Well guys, it's time. I'm jumping on the bandwagon. Maybe I'm not quite as high-profile as Oprah, eloquent as Toni Morrison, politically descended as Caroline Kennedy, or Democratically iconic as her uncle, but I'm joining them all in supporting Barack Obama in the Democratic primaries. Maybe you would like to know why. Maybe not. Either way I'm going to tell you.
First of all, consider the alternatives. I used to like John Edwards based on what I had read about his past as well as his humility to admit that he had been wrong to support the Iraq war, but he's basically not in the race anymore and in any case, he hasn't said or done anything to particularly impress me since I've begun following the election more closely. I don't trust Hillary Clinton, not one teeny little bit I don't. In my mind, she's two-faced (or maybe more like 18-faced), dishonest, ruthless, and calculating. Of course, this is to be expected: she's a politician's politician, and besides, I hear she hasn't been a bad senator. But as David Brooks pointed out in the NYT last month, a good president has different qualities from a good senator. A good president must not only have political savvy and experience, but she/he must also have character, integrity, optimism, and a certain ability to inspire her/his people. Hillary Clinton's politics of cynicism inspire nothing but the same in me, plus more than a little bit of apathy, and I think I've got enough of those on my own.
On a more sinister note, I also think that a Clinton victory in the primary would be Christmas for the G.O.P. Compared with Obama, she has next to no support from independents, and is far more hated by Republicans. If McCain (who is the only Republican I consider to not be 100% crazy), or even Romney, wins the Republican nomination, I very well imagine many fence sitters hopping over onto the Republican side for the final election. My dad's a case study, and these fence sitters are who will, eventually, determine the next president.
Of course, Obama as a candidate is much more to me than the lesser of two evils. While I certainly do not agree with every one of his ideas and policies and do not seek to deify him (after all, he is not Correa), he seems to me to be wise, dedicated, tenacious and brave. I am impressed by what I see as his humility and integrity in this campaign; his intelligent, eyes-wide-open optimism inspires hope in me as well. Certainly, one should select a candidate based on more than personal virtue, but in many cases, the candidates' proposed ideas are very similar. Therefore, as Caroline Kennedy wrote in her now-famous NYT op-ed endorsement, "qualities of leadership, character and judgment play a larger role than usual."
Ability is also important, and although his detractors often try to paint him as inexperienced and therefore incompetent, I believe that Barack Obama is just as able as Hillary Clinton to function effectively as president, if not more so. Most likely more so, because not do I believe believe him to be more open-minded and ready to take advice (from an impressive team of advisers by the way), I also see him as being less entangled in the often corrupt political mess Washington can be (ie, he has fewer ties to lobbyists, has burned/built fewer bridges, etc.).
Now, as you know, I am, in many ways, a sentimental little bitch (1), but until Obama's speech following his Iowa win, I had never before cried or even gotten teary-eyed at a political speech. I mean come on. But when he thanked the Iowa voters, praising them for believing "in the most American of ideas -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love this country can change it," I have to admit, my eyes got a little misty. I have never been proud of my country, my nationality. I am sure you understand. But I would like to be. I am ready to be. I am ready to support a candidate because I actually believe in him/her, not because I hate him/her less than the rest. I am ready to hope that perhaps someday we will not be a global villain, that we will be more like how we were intended to be -- a city on a hill, a global leader, or at least benign. Just to hope, because that's all I can really do, and I'm optimistic.
I remember right around when this blog got started, I wrote a post about an angel I met on the subway, who told me to follow my dreams, to hope big things; he was very inspirational and etc. But actually what really inspired me was his pragmatism: he told me that if I followed my dreams, I would most likely be disappointed, but that there was a sliver of a chance that I wouldn't be, that I would be delighted and amazed, and that that chance was worth everything. With Obama, I feel like although the odds are so terrible, there is a rather formidable sliver of chance that he'll do something amazing, necessary, and unbelievable for this country, and that chance is worth everything.
(1)Sofie remember that time when we watched A Walk to Remember and we both ended up sobbing and Cookie thought something really bad had happened?