Obama for President

Tomorrow is the Massachusetts Presidential primary election, so it's time to announce the candidate who has received the coveted endorsement of yours truly, Captain Oblivious. Simply put, the Captain and the Doctor will both be voting forBarack Obama. If you've been reading this blog for a very long time, you may remember that I've been a huge Obama fan since I heard him speak at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. Nothing I've seen or heard has changed my mind; in fact, quite the opposite. There are four candidates with a realistic chance of winning their party's nomination. For the Democrats, we have Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton; for the Republicans, John McCain and Mitt Romney. Though I doubt most people care, I'm going to give my thoughts about each candidate.

Mitt Romney: Since I'm a relatively liberal Democrat, it's pretty unlikely that I would vote for a Republican anyway, but as a resident of Massachusetts I have to say that I'm particularly horrified by the idea of "Multiple Choice Mitt" as President. Seriously, if you are considering voting for him, please do some research on his performance (more accurately, lack thereof) as Governor of Massachusetts. He runs as a very conservative candidate now, yet he managed to get elected in Massachusetts by convincing people he was exactly the opposite. John Kerry got in trouble because people decided he "flip-flopped" on issues. Mitt Romney doesn't flip-flop, he cycles through various positions so quickly that he never stays still long enough to qualify as a single flip or flop - it would be more accurate to call him a whirling dervish than a flip-flopper. Be aware that you're not electing the person he claims to be now, you're electing a person who has spent so much time pretending to be someone else that even he has probably doesn't know what he really believes. 

John McCain: If I had to vote for a Republican (say, at gun-point), this would be the one. I understand perfectly well that, despite the attempts of certain conservative pundits to paint him as a moderate, McCain is one of the most reliably conservative voters in the Senate. So why would I, a liberal, vote for him? Cajones. McCain's campaign was dying, and all the Republicans were racing towards vitriolic anti-immigration policies, so the easy choice would be for him to go along with the crowd. Instead, he stood his ground and refused to pander to the narrow-minded extreme right wing of his party on an issue where he genuinely disagreed with them. I have a lot of issues with John McCain's politics, but I'm impressed with his cajones. For those who think that this example is similar to George W Bush's refusal to change his mind on various issues, there is one very significant difference - Bush is a sitting President, but McCain was fighting for his political life in an arena where candidates will usually say anything they think the voters want to hear. McCain stuck to what he thought was right even though that decision seemed to doom his campaign. I have to respect that. And when push comes to shove, I think I'd rather have a person I disagree with but respect than a person I mostly agree with but can't respect (see: Clinton, Hillary).

Hillary Clinton: Here's the thing. I really, really want to like Hillary Clinton. I like her as a theoretical candidate - a smart, powerful woman. I would LOVE to have a woman President. But the reality of her doesn't match up very well to the ideal. Try as I might (and have), I cannot like her. She is the most manipulative, calculating political candidate I've ever seen (we've never seen her get emotional - at all - but she cries just before the critical New Hampshire primary, and now has done it again just before Super Tuesday? Riiiiiight). She is passionately hated by 45% of the country, and any Republican member of Congress who supported a Clinton policy would be pelted with rotten tomatoes and drummed out of Congress at the next election. She would be the most divisive President in American history (and I include George W Bush in that list). Oh, and one minor little detail (NOT!): Electing Hillary Clinton as President would mean that for 24 years (28 if she wins a second term, as most Presidents do) our country will have been ruled by either a Bush or a Clinton. I have a real problem with that. This is the only scenario that could force me to vote Republican. Clinton vs McCain. Because I'd vote for Hillary over Romney (ok, I admit, I'd vote for Satan over Romney...), but I'd have to think long and hard about voting for her against McCain.

Barack Obama: The audacity of hope, indeed. 

He's been criticized for having a message of optimism in the face of political cynicism. His opponents claim he's too naive to be a successful President, that he'd never be able to manipulate Congress to get his legislative agenda passed. Well, I call BS on that. Do a little research, and you'll find that as an Illinois state senator he successfully passed legislation with help from conservative Republicans to protect criminal suspects from illegally forced confessions (all interviews are videotaped now). Hardly a cause you would expect the law-and-order, anti-Miranda warning, all-suspects-are-guilty-until-proven-innocent GOP to support, but Obama worked with them to make sure their major concerns were addressed and he got their votes. He's not naively or innocently optimistic, but he does believe that our goals should be high enough that we need to stretch to reach them (see: Kennedy, John Fitzgerald).

He takes heat from the left-wing of the Democratic party for publicly admitting that the Republicans have some good ideas once in a while. He actively seeks out moderate Republican voters by taking their ideas and opinions seriously, rather than reflexively dismissing them. In a pointed contrast to Hillary Clinton's divisiveness, he would be the most inclusive President of our times. And at the same time, he's not afraid to criticize Democratic institutions like teachers or unions if he thinks they're in the wrong: he supports merit-based pay for teachers (which I don't, and we can have that debate sometime if you like); he tells African-American crowds that their community needs to step up and accept some responsibility for the disproportionate number of young black men in prison and the failure of so many to pursue higher education; and he actually went to Detroit to tell Big Auto and their union members that they've screwed up in a big way by refusing to provide more fuel-efficient cars. Like John McCain, he has the cajones to argue with his own party while he's running for office. 

His positions on the issues? He's not liberal enough for me (don't believe the lie about him being the most liberal Senator, like Hillary he was too busy running for President to come back for all but the most important votes, and on those both tended to vote the party line), his ideas about the separation of church and state are a little too far to the church side, and in an issue by issue comparison he and Hillary are very similar. The difference? One of them challenges you to believe in yourself and your neighbors, regardless of political persuasion. The other takes us right back to the politics of hatred and despite.

Hope. Indeed. 

Obama for President.