To answer a question.

On my last post, an anonymous commenter (Probably related to me... I know who you are :-P ) said
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.

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.
  1. 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"?
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
When I asked Josh why he was voting for Obama over Clinton, he thought my #3 was his top reason. He brought up the "sniper fire" comment- if she would embellish a story like that, then defend the lie on more than one occasion, it seems to paint a pattern of "saying anything" to get votes.

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.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for your post. I got on both of their websites Saturday and did some further research. Clinton and Obama have similar work backgrounds as far as helping the underprivileged before moving on to something bigger.
I'm still going with my ditch "No Child Left Behind" Clinton campaign, but it was nice to hear someone else's views. There is so much to read and hear, that it's good to get someone else's take on things. Happy Voting tomorrow! I do know that whomever wins tomorrow, I'll be voting for in the big match up.

Matt Wissman said...

Well said. Those are many of the same reasons why I like Obama. He's also from my future state of Illinois.

affert said...

There is one fundamental ideal of Obama that I just can't agree with:
He believes that the federal government should pay for everything. http://obama.senate.gov/ press/070621-obama_announces_3/ (remove the space)
He personally requested 740 million dollars of earmarks in the past three years alone. While things like replacing the projector in the Adler Planetarium is perhaps a worthy thing, is that how $3,000,000.00 of our federal tax dollars should be spent?
That is just one example, and it is very easy to think: 3 million is a very small amount compared to the federal budget. But fundamentally, he believes that change happens through government expansion and government spending.

While I like many of his idea (including many that you mentioned), when he talks about change, I just can't agree with the direction of the changes. The change I want in government is limiting government power, limiting government spending, and most importantly limiting the power that companies and special interest groups have over politics. None of these are changes that he seems to be willing to make. More government money will just attract MORE special interest groups and MORE companies to get ahead by manipulating the political system rather than by fairly competing.

This is one of the reasons why America is great: people can disagree and still respect each other. If Obama does get elected, I respect him (or not) on how honestly he pursues the goals he has laid out in his campaign.

Anyway, may the best candidate win.

Matt said...

I thought Illinois already was a state...

(And herein lies the most profound thing I can come up with in a political conversation.)

Matt Wissman said...

I guess my comment would make more sense if you knew I am moving to Illinois next week. So, I'm excited to have him as my Senator :).

Joanna said...

Heather- I'm so glad you've done your own research, and went out to hear Bill Clinton. What counts is that you know why you're voting, rather than just following blindly. Way to go.

Matt W - Hope you're voting today in Muncie! Your last chance in Indiana!

David- I know where you're coming from. "More government" is not the answer to many, many questions- and oftentimes politicians just throw More Government at problems in hopes of solving it. One of Obama's main reasons for running is resisting special interest groups and lobbyists, for what it's worth, so he's at least stating he doesn't want anything to do with them. About the earmarks he requested: They all seem to fall under the categories of Education, Infrastructure, Health Care, or Public Safety. I don't know enough about the way these things are funded to know if they're appropriate or not, but I do appreciate that he's being upfront about disclosing the requests rather than secretly hiding pork to bills. I just looked, and couldn't find something similar on McCain or Clinton's Senate site, though I may be missing it. I don't know what amount is "normal" for a senator to try to earmark for his state.

And, on the deeper issue of government expansion & spending: Whoever is in office will do this, as has been demonstrated with the current president. The deficit's way up and government certainly hasn't shrunk, even with a Republican in the White House. So, I don't have hope that either party will cut the size of the government, but I do think they will have different priorities on what they put resources towards.

Matt Wissman said...

Yes, I did vote today!

Marie said...

Digested your thoughts, have some of my own:

1. Spearheaded the effort to thwart the Infants Born Alive Act, which would have made it illegal to kill a child after it's born even if intended for abortion. So now they still do that. Kill living newborns who somehow survive their abortion attempts, that is.
2. Voting record consistently to the far left of the Illinois state legislature.
3. Voting record consistently to the far left of the United States Senate.
4. No interest in joining or leading major centrist, bipartisan efforts on controversial issues like the Gang of 14.
5. Stayed for 20 years in a church with a raving lunatic as a pastor.
6. Called said pastor his spiritual mentor, put him in a ceremonial position on his campaign, and named his book after one of his speeches.
7. Hung out with a literal bomb thrower; called said literal bomb thrower someone within the mainstream of respectable Chicago society.
9. His wife and her numerous anti-American and bizarre comments.
10. Attended a madrassa as a child; when attending Catholic school, listed "Muslim" as his religion.
11. Supports homosexual marriage.

Marie said...

In re: to your not being certain about McCain's view of earmarks, from his site:

"John McCain Will Stop Earmarks, Pork-Barrel Spending, And Waste. He will veto every pork-laden spending bill and make their authors famous. As President, he will seek the line-item veto to reduce waste and eliminate earmarks that have led to corruption. Unlike Senators Clinton and Obama who have sought a nearly combined $3 billion in earmarks, John McCain has a clear record of not asking for earmarks. Earmarks restrict America's ability to address genuine national priorities and interfere with fair, competitive markets."

I can understand if you don't want to support McCain because you want to withdraw from the war or something. But I don't understand how on earth you can justify a vote for Obama. I mean, I read your reasons, so I guess they are important to you. But I just can understand it.

Marie said...

That is to say CAN'T understand it. . .

Amy said...

We placed our votes yesterday and I was so excited. I am open to change and will be happy to have anyone in the office that can get our country back on track. This year I didn't feel as passionately about one particular person, but I think this was because we had so many GREAT choices this year. I won't say who I voted for, but I am confident that whoever gets in there is going to do an amazing job! Great post!

affert said...

Joanna: I disagree with your assumption that every president will make for a larger government.

I voted for Ron Paul.

A few notes about his voting record: He has never voted to raise taxes. He has never voted for an unbalanced budget. He has never voted to raise congressional pay. He has never voted to increase the power of the executive branch. He voted against the Patriot Act. He does not participate in the lucrative congressional pension program. He returns a portion of his annual congressional office budget to the U.S. treasury every year.

I certainly do agree that our current president has expanded the government in large ways. I just don't think it has to be that way.

I am very happy that Obama has been open about his earmarks: that is clearly a step in the right direction. But not putting them there in the first place is an even bigger step.

Clinton at one point put out some list in reaction to Obama's list: I don't know what is on it, though.
Like Marie said, McCain's track record is a bit different than Obama's.

I am hoping that the support that Paul was able to generate this time around will show some people that there is a different way, and when America is ready, there will be someone who will be there to be that kind of leader.

Joanna said...

David- By "Whoever is in office will do this" I meant, of the people likely to be in office after this election. I realize Ron Paul has some radical ideas for making government smaller, and I respect his integrity in sticking to his set of ideals, even in the face of so much opposition.

And, by your comment earlier, I had a feeling you voted for Ron Paul. He did make a respectable showing in Indiana- even with a Republican nominee already decided! I was impressed.

affert said...

Yes he did: during the Indiana voting, he made it to over one million votes nation-wide. I do wonder if the numbers look a little more impressive because McCain supports have less reason to come out and vote now that he has it clinched. It was pretty obvious from near the start he wouldn't have enough support to win.

But after voting for Bush over Kerry last time, I am kind of sick of voting for the 'least of two evils'.

On a somewhat unrelated note: there is a movement that is trying to get members of congress to promise to not take money from special interest groups (among other things): change-congress.org One thing that is very refreshing about the group is that they are bipartisan: they are trying to get support from all candidates and voters. This wouldn't solve everything, but would help a lot!

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

Hooray for Ron Paul! (Sorry that's all I have to contribute. :-))


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