Published February 29, 2008
Illinois Senator Barack Obama is certainly not waiting his turn. Indeed, that is a principle issue that seems to be roiling the Democratic establishment. Hillary Clinton, one of their own, with all the right connections, DLC leanings, not to mention the historic trappings of being the first woman nominee is poised for the White House, and this young upstart thinks he can come along and take it from her?! It is this same presumption that has doomed the Clinton campaign and would cause it to falter in the general election, though it is unlikely now to make it that far. It's a good thing, too.
When it comes to taking back the White House from the party whose idea of ringing in the new millennium was disgracing and bankrupting America, it's imperative that the Democrat with the best chance of winning the general election wins the nomination. There is no question that Obama wins this the electability contest, and it's not just in the polls, though he's leading in matchups both versus Clinton and versus McCain.
It's a simple matter of logic. McCain is not winning the conservative lovefest. He's nurtured his stature as a maverick well, and the conservatives will not turn out for him in significant numbers on election day, UNLESS their perceived anti-christ Hillary Clinton is his opposition. Somehow, they've decided that Hillary represents all that is evil in the world, and if she is the nominee, the GOP will coalesce around their candidate, be he Ron Paul or RuPaul.
Obama is a different story for two reasons. Firstly, yes, there will be racists in the Democratic party who will jump ship and vote for McCain, but they will be far outnumbered by the youth coming to the polls as a part of the incredible movement surging around the Obama campaign. This youth movement, however, will be far less significant for a Clinton candidacy, unless perhaps Obama is on the ticket as Vice President. Secondly, Obama will pull some independents and moderate conservatives. Frank Rich covers this in a recent New York Times article:
"I was startled to hear last week from a friend in California, a staunch anti-Clinton Republican businessman, that he was wavering. Though he regards Mr. McCain as a hero, he wrote me: “I am tired of fighting the Vietnam war. I have drifted toward Obama.”
Similarly, Mark McKinnon, the Bush media maven who has played a comparable role for Mr. McCain in this campaign, reaffirmed to Evan Smith of Texas Monthly weeks ago that he would not work for his own candidate in a race with Mr. Obama. Elaborating to NPR last week, Mr. McKinnon said that while he is “100 percent” for Mr. McCain and disagrees with Mr. Obama “on very fundamental issues,” he likes Mr. Obama and what he’s doing for the country enough to stay on the sidelines rather than fire off attack ads."
Both Democratic candidates are proven, capable leaders and executives. After pabulum like that repeated in Bertram de Souza's recent column—that because one Obama supporter couldn't speak intelligently about his Senate record, he must not have accomplished anything of substance—you might be surprised to read real research about Senator Obama's legislative record:
"I was blown away as I started going through his record. I've already mentioned his bills on health care and energy. In addition he had introduced bills on Iran, voting, veterans, global warming, campaign finance and lobbyists, Blackwater, global poverty, nuclear proliferation, and education. … Obama appears to have a better record last year in the Senate on getting his bills and amendments passed than does Clinton."
Obama's opponents would have you believe he is all puff and no punch. This is mostly a desperate attempt to deflect damage from one of Obama's most potent weapons: his oratory. Neither Hillary nor McCain can hope to compete when it comes to inspiring their audiences like Obama, and let's face it; we're desperate for a new vision. But listen up, because there's policy in the poetry, and lots of it. Don't take it from me, here's the Chicago Tribune:
"Yes they are filled with platitudes, but they discuss policy as much as his opponents' speeches do."
"In San Antonio, where Obama delivered a typical version of his current stump speech, his address veered at one point into a two-minute description of his health-care plan. He mentioned the age cut-off for children on their parents' plans, the estimated cost reduction of premiums for those with private health insurance and a time frame for implementation.
He outlined the high points of his energy plan with numbers and industry jargon, calling for strict caps on greenhouse emissions, increases in car fuel-efficiency standards to 40 miles per gallon and creation of green-collar jobs, right down to those working on 'cellulosic ethanol.'
He ticked off the dollar figures he says working families and senior citizens could save with his economic plan, and promised to raise the minimum wage yearly to keep pace with inflation."
I've been watching the Vindy.com message boards lately, and it's been fascinating to see how fervently some people in the community want to spread lies and innuendo about Obama. To hear some of these people, you'd think he was some kind of white-hating, flag-burning, Muslim-extremist candidate whose wife hates America. It's opportune for his opponents to use his inexperience at politicking against him: inconvenient sound-bites, misstatements, and poor photo ops.
But isn't the unfiltered idealism what many of us have been looking for? Someone not jaded by the system? Someone with as much optimism and hope for the world as we have and not beaten down by the system to the point that they have a sense any longer of the possible, merely the feasible? We watched The West Wing on NBC and wished we could have Martin Sheen as president—someone with that kind of clarity, conviction, and courage.
Suddenly he shows up in an unexpected package and threatens the status quo, threatens the white men in their bowling leagues and fraternal orders, so it's time to play the fear card. But don't let them fool you.
Don't let them make you fear his religion. He professes to be a Christian, like millions more in this country. I am not a Christian, but members of my family are, some of my friends are, and I am not afraid of Mr. Obama's beliefs or his church. I've reviewed the church's information and videos and articles about it and invite you to do the same:
Don't let them make you fear his patriotism. Mr. Obama's life suggests a deep love of country and his fellow citizens. In Chicago, he was a community organizer, working with low-income residents in public housing developments. After Harvard Law School, he returned to Chicago and represented civil rights and discrimination cases and lectured on constitutional law. His wife, Michelle, worked in public service, a couple of years for the city of Chicago, and as director for Public Allies, a nonprofit public service advocacy group. (Newsweek profiles Michelle Obama in its February 25th issue and notes that when "The Audacity of Hope" became a best seller, the couple finally paid off their school loans and "got out of debt.") So, if you read that Obama neglected to place his hand over his heart one time when the National Anthem was sung, yes it's true. But dig deeper before deciding that means he can't be president.
Finally, don't let them make you fear to hope. It's okay to want more. You deserve it, and America deserves it. This country has limitless potential, and by coming together and believing in each other, we can work together to achieve greatness. Obama doesn't claim to be savior of the universe. But look at the alternatives, and you'll see why he's our best hope for the future. It's a future with a hope of peace, a hope of engagement, and a hope of unity.
Keep it Fair
The Democratic establishment may yet try to bring along the formerly discarded Florida and Michigan delegates and rig this thing in Hillary's favor. That would be a shame. The worst thing they could do at this point is tell the millions of excited young voters who have come into the contest that the superdelegates and party elite know better than they do and aren't interested in their opinions. The momentum is clearly going in Obama's direction, and when Hillary fails to win the necessary margins Tuesday in Ohio and Texas, she should step aside. To borrow a phrase, it's time to give hope a chance.