This is the first in what I am sure will be several posts about 2008 Democratic Presidential hopeful (unconfirmed until tomorrow!), Senator Barack Hussein Obama (D, IL).
So What About Him, Anyway?
I’m going to come right out and say that I strongly support Senator Obama, and hope he does run for president. Not only do I think that he can win, but I think that he should win. Moreover, I think that as Democrats (and Americans) we are doing ourselves a disservice by looking for a “viable” candidate instead of a great candidate. Why settle for someone “good enough” or “at least better than the other guys”? The very notion is defeatist and admits failure and lack of belief in the system (and, you know, the system might be flawed, but that doesn’t mean we should accept it as such, or reinforce its flaws by trying to work within them).
Democracy is not about settling. It is about passion, belief, and true, well-considered compromise. There is a world of difference between settling for something that is just “okay” and working together to find a real solution. We settle too often, and work hard too infrequently. It’s easy to be cynical of Washington and believe that there’s little hope that things will ever be changed on an appreciable level. I want to think that they can be. And I also want to think that Barack Obama can help set this change in motion.
Change Ain’t Easy
I have read The Audacity of Hope (his most recent book), as well as pretty much every article about him that I can find, and what I am most struck by is that Barack Obama seems to realize that simply changing the faces of those who sit in the White House, or sit in Congress doesn’t really change anything. That the Democrats are equally capable of tyranny and unbending adherence to doctrine. That neither group has the answer exactly correct. That compromise, debate, and research is the only way to find real solutions. We’re too blinded by partisanship, by mantra, to see that we don’t have the perfect answer to all the world’s problems. Admitting the strengths of the opposing parties, and finding common ground on greater ideals about freedom, honesty, and equality is necessary if we want to keep this country strong in a good way.
But People Are Saying...
People have made a number of arguments why Barack Obama should not or will not win the party nomination. Some say he’s too young (at 45 he is older than JFK was, and will be nearly the same age Bill Clinton was when he became president in 1993). Some say he’s not done enough in Congress (like what? Vote? Introduce bills that he kinda came up with that get destroyed in committee? Talk in a filibuster? I don’t see how that is at all relevant. Plenty of past presidents never served in Congress. And if you think that Governorship is a helpful prerequisite, see our current Commander-in-Chief). Some people say he won’t win because he is black (Well, maybe that’s true, but it’s not a reason not to vote for or support him) or that he’s not black enough to carry the black vote (although here’s an interesting article disputing that claim. The basic thrust is that Obama can win without mobilizing extra black voters). Some say it’s because he admitted to using cocaine, or his name makes him sound like a terrorist, or he’s too smart, or he can’t beat Hillary’s insanely huge war chest. None of these make sense, and none of these are real reasons. They are people grasping for excuses to justify not voting for a candidate they actually think might be worthwhile.
Anybody But Bush? Still?
In 2004, the Democratic party line was “Anybody But Bush.” We can see how well that one turned out, with the lamely uninteresting and uninspiring John Kerry losing the election. That very thinking is behind the talk of Obama’s un-electibility. “We need to win, no matter what,” is what Democrats are saying, and it results in choosing the plainest of the plain, the most uncontroversial and mainstream candidate that no one really cares about but guess will be “fine.” If you want to support Hillary or John Edwards or any of the other folks, don’t do it because you think they would have the best chance at being elected. Do it because you think they will make the best President of the United States.
Otherwise, you really should be voting for someone else. Playing the “Guess Who Is Electable” game is not just ineffective, it is irresponsible.
I am supporting Barack Obama because I think he will make a great president. I would love to hear your reasons why I shouldn’t. Or why you think someone else would be better. It is a long time from the primaries, but there’s no reason not to start the dialogue now. Tomorrow we are supposed to find out if Barack Obama is actually running. If he isn’t, well, then I’m going to have to find someone else to get behind. Who do you think that should be?