that our government needs to improve on, and we need a strong candidate who isn't afraid to do what is right.

    Hillary Clinton has a lot going against her to be able to win the Country's vote as the first woman president.

    I will check out Obama's websites and see where he stands.

    I am only anonymous because I can never get my username and password to work right.

  4. Thank you for this post. I'm posting a link to it on my facebook profile to express my agreement (and to explain to a few certain friends why I won't just vote Clinton because she's a woman and I'm a woman).

  5. You should be ashamed of yourself for telling people not to vote for Clinton because her gender is a polarizing issue. It's reasoning like yours that makes it hard for women to get equal rights. And you would never enjoy the prestige you have now if not for women in the past who demanded equal rights-- whether that caused offense or not. Not too long ago, women were denied promotions because men didn't want to have to work for a female boss. It was a polarizing issue, don't you know. To use a candidate's gender as a reason not to vote for her is really low.

  6. Hmm, Anonymous. I guess perhaps I was saying "Being a woman is one of the things that makes her polarizing, and we do not need polarization right now, so don't vote for her." But two points there: 1) It is only *one* of those things, and among her history, her last name, and her gender, I actually think her gender counts least against her . . . If Susan Collins or Patty Murphy or Oprah Winfrey-with-a-political-background were running, then gender is the lone thing this discussion would be about, and I think it would be much easier to overcome. With Hillary it is just another thing in the mix, but I wanted to acknowledge it in the post because it *is* in the mix and is one of the many things she has to face down to get elected. 2) I count myself a feminist, and I have supported Hillary steadily in the past on that basis alone; but feminism isn't the highest good with me, and in this case, at this point in time, in such a critical election, with so much to be done to fix the damage done by the Bush administration, I think national unity trumps feminism. And if her gender is one of the things that's going to keep her from being the national uniter we need (and again, it is just one of those things), then sorry, I don't think she's the right person. So I see your point, I appreciate our foremothers' sacrifices, but I'm not apologizing for or ashamed of what I said. Thank you for making me think about it further.

  7. Ummm ... hey, how 'bout those children's books?

  8. I think the gender issue with Hillary is unfortunate, mostly because I would love to vote for a female presidential candidate -- but Hillary is simply not that candidate. I agree with your many points (including her divisiveness), and I would also add that her careful triangulation on the Iraq/Iran issue is unacceptable to me. For now, surge or no surge, I cannot bring myself to support any candidate who supported a war that I have opposed since day one. I understand the many arguments about staying in Iraq now, but for me, it is simply a moral issue. War is rarely "right" and this war certainly does not fit that narrow criteria.

    Anyway, I am also an Obama supporter, for all the same reasons you said. I am worried, however, about his "post-partisanship" frame. I think there is inherent danger in this, because he will not encounter a post-partisan Congress. Or, frankly, for that matter, a post-partisan electorate. I would love to think that one politician can move us past the corrosive effects of 20 years of narrow partisan fighting, but the pragmatist in me says that is not possible. I would hate to see Obama squander his presidency in a futile search for "consensus" with people who prefer to see him ground into dust.

    I know the logical extension of this thought leads to a bad place ... I get it. And perhaps I am allowing myself to be ruled by fear. So I will vote for Obama, but I will do it nervously.

    Anyway, I have a request that maybe you'd consider someday [and, no, it's not that you read my book :)] I would very much like to hear your thoughts on the author/editor relationship. Where are the boundaries? What is the best strategy to build a good relationship with your editor? How does an editor best serve an author, and likewise?

    I know you're posting the stories behind some of your books, and you linked to that Raymond Carver article ... so I'd also be interested to hear your perspective on this. I think sometimes people don't appreciate what editors bring to the table, in terms of their sheer contribution to a finished novel, and sometimes authors get hurt/pushy/angry/insulted/wounded by their interactions with editors, whom they see as controlling their very futures. But the best editor/author relationships result in magic ...

    So. All that said, what do you think?

  9. Everyone knows about the "Bradley Effect" but it seems to be the elephant in the room. My (Black) husband and I both think that a large portion of America won't actually push the button/flip the switch/check the box when they are actually all alone in the voting booth to put a person of color in the top job.

    It's easy to think that lots of well-meaning white folks have no problem voting for him, but in reality I think it is the defining issue. Living on the West Coast but spending several weeks every year in the great state of Texas shows me that many people will vote for anyone BUT him when it comes down to it. Talk is one thing, what they actually do at the crucial moment is another.

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  11. Obama is too much in the pockets of big corporations. One of his advisors is Moses Mercado - a top Washington lobbyist for Ogilvy Government Relations who used to be a strictly Republican lobbying firm. This firm's clients include major oil companies (such as Chevron). Also, Obama's healthcare plan just tweaks the corrupt system we have now - it will not produce the change we need to see in terms of helping the millions of uninsured and underinsured because it still keeps for-profit insurance companies in a position of power over the life and death issues of people in this country. Regarding the war, Obama's voting record is almost identical to Hillary Clinton's to continue funding the illegal occupation of Iraq. In addition, he has stated that he supports heavy sanctions against Iran though they do not pose a threat and are currently being harrassed by our own government via the "Iran Freedom and Support Act" which allows our government to support groups who will undermine Iran's democratically-elected government. To find out about the only candidate who is not owned by corporations, read Chris Hedges' article in the Philadelphia Inquirer "One True Voice on the Trail." Don't allow media conglomerates funded by corrupt corporations brainwash you into voting for someone who they want you to think is "honest." Do some digging and you'll see what I mean.

  12. I agree with your support for Obama. I think he has real integrity, and I think his multicultural background will best represent the real, diverse America to the world in the 21st century. If you're interested in my more detailed reasons, please visit my blog post on the topic at:


    Thanks for your help in getting him elected!

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