Drum roll, please:
Although I enthusiastically voted for Hillary Clinton in the recent California primary, I have made a tentative decision, with a slight tinge of sadness, to support Barack Obama for President. (The shot heard round the … room.)
After looking at this from every angle, I am basing this on a very simple premise: There is a chance – right now – to elect a progressive, young, idealistic, black man to be the President of the United States of America.
And that trumps even the historic possibility of electing a woman.
This may be a unique moment in time that may never come again. Who knows what may happen in 4, 8,12 years? He could be hit by lightning or eaten by a shark, or choke on a pretzel while watching football – or all three. The opportunity presents itself now and it must be taken.An Obama presidency would be a statement to this country and to the world that we are not (only) the country of Bush and War and Greed and Racism. It would reverberate around the globe that we have reclaimed the mantle of freedom and social progress and idealism that we held after WWII and that we have squandered since then. That what we talk when we salute with tearful pride the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor – is what we walk in the year 2008. That Truth and Justice really is The American Way.
Do I think Barack is best qualified? No. In a perfect world, I’d like to see a Clinton/Obama ticket – and 16 years of Democrat rule by a woman and an African-American.
Am I happy with the way he’s run his campaign? Not entirely. I find his slogans a bit vaporous. Has he capitalized on Hillary Hate? Yes. He is the one person in the world who could break its fever. (See Paul Krugman: Hate Springs Eternal and Think Again: Stanley Fish.)
Has he allowed Bill Clinton to be Swiftboated? I believe so. Again, only he could pour water on the idea that the most pro-African-American president in our history is actually – a Southern racist! But both these phenomena win him votes. Is that a crime? No. Politics is a blood sport as Rove said. He’s trying to win at all costs just as Hillary is said to be doing. That’s our system for better or worse. Ok, for worse.
Obama rails against the politics of division, yet intentionally or not, he divides the Democrat Party. Young vs. old, black vs. white (when convenient – see above), men vs. women, the old, black civil rights establishment against young, black activists; sixties activists vs. Gen X,Y and Z New Democrats vs. Clintonistas (like myself) vs. Kennedys.
But again, it is getting him critical votes in a close election and winning is the name of the game. All that will be forgotten soon and Democrats will kiss and make up. Unless we have a version of the shameful spectacle of Ted Kennedy refusing to shake Jimmy Carter’s hand at the Democrat Convention of 1980 when he ran against him for a second term and helping to give us eight years of Gipperdom.
Do I think Barack Obama could be a good, perhaps great president of all of the people? Yes. Would I canvass and phone for him? Fervently.
Do I worry that he may be taking on an impossible job? Yes. I fear that his may be a failed, one-term presidency through no fault of his own. How likely is a disastrous withdrawal from Iraq? A protracted recession? A massive stock market crash? A terrorist attack? All of the above?
Jimmy Carter was brought down by the economy, gas shortages and the media regurgitating right-wing talking points. Not to mention an extended Iranian hostage crisis that might have ended successfully if not for a few Sea Stallion helicopters colliding in the dust of Desert One and V.P. George H.W. Bush and CIA director William Casey et al colluding with our Iranian enemies to delay the release of hostages until Reagan’s inauguration day.
Just consider the specter of a failed Obama presidency. I believe Hillary could survive such a blow.
Still – I say roll the dice.