Very shortly, the Democrats will choose their nominee for the general election. While he has lagged behind for much of the year, Barack Obama is now in real contention to win in Iowa and ride that momentum to victory. In nominating Obama, Democrats have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to alter America’s politics.
The main criticism against Obama has been that he is too inexperienced. But a long resume, and decades of experience is simply no guarantee of a good performance once in office.
Just ask James Buchanan, John Quincy Adams, or Herbert Hoover (remember learning about them in history class?). Their resumes were as deep as any. But they accomplished nothing in office. Hoover is famous for presiding over the first years of the Great Depression, while John Quincy Adams accomplished more as a congressman fighting slavery late in his life than he ever did as a President. The worst of the lot is Buchanan, who let the Union crumble around him in the 1850s.
What the electorate should look for in a President is vision and judgment. I strongly believe that Obama has those qualities. His address at the 2004 Democratic convention showed he believes strongly in personal responsibility, honesty in government, and better access to healthcare. He is a fresh face who wants to move beyond the intense partisanship of the Clinton and Bush years, and has reached across the aisle, even to conservatives like Sam Brownback and Todd Coburn. For Americans who are tired of being divided by Karl Rove and Machiavellian political strategists, Obama represents the best chance for a new politics of civility and purpose.
The most important issue for many Americans right now is the war in Iraq. During the run-up to the war in Iraq—when Bush’s approval ratings were through the roof—Obama gave an extremely prescient speech, declaring that the “invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of Al Qaeda.”
For much of the campaign, Obama has been dismissed as “naïve and frankly irresponsible” by some of the very politicians who could not—or would not—see what a terrible misadventure Iraq would become. This summer, Obama incurred considerable criticism when he stated that he was willing to meet with America’s enemies in the first year of his Presidency. His competitors continued the pile-on after he said that he was willing to order troops into the mountains of Pakistan to fight the real war against Al Qaeda.
But it is clear now that the hackneyed foreign policy dictums of a handful of elites—the same elites who lobbied so ardently for the war in Iraq—cannot suffice any longer. America needs someone to negotiate with our adversaries if it is ever to get out of the Iraq, and someone to take them on when necessary, even if the Washington foreign policy establishment doesn’t always agree. Barack Obama is that man.
At the same time we face tremendous domestic challenges. In the next years we will have to decide what to do about illegal immigration, how to fix social security, and send our children to world-class schools. All of this will require the openness and honesty that Obama has in such abundance, not to mention the ability to bring Americans together across partisan lines, something which none of Obama’s competitors can do as effectively.
Clearly, the same old politics isn’t addressing America’s many problems. The country desperately needs a new politics, and a new generation of leadership. Obama is capable of bridging the partisan divide in this country, and bringing a fresh set of eyes to the political quagmire in Washington. For those reasons, I’m proud to support Barack Obama for President in 2008.