C’mon, take a short trip with me. Let me talk a bit about why I am supporting Barak Obama for president.
I expect that it will come as no surprise to most of you (if anyone ever reads this!) that my first candidate was John Edwards. Not only did he speak about economic populism, but he demonstrated a concern for the “other” that is sadly lacking in today’s society. At the other extreme (at least among those still standing — thank dog that Rudy and young Mr Mittens are gone) is John McCain. Now, I can certainly understand how his life experiences have had an impact on his world-view and personality (that goes without saying), but the presidency isn’t about who has suffered the most, it is about who can lead us. John McCain has been through hell and he deserves our gratitude and respect. He does not, however, deserve our votes. At the end of the day, McCain combines Bush’s policies with even a slimmer understanding of economics with a pretty big dash of corruption. And, he is a very angry and bitter man.
So, that leaves us with two candidates: Hillary and Barak (it really pisses me off when they use her first name and his last, seems a touch demeaning to her and misogynistic, though “Clinton” clearly won’t do, so I’ll go with first names). Well, how should we judge them? I suggest policies, leadership and attitude. You may have different matrices, but these are what I’ll work with now.
Let’s go through them. First, policies. They are pretty close. Krugman likes her economics and I tend to bow to experts in areas in which I know little. But, she was slow to discard the war. That could mean that she actually likes it or is very slow to acknowledge mistakes (a problem that we have had in our leadership over the past eight years). Her health care plan is better. But, can I buy it? She has very close ties to Wall St and big business. She is the doyen of the DLC , remember. At the end of the day, I give them even grades on policy. Not great but pretty good and probably the best that we can expect out of a national politician today.
Leadership. In this area I want to focus on operating an organization, staying on message etc. Here, I give the nod to Barak. First, he surrounds himself with top notch intellectuals: Samantha Power versus Mark Penn, anyone? Second, he has stayed on message for the most part, at least no what I would term major gaffes by he himself (San Francisco is the truth). Third, he has built a grassroots campaign. Hillary came in with the existing apparatus and, in many cases she has misused it (turned off Super Delegates, concentrating on big donors who have now given their maximum for the primary. Before the campaign, she was a law partner, ran the health care task force, was a Senator. No big organization experience in the law firm, one thing that I think everyone agrees on about the health care task force is that it made a lot of mistakes and was not especially well run. Then campaigns for and serving as a Senator. Well, running a campaign takes some skill and her senate campaigns can’t have been a disaster (she won), as a Senator, not much chance for organizational leadership. Unless you are the majority leader you are one of 99. Is her office especially well know for good operations? I don’t know.
What are Barak’s demonstrations of this type of leadership? His presidential campaign has been well run, he also ran a race for the senate in a big state. Also, he ran community organizations (I don’t know a lot about what he did here). So, he doesn’t seem to have a lot of experience and her main experience was bad. He is currently running a better organized campaign and her best argument for winning this round is that she learned from the health care task force. But, did she? And, what did she learn? Her delay in opposing Iraq gives me little hope for a major improvement. So,Barak does not have a lot of experience here (other than Washington, Grant, Wilson, and Eisenhower not many have had a lot of big organization experience and I would rate two of those presidents as moderately successful or better, and two a disaster, so not something to really base your vote on. Oh, the successes? Washington (of course) and, surprise Eisenhower — avoided the worst of the Republicans (McCarthyism), stopped Korea, kept us out of Vietnam and recognized the danger of the military-industrial complex. I don’t think that Grant requires explanation, but Wilson was terrible. Authoritarian and incompetent.) Hillary has bad experience. Barak is doing better at building an organization, so I give him the nod.
OK, attitude. Here I am looking at the tone that they will set as president. Bush has been the president of fear. McCain appears to be running on that too. What do I want to see and who is offering it?
I’m going to go about this backwards. Rather than tell you what I want first, I’ll give my impression of what Hillary and Barak are offering and then see how they line up with what I want to see. Hillary offers a number of narratives: she is selling fear (3 am), and exclusion (belittling Barak’s supporters as out of touch elites). He is selling hope. OK, a lot of people dis Barak by saying that hope is naive. I disagree. There is idiot (blind) hope and aware realistic hope. His is the latter, I want someone who expects us to do better and who says that we can do better. I am not one for buying into fear. When you are afraid you make rash and often bad choices (see, Bush,GW ). What about Hillary’s divisiveness? I don’t like it. Maybe it is good politics, maybe that’s what you need to do to get old white people to vote for you, but it is not part of the politics that I want to see practiced.
Finally, Hillary’s final argument is that she can win. That is a nod to racism. She is saying that an older white woman might beat a crazy really old white man, but an African-American, no way. I strongly reject this on both moral and practical grounds. I hope that I don’t have to explain my moral qualms with racism, so I’ll be practical. I think that Barak can win. Obviously there are some people who will never vote for an African-American, but I don’t think that its enough alone to tip the election. Barak does well with white voters, look at Minnesota and Iowa! Also, there are a lot of people who will never vote for a woman. Also, Hillary has a lot of baggage. I don’t see the viability argument as a slam dunk for her.
So here I am, two candidates pretty equal on policy, but one who seems to me to have a better message and a better team. I’ll go with the person with the smart people who is looking forward rather than the person with the political hacks living in the past.