Saturday, July 12, 2008

Why I am voting for Barack Obama, and why you should too

Personally, I don't think this post is necessary because barring an unforeseen assassination, Barack Hussein Obama will become our next president of the United States. It's really no contest, so let me start this post to explain why. For those of you who have been paying attention and already know why, skip ahead so I can explain why I will be voting for him. For the rest of you, here is why we are looking at a landslide victory:

First, of course, the disparity between the candidates, when you consider the circumstances involved are as large as the disparity between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Carter. It's as simple as that. We just went through eight painful years of George W. Bush Jr whose approval ratings are completely in the toilet. Of the candidates running for the Republican nomination, John McCain may have been the most capable of shedding himself from the legacy of Bush Jr, but that legacy is still his to bear. He's from the same party of course, and for the past 6 or so years, and especially as he's been trying to appease to the base of the party, John McCain has done a lot to align himself with Bush's policies. Considering most people are as pessimistic about America's economic future as they were in the late 1970's under Jimmy Carter, and how , unfairly or not, (in this case definitely fairly) our current economic slowdown is pinned on Bush Jr in particular and the Republican party in general. The facts on the ground just are not in McCain's favor.

Combine that with the fact that Barack Obama has so much more energy, charisma, and a much more positive, relevant message (remind you of Reagan?) compared to the more dour McCain message who seems to be mainly just against a lot of things but only for one thing, continued American presence in Iraq.

Don't get me wrong, I like and respect John McCain. He's my Senator. I wanted him to win in 2000 against Bush. That was his time to win, but he didn't, and his time has passed. He has a dated message now and quite frankly, he belongs to the wrong party. He will serve his country best as an Arizona Senator providing a voice for economic restraint. This is where he belongs.

Now onto to the man whose time has come, Barack Obama. I wasn't always an Obama supporter. I came into the elections of 2008 with an open mind. When the primaries first began, I believe I came in favoring John McCain actually. I liked him as a person, I liked his attitude, his personality, his courage. But I jumped into the political primaries with both feat, reading and discussing the issues as much as possible with my friends in my private political yahoo group. I watched many of the primary debates for both parties, and there were many, ten? twelve? twenty? There were some weird ones. The weirdest was the religious right debate, where only the second and third tier candidates from the Republican party showed up including some people I had no idea were actually running for president. But none of the people who had an actual shot at winning attended, no Mitt Romney, no Guiliani, no McCain. Mike Huckabee probably showed up, but I don't remember.

Similarly, from the other side of the political spectrum, a debate was hosted by a gay and lesbian organization for the Democrats and the questions consisted primarily of issues of concern for that organization. Of course Dennis Kucinich was the man of the night for that crowd. The highlight was when Bill Richardson was asked if he felt homosexuals were born that way, and he quite seriously answered "no". The questioner asked again, assuming Richardson didn't understand the question (I'm still not sure if he did, believing he answered that question honestly the first time, but strange to be so blunt in a setting like that). But it gave Richardson a chance to give a more sensible answer of "look, I'm not a scientist."

What kind of question was that for a president candidate anyway I would like to know? The only appropriate answer was "I don't know" and "why is this relevant anyway".
But I'm getting way off track.

But the first article I read that got me thinking, "wait a second, maybe Barack Obama is the man" was this one written by a conservative columnist, David Brooks before Obama even declared his intention to run for presidency. It's here.

Here's a nice quote that addresses Obama's lack of experience and incidentally one of the central reasons I am supporting Barack Obama:

"And yet in his new book, “The Audacity of Hope,” Obama makes a strong counterargument. He notes that it’s time to move beyond the political style of the baby boom generation. This is a style, he said in an interview late Tuesday, that is highly moralistic and personal, dividing people between who is good and who is bad."

And this one:

"Obama himself has a mentality formed by globalization, not the S.D.S. With his multiethnic family and his globe-spanning childhood, there is a little piece of everything in Obama. He is perpetually engaged in an internal discussion between different pieces of his hybrid self — Kenya with Harvard, Kansas with the South Side of Chicago — and he takes that conversation outward into the world."

And this one:

"He has a compulsive tendency to see both sides of any issue. Joe Klein of Time counted 50 instances of extremely judicious on-the-one-hand-on the-other-hand formulations in the book. He seems like the guy who spends his first 15 minutes at a restaurant debating the relative merits of fish versus meat."

And finally this one:

"The third reason Obama should run for president is his worldview. At least in the way he conceptualizes the world, he is not an orthodox liberal. In the book, he harks back to a Hamiltonian tradition that calls not for big government, but for limited yet energetic government to enhance social mobility. The contemporary guru he cites most is Warren Buffett."

This was the first article that got me started, but this was the article that pushed me over the edge and prompted me to purchase bumper stickers and yard signs and to donate money to his campaign:

It's called: "Goodbye To All That" found in my current favorite political website, The Atlantic Monthly.

The central point of the article is that because by the accident of who he is and where he's been, he's uniquely positioned to address the major problems facing our country right now. Here's why:

The Black/White issue
The black/white racial divide that has torn our country apart literally from its inception. Barack Obama has literally been on both sides of this issue. Born to a white mother and a black father, raised by his mother and his mother's grandparents in Hawaii (mainly) he was largely removed from the most bitter racial fights producing the black political anger of Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Reverend Jeremiah Wright. But he's not like Tiger Woods, this kind of post-racial black person. He turned down more lucrative opportunities and jumped head first into the black neighborhoods in south Chicago, married a black woman, and joined a black Christian church. Obama has taken a lot of heat for being a member of Reverend Wright's church, but its because of that membership, ironically, that has made him a more compelling presidential candidate than if he had not. He understands the black anger and bitterness because he's lived it as an adult, but he's not been damaged by it because he didn't live it as a child.

Because of his past, he has globalization embedded into his bones. He spent time as a child in Jakarta, his father his from Kenya and although his dad left him when he was two, he has connections that leap over an ocean. He was raised and schooled in Hawaii. He not only has seen the world, he's a product of that world. But he also knows and understand Americana, again because of his decision to return home, closer at least to the home of his Kansas born mother. His return to Chicago allowed him to establish roots and friendships with people who have lived here all of their lives.

Muslim and Christianity
Barack Obama gets a lot of flack for his middle name. The loony parts of the far right have attacked Obama's patriotism because of his name and his heritage. They don't trust that he is truly Christian. And engaged as we are in this global war on terror with its strong extremist Muslim bent, they hold it against him. I see things exactly opposite. His name and his heritage is an incredible asset. He spent four years in Jakarta, attended school with Muslims. Although he was young, he understands like few do what it means to be a Muslim. And having the USA elect a president with dark skin and a funny Muslim sounding name, a person with familial connections to the religion (his father was raised Muslim although he abandoned the faith as an adult, so the family connections are not strong enough to invalidate his candidacy but strong enough to strenghten it), sends a powerful message to youth in the Muslim world, of our diversity and our tolerance. It strikes a significant blow to the terrorists recruitment machine. It strikes a blow to the notion that this is a war between Christians and Muslisms because it is not, it is a war between extremism and tolerance and modernity. That difference needs to be made much more clear in the Middle East. Bush Jr. rhetoric, tossing out phrases with words like Crusade, his cowboy Texas persona was the exact opposite of what's needed to win the war on terror.

Christianity verses Secularism
This is at the heart of many of the most insane and unproductive debates between our two major parties. Since the 1960s, the Democratic party has largely been the home for the secularists, the Republican party with the exception of the black church has been the favorite party of the Christian church goers. This religious split has led to some silly and unproductive debates, most notably, should Terry Schiavo be allowed to live (really was this something our president and Congress be involved with), and to a lesser extent, intelligent design, stem cell research, homosexual marriage, abortion. These are all interesting and important issues, sure. But not nearly as important as health care, the war, and the economy, at least not for our federal government, at least not for the president of our country.

And again, Barack Obama understands both sides and transcends the debate completely. He was raised by a secular mother whose naive idealism led her away from Kansas on into Indonesia and Hawaii. But again, Barack Obama, as an adult, converted to Christianity and embraced Jesus, not in some purely charismatic sort of way. It had both religious and intellectual components. He enjoyed and appreciated the community of believers, the chance to leverage religious communities to participate in the broader community.

So, really Barack Obama is a new kind of politician. It has been both humorous and frustrating to see some of the criticism flung at Obama. He has been called the most liberal Senator now serving. He's been called a flip-flopper. Some of this is political opportunism at work. But more of it I believe is that too many people are so used to viewing politics through a lense whose prescription has past. The don't understand Obama because they are still stuck in 1960's and 1970's rhetoric. They want to continue to fight al Qaida or even Iran the same way we fought Russia. These old rules do not apply. And until we re-calibrate our perspective to a world of globalization, rapid technology advancement, and the age of terror (where a single person strike fear into the hearts of an entire nation), we will continue to misinterpret and misunderstand Obama.

One other note. I think its important that a Democrat wins the presidency in this election over a Republican. John McCain is actually the best candidate of the pathetic group they had to choose from this go around, but really the party is in a shambles. Ronald Reagan, in my estimation, was a good and effective president. He had some major blemishes, but largely he succeeded. He succeeded against communism, he opened up trade and helped lead our nation and the world into this current world of globalization. He cut taxes that needed to be cut. Taxes on the most wealthy were incredibly high and needed to be dropped. But those battles have been won by Reagan in the 1980s, but the Republican party has been continuing to try to fight these same battles ever since.

The Republican party continues to support Cold War military technology like missel defense, in fact I heard recently John McCain express his support for this in response to Iran's missle testing. Bush Jr continues to pour money (I have vague memories of reading this so correct me if I'm wrong) into cold war style military technologies. They continue to push tax cuts like its a religious mantra. Just how far do you cut taxes I wonder? You have to stop somewhere, or you completely lose your ability to fund a government. I have never once heard a Republican state the exact percentage our taxes should be at which point we no longer have to cut taxes. No, they just want to keep cutting taxes.

The problem is that Reagan's tax cuts were probably as far as we could legitimately go, so the tax cut debate ever since has been largely about complete nonsense.

Meanwhile, the Democrats have become the party of pragmatists. Watching both side's primary debates, the Democrats were having the more interesting discussions by far, the Democrats also had the more interesting candidates. Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, Bill Richardson, Hillary Clinton, and Barack Obama talking about energy, the environment, the Iraq war, health care. The Democratic party, headlined by the likes of Jim Webb, have become the party of pragmatism and moderation.

Finally, there are so many articles that back up these statements. Barack Obama is a new politican. His message is and has been about change, about consensus, about breaking our divides, about compromise. I think his major initiatives and emphasis will be about Iraq, the economy, health care, and energy. Those are really the only issues that should be getting the majority of our time in debates.

So for all of you who belong to a religious faith, especially those of you who share mine, those of the Mormon faith, one of the most predictively Republican demographic in existence. You should not every become a one issue voter.

This election simply is not about abortion or homosexual marriage or guns or the death penalty. Presidential elections never really are. Those issues are just used to manipulate your vote. Bush Jr. has done very little to directly address any of those issues, nor should he have. Same with Clinton, Bush Sr., Reagan. I admit these are important issues, just not for the president of our dear country.

So, when you make your choice for the president of the USA, think Iraq, the economy, health care, and energy. What president is better suited to lead our country productively, who can bridge the divides that keep us from developing consensus on truly important issues.

That man, my friends is Barack Obama. And he will become the next president of the United States of America.

P.S. Here's a link of some additional articles I read that really helped me to get to know Barack Obama, these are some really in depth articles from the New Yorker archives:

This one is a kind of rebuttal to this post, but puts the notion of Obama as a walk on water, do no wrong saint to rest. He is not, of course, and this article details his toughness, his willingness to do what it takes to win. It does paint him as an opportunist of sorts. But understand, this is one important side of him, not the whole picture.

Obama, the candidate
Obama, the facilitator

Here are two excellent op eds I just ran across, but I come across articles like these all the time:

The Audacity of Listening
Obama admires Bush

And finally, must listen to Obama speeches:

One quick note on speeches. Obama's extraordinary oratory skills should not be underestimated. The ability to inspire, to convince, and to explain through speach delivery is extremely important. Of course, it can't be hallow, but Lincon's presidency would not have been the same without Gettysburg, Roosevelt would have been less effective without his fireside chats. Some of the most signature phrases have been used as rallying cries for change. From Reagan's urgings of "Gorbechev, tear down this wall", to Kennedy's "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country" are important. I predict more to come from an Obama presidency.

Ok, here are the speeches:

On patriotism
On race
On religion (this one is broken up into 5 parts)
2004 convention speech, the speech that started it all


H said...

Read it. Liked it. Agree with most of it. I do think that people are going to view Obama's strengths and weaknesses however they want to. (religious affiliation, heritage, childhood...they can be pros or cons) Interestingly, as I was reading, it became increasingly obvious that Obama has been preparing to run for a while.

btg said...

Lots of good stuff here. I have always felt that you do not vote a person into the White House, you vote a committee. As good as Obama is or seems, it is his staff and advisors that will run the show. Presidents or future Presidents will do and say what they are told, particularly when it comes to campaigning. It seems that Obama has a fresh view when it comes to the issues. And yes, I believe he has been groomed for this race. As sad as it is to say, this country is divided in the white/black turmoil. I wish people could get over the fear they have and see people for what they are: people. But the country as a whole is not ready for that. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton ensure this every time they open their collective mouth. The whole Christian/Muslim debate is huge. People here his name and automatically associate it with Muslim beliefs. Is this right? Absolutely not. But there are more people who vote uneducated that there are educated. It’s the fear of the name that will bring people out. You are right about the charisma aspect. But I would guess that most people who will vote in this election will not have seen any of the debates and do not watch CNN. I think the country is fed up with Bush more than the Republican Party. Change is needed and if McCain (or his committee) can preach loud enough that he can indeed institute change when needed, he has a better chance than he is being given. His views on the war in Iraq are strong and although most people would agree that the situation has not gone well, pulling out is not the answer. I am not saying that Obama is going to just pull out, but people will associate that view with him, and the view of doing things better over there with McCain. Even sadder, I feel there is a strong chance that Obama may not have a chance to complete his destiny of being the most powerful man in the world. I must admit, 6 months ago, I was a McCain supporter. Obama has changed that. I still have not made up my mind, although your blog is convincing. Obama is a great man as well as a leader. I just do not think the country is willing to accept him.

Rachel said...

Wow, great musings, Scott. And quite a bold title too :). I have been spending some time reading your links and others about McCain too. It's feels a bit liberating to actually research and care about this election as opposed to my past voting philosophy. It's been hard too, to let go of the 'voting on one issue' philosophy too. I just feel so strongly about abortion that I want to vote for whoever says he'll work to outlaw it. But I agree with you (and others) that I'll have the chance to vote about that specifically later if I vote now for someone who is the least power hungry and won't try to take away the balance of power that makes it possible to have a say in each issue. If that makes sense.

H said...

It's people like this one that make me fear for Obama:

tempe turley said...

Thanks for your comments, a few responses:

1) While its true that Obama has been preparing for a while a career in politics and public service, I don't think he was necessarily planning on running for president this early or even at all, but the everything just kind of worked out for him and the opening came. I have a good article to back me up if you're interested in this.... :-)

2) Bill, while I do think there's a lot of black, Muslim, etc. hatred out there, and those groups would never vote for Obama, I also think those groups would never vote Democrat anyway. I think there's another group of people who will vote for Obama because he's black (the black population for one) and because he has a Muslim sounding name (the Muslim population :-), that should balance the first group out quite nicely. The rest of us will be stirred by his message, politics, background, and political skill that will push him way over the top. Especially considering how badly John McCain has been (and will continue to) perform lately.

3) Rachel, I know you can break the urge to be a one issue voter... Come on, its easy... :-) The issue is that with these one issue voters its all about Supreme Court nominations, because no president has the direct authority to overturn Roe v. Wade. While I don't have the space to discuss Roe v. Wade fully here, just know that I'm pro-life. Yep, call me a pro-lifer for Obama. But none of these issues are easy. There are powerful arguments on both sides. And the worse thing we can do is to vote for a terrible president because of one or two issues solely. I made that mistake myself, voting for Bush Jr. in 2000.

4) H, I agree, its scary. But we can't let fear win or influence us. I'm sure Obama is taking the precautions necessary, but in the end it may not be enough. Let's pray that it is.

Brent & April said...

Obama will be the next Jimmy Carter. You are way to enthusiastic about him. He is not all that you think he is. Time will tell, but I think he is just another poll-i-tition. True the president may not have much power with issues like guns, abortion or gay marriage. He will have the power to veto those bills should the come before him. What will Obama do with gay marriage? What will he do with abortion? What will he do with banning guns? He will not be on my side. I am not a one issue voter. But when a man has opposite views on those issues, thinks that gas prices are not high enough and wants to take away more of my money to give to someone else, I can not vote for him.

tempe turley said...

Just wanted to address the last comment quickly:

Issues like guns, abortion, homosexual marriage typically just don't seem to be things the president deals with, or if so, extremely rarely. Name me one time Bush Jr has vetoed or signed into law anything related to any of those issues. Honestly, I can't think of any (admittedly I don't pay that close attention to CSPAN). But most of the time, these end up being state issues only.

And really, the differences between the two parties are not as far apart on these issues as you think. We've had this non-violent civil war since the 1960s where we tended to amplify the differences, but the reality is that most people disagree very slightly.

No right minded person wants to completely ban guns, the debate is always on how much regulation can we tolerate.

By and large, even if Roe vs. Wade were repealed, most states would continue to keep early term abortions legal, and late term abortions illegal...

States are placing constitutional ammendments banning homosexual marriage or they are legalizing it or they are maintaining the status quo, all under the presidential leadership of Bush Jr.

I just don't think you will see much practical difference on issues like these no matter who wins the presidential election.

I can understand your comparisons between Obama and Carter, but I don't agree with it, but that will take a post all of its own to flush out.

By the way, Obama only proposes tax hikes on those making more than $250,000/year, and if you fall under that category, than your comment on taxes makes more sense... Other than that, he proposes to actually cut taxes...

But I do hope we hear some nice meaty debates between the two candidates on things like energy, foreign policy, taxes, health care, the economy, but so far McCain has been happy to throw a lot of mud at Obama so far, sadly....

I hope we can get through all that as soon as possible, but the way things tend to go, I have my doubts... But I have really liked and supported McCain for many years, and I'm sad that he's not being more substantive than this.

But I do plan on dealing with some of the issues in a future post. If you are interested, stay tuned.

But, I do want to give you my thanks for commenting...

Brent & April said...

Bush let the ban on assault weapons expire. That was a great thing for me. I shoot in competition sports and the ability to purchase high capacity mags at a reasonable price is a relief. I was also able to purchase a few more "assault rifles" for my arsenal.

I do make enough for the Obama tax hikes to affect me. Take a look at the stats on who is actually paying taxes. Everyone keeps saying a tax cut for the rich, well, that is who is actually paying the taxes. The same principle applies here that I try to teach my kids. Logan wants a new bike. I could just go and buy the bike and he will place no value on it. If I make him work for it, then he will take care of it because of his vested interest. Those people (I am generalizing) who pay no taxes could care less about our government. They don't have a stake in it. They look to it only for what it can give them.

I personally believe that only those who pay income taxes or own property should be allowed to vote. Otherwise our country will continue down the path of socialism. Once people figure out that they can vote themselves a free lunch, they will.

Here is an interesting article you should read:

Please tell me what you think. It would make an interesting post if you blogged your thoughts about it.

Thanks for the debate.

tempe turley said...

Right, I forgot about the assault weapon ban... I'm sure there are more, but without having done more research, I just get the sense that most of these kind of issues are usually dealt with at the state level...

We could actually go on a long time on issues like guns and abortion and the death penalty. Many people already have done just that...

But I guess it all comes down to how much government regulation you want on these issues, and how do your personal values weigh in... And there is not a clean division between our two parties in this regard.

If you're a pro-choice democrat, you want the government out of your life when it comes to reproduction, but you probably also don't mind some amount of regulation on guns...

Just one quick example.

My sense is that on all of these divisive issues, the middle ground is probably the appropriate place to be. I think, incidently that both Obama and McCain have the temperament and the record to bring our nation to a compromise...

Regarding taxes and for the record, I am a pro-free market, pro-free trade pro-NAFTA capitalist.

However, I also recognize that our economy as its currently constituted has a very large and growing gap between the rich and the poor. I simply do not agree that the richest few always work harder and are always the most valuable segment of our society.

I recognize life is not fair, but there are some built in realities to our economy that tends to concentrate wealth. Second place tends to do a lot worse than first place in our economy (see Microsoft, Google, eBay, etc.)...

Our an artist, musician, or athlete, the elite are millionaries, those with a thin margin less of talent are completely out of the industry (my wife is a musician so I know a little about this).

So, in that vein, I guess I don't mind a little progressiveness in our tax code.

By the way, we will inevitably have to raise taxes to balance the budget our current president so recklessly drove straight into the ground.

More later...

By the way, I skimmed your article, I promise I'll read it, it's just long, and its getting late...

Brent & April said...

I'm glad you will read the article. I won't bother to post about my views on taxes here. I'll wait until have had a chance to read it. It shares a majority of my views. I will say that athletes and musicians are elite by our own doing. I don't support it nor do I find them elite or experts on other topics like politics.

Rachel said...

Scott, you should read this post that was started by our friend about The Law, just to get a gist of some ideas out there about it. Maybe Brent wants to go a different direction with it but if you want to read or participate in this discussion, you should!

Brent, I have to admit when I read the word "arsenal" I felt a wee bit of fear :)

And while we're making requests Davey and I agree that we want both Scott and Brent to read "Leadership and Self-deception" by Arbinger, and Bonds that Make Us Free by Terry Warner.

That will be a fantastic book club online discussion!