Okay, this is totally unrelated, but I went to hear Bill Clinton speak last night and he really convinced me to vote for Hillary. Please do a blog giving me your top 5/10 reasons to vote for Obama.OK, so here it is, in conjunction with tidbits from the town hall meeting a week ago. In the spirit of the positive Obama campaign, I'm going to do my best to present pro-Obama rather than anti-Clinton arguments. This is a tough post to write, and I've been thinking about it all weekend, because there are blog readers and family members online and off that give me a really hard time for even mentioning the guy's name. I wonder if it's even worth it. But, because I know the above commenter is being honest, and I think it's a fair question... here we go.
WHY I'M VOTING FOR BARACK TOMORROW
I'm not going to cover specific policies here, though I may use some as examples. The point isn't the policy or campaign promise, but the philosophy of the leader. Good leaders start with good foundational assumptions, and build up from there. I won't agree with all the policy points of any one candidate, but if I agree with most of them, and trust that they will make thought-out, measured decisions, in my mind they're the best person for the job. The decision-making process is probably the most important to me, because the issues might not even exist today. Remember the 2000 election? Remember any of the issues? Yeah, me neither, because the Main Issue less than a year after Bush took office was Terrorism- totally unforeseen. We have no idea what the future issues are. Decision-making matters.
- He wants to listen to all sides. To think! If our leaders were willing to talk to our enemies, how much war could be prevented? How many lives could be saved? How many people could be fed? This came up in the town hall meeting during the very first question, when a young South Korean immigrant asked Obama about his policy towards North Korea. Obama said he'd talk to them. As a part of his health care plan (or any of his plans) he says he'll "get a big table" and invite everyone- members of both parties, drug companies, insurance companies, representative people actually affected by policy changes- everyone involved or with a stake in the matter. Communication does wonders, really, and I don't get why people are bringing him under fire for this policy. When Jesus said "Love your enemies, and pray for them," did he mean "Don't talk to them"?
- He acknowledges that the world and the issues the nation faces are not black-and-white. This is something else he's come under fire for, which is something else I don't get. Something I talk about on this blog fairly often is the complexity of political, spiritual, or social justice issues, challenging the simple accepted answers that don't seem to answer harder questions. I appreciate that someone trying to get elected is acknowledging the same thing. His plans and policies are harder to explain and get into a 4-point speech or a colorful mailer (or a short town-hall meeting answer!), but they actually take into account the reality of situations. President Bush has been criticized over making the world black-and-white, labeling "evil" and "good". Realizing the complexities of the world and the shades of gray that it operates in will certainly result in better policies and actions in a whole host of areas, and prevent knee-jerk reactions. Anyone see what Clinton said about Iran? I worry about knee-jerk reactions.
- He doesn't "say anything" to get elected. He admitted pretty early on in the town hall meeting that he and his supporters won't agree on everything. He's OK with being honest anyway. A question came up in the town hall meeting- the man asked something to the effect of "Gas costs are rising, and there's there's plenty of domestic oil in Alaska, but some people don't want us to drill there because they say it will take too long or destroy the environment. What do you say to them?" Barack started "Well, I told you we wouldn't agree on everything..." and proceeded to disagree with the questioner on the issue. I appreciated that. He didn't try to appease his supporter, he spoke what he believed. Another example of this is the "gas tax holiday" that the other two candidates are championing. It's an easy-to-understand "solution" that doesn't actually fix or even help a complex problem. I did the math for my car, and I buy about a tank of gas every 2 weeks. For the 3 month summer, at 4 weeks/month, that's about 12 tanks of gas, about 10 gallons each time. 120 gallons x .20 reduction = $24 savings over the course of the summer. $24 spread over 3 months won't affect my food budget. It won't help me stimulate the economy. It's a gimmick that will hurt more than help. What the plan will do is create a jump in prices come Fall- not only in gas, but in anything that needs to be transported, which will be a shock to many people's budgets. This is a pretty empty campaign promise, and I appreciate that Obama isn't jumping on the bandwagon. His longer-term solutions are better- even if they are more complex and harder to capture in a nice catchphrase.
- He's more likely to help the poor and marginalized because he's been there. He was raised by a single mom, then his grandparents. He only paid his student loans off a few years ago. His personal assets are no where near to the other candidates, who are both very, very rich. He still lives in Chicago. He and his wife started out working with the down and out, even with promising law careers ahead of them. He's not been on the board of Walmart. I'm still confused as to the "elitist" label. I appreciate his background a lot. He's been there, and knows the reality of the poor's situation- better than I or many of his critics do, even.
- He supports families. A single mom of a disabled child and another baby asked a few questions, one of which was about federal oversight of child support. Obama didn't say much on that, but did say none of his policies matter- not education, not the economy - none will happen without strong families and marriages.He understands the importance of family, and from what I've seen, he's modeled it more consistently than the other candidates.
- He manages his resources well. As all the campaigns go, Obama's is the best-managed. Essentially, a President needs to be a Really Good Manager, and so far, Obama has shown that. The other campaigns are in debt. The Clinton camp has high turnover. They're spending more than they bring in, and, when things don't go well, they replace their people. I misspoke- the only other campaign not spending more than they have is Ron Paul, who also happens to be second in the running on my unscientific sidebar poll, but isn't faring as well nationally. McCain's campaign is no longer in debt because he's not campaigning right now, and he's had time to raise money & pay the loans back. I don't want a president who spends what they don't have, or at least have a plan to fund.
- He has a balanced view of faith in the public square. For this very reason, Obama's been on my radar before he announced he was running for president. He gave a significant speech at a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference in the summer of 2006. His interviews in Christianity Today and beliefnet more recently illustrates many of the same points: Our faith informs our politics, and doesn't require that we line up behind the Conservative Christian voting bloc and look at one or two issues, turning a blind eye to the rest.
- He's from Hawaii. This is, admittedly, my worst, most selfish reason on the list, so I put it last. I spent part of my childhood in Hawaii, and understand the worldview of locals there- one of inclusiveness and goodwill. Whites are the minority and "minorities" are the majority, and the aloha spirit is rampant. Living in Hawaii (and even moreso overseas) gives a person a certain perspective on the world and empathy towards other cultures. I want the most public ambassador of the United States to understand other cultures and how to interact with them. This is really important. We need to repair the image our nation has in the world. Part of that is having a president who can communicate effectively to people from other cultures.
All this said, do I agree with Barack Obama on everything? No, I don't. But, I am also not a one-issue voter, and I believe the person with the best, most rounded leadership abilities ought to be the one elected. I obviously don't buy into some of the advertising that comes from the campaign- my Hope comes from God, not politicians or government. At the town hall meeting, I braced myself for a speech about nice words like Hope and Change and Believe In Yourself - but there was none of that. I was glad.
These are all very personal reasons, based on my own research. They may not resonate with you, and that's fine. This is my decision-making process. I do encourage you to do your own research. Figure out what's important to you. Who would you hire for the job? Why?
And, most importantly, vote tomorrow! (if you're in Indiana or North Carolina!)
A note to the original commenter: Slate says Obama is the natural Catholic choice, but that Clinton is doing better at the polls among Catholics. So, it's a toss up. Like I said, do your own research.