The title of this entry, by the way, is also a line from a short story I just wrote. I’m nothing if not self-promotional.
This is a rather brief (yes, it’s brief for me) explanation of why I’m on the Obama wagon. I originally posted this on my livejournal:
I’m going to try to explain what it is that I like about Barack Obama — why it is that I’ve had an “Obama ’08” sticker on the back of my car for almost a year now.
I should preface this by saying that I’m extremely invested in Obama. Both former colleagues and family members of JFK have compared Obama to Kennedy and if what I’ve read about how people felt about Kennedy are any indication, then I agree with them. There’s never been a point in my life where I felt the sense of optimism that I feel when I think about an Obama presidency. I loved Bill Clinton, but that was just as much because he wasn’t a Republican as it was because of who he was. There has never been a political figure that I truly support wholeheartedly until Obama came along.
I know, I clearly have a man crush on him.
A few years later his second book, “The Audacity of Hope,” was released. For those who want a definitive reason for my support of Obama, they should read this book. I will be the first to admit that the chapter on the constitution could put a speed freak to sleep. But it’s surrounded by extremely compelling discussions on everything from religion, education, the war, and taxes. It also showed Obama’s ability to re-frame decades, sometimes centuries old arguments in more meaningful ways.
For example, at the time the book was written the Republicans were attempting to eliminate the estate tax. And while Obama argues against the Republican agenda, he makes one simple point with regards to any moves of such a nature: The estate tax brings in ONE BILLION dollars worth of money to the federal government. If you get rid of that, YOU NEED TO REPLACE IT SOMEWHERE ELSE. I had never heard a politician argue the fundamental logic of a plan like that before. He was more than willing to listen to the pros and cons of both sides so long as they were willing to address the practical issues.
He also talked about the out dated debate over big government vs. small government and the fact that we HAVE a big government. Cut where you want, it’s all semantics. Our government is so large that no amount of cutting will change that. The issue at hand is smart government vs. dumb government. Again, I STILL hear politicians arguing about how our government is too large, yet in the very next breath recommend an expanded role for our military and homeland security.
These are just a few examples, but they illustrate the fact that he is, to use a cliche, shifting the paradigm. And this country desperately needs that.
A few more points, off the top of my head:
I like the idea of having a president who actually has international experience. Obama actually lived in other countries when he was younger. He has first hand experience with other cultures. More than any other candidate, he actually knows how to treat other countries with respect, something that’s necessary in negotiations. It’s pretty clear that we currently operate as bullies and look how far that’s gotten us. I also think there’s a huge difference between having experience visiting other countries and actually having to learn to live there. He grew up with a world view, something few politicians can claim.
Many people think his background means he’s not truly African-American (ignoring the fact that, technically, he’s more African-American than most, as his father is actually African). But I think his background represents the best possible nexus of the minority experience in this country. Prejudice doesn’t ask where your father is from. Obama has obviously experienced racism in his life time because you can’t hide the color of your skin. At the same time, minorities in this country (including women, who are technically the majority) are raised with an unspoken belief that they will always be second class citizens. We’re seeing a lot of this now with the division in the south among African-American voters. The younger voters are eager to support Obama, while the older voters are hesitant to believe that a black man could be president. Obama, however, wasn’t raised under such conditions. He has no reservations about what he can accomplish.
And there’s no greater evidence of this than his speeches. The man is one of the great orators of our time. Last night the MSNBC reporters said that giving a speech after Obama is like going on after the Beatles. Sure, you can learn to give good speeches, but it’s more than that. His speeches are infused with hope, with optimism, with the firm belief that anything is possible. He makes people believe which is amazing.
To that point, he makes people believe who don’t normally subscribe to such things. He motivates the heretofore unmotivated. The number of black voters who turned out for the South Carolina primary was TWICE the number that turned out in 2004. The number of young voters was THREE times as many. In my mind, there is nothing more revolutionary in this country than getting the disenfranchised to vote. The fact that he is getting more Americans to invest in our government is phenomenal.
Strangely enough, I like the fact that Obama is religious. While I long for the day an agnostic will take office, I know that won’t happen in my life time. But he’s a devout Christian who believes in a woman’s right to choose, has no plans to define marriage, and wants a strong separation of church and state. He embraces a country with multiple religions, as well as people who don’t subscribe to any. Why is this so great? Because he’s a role model for the modern Christian — a much needed role model, I might add. Up until now they’ve gotten evangelicals and people who say god told them to go war. Imagine Christians following a man who doesn’t judge, a man who accepts and actually chooses good works over condemnation. That would make such a huge difference in our country.
So there you go, just a taste of what I like about Barack Obama. I don’t know that I’ve really changed any minds or anything like that, but I thought I’d share.