Why I’m not sold on Obama

Today’s entry will be the first (I hope of not many) about Presidential election politics. If you wish I hadn’t written it, blame Steve Kelly.

First things first–like many Democrats, I’ll vote for whoever the party nominates over John McCain. I’d vote for almost anybody over McCain. I don’t believe his “maverick” reputation is deserved; he’s in bed with the neo-con movement that has endangered this country more than a world of nuclear weapons ever could. I will work tirelessly and shamelessly against him. Big surprise, I’m sure!

On to the Democratic contenders… I miss John Edwards, who I didn’t expect to like when he entered the current race, but steadily grew to appreciate. Sure, he’s a little smarmy, but he was the only mainstream Democratic candidate to absorb the accusation of class warfare in the right way–by saying, “You’re damn right it’s class warfare.” I would hope that he’ll pop back up on the campaign trail at some point to make sure that message stays alive and well–since, clearly, neither HRC nor BHO will say it.

Between Clinton and Obama, I’m torn. I don’t really like or trust or believe in either of them. Neither is as dangerous as McCain, which is why I’ll vote for either of them over him. Here’s how I see the choice between Clinton and Obama as of now (and this keeps changing from time to time, which is why I haven’t committed to either of them).

Clinton’s strength, which she rightly claims, is that she has a lot more experience in the trenches than Obama does. As much as I’d like for Obama to be right that he can spur a macro change in US political culture, I don’t think he is. Given the viciousness Hillary has survived over the years (yes, much of it was self-inflicted), she’s better prepared to deal with the dark realities of a campaign. That’s not to say Obama couldn’t win–he certainly can–but it would take an incredibly complicated ethical dance on his part to do so. On a policy level, there’s not really a huge difference between the two candidates, but I prefer HRC’s health-care plan (slightly) and believe she can resist the Republican propaganda-war about Iraq better. Not that she’s angling to leave Iraq quickly enough to suit me…

Obama’s strength, obviously, is his charisma, and I don’t mean that in the negative way most people use the word. He really can be inspirational, and the record is getting clearer every day that people respond to him. On a policy level, he’s not nearly as progressive as many of my progressive friends seem to think he is, but he’s certainly more progressive than his prospective opponent (good enough for now!). My concerns about him are twofold–

1. While I’d like to hear new voices and fresh ideas as much as the next guy, I also like to know (or least feel confident) that my candidate can actually produce. Maybe Obama can, but we have no basis on which to assess that. I’m hesitant to cast a vote in what I see as the most important Presidential election of my lifetime based on a coin-flip.

2. Probably more important, as a pretty-far-leftist, I’m deeply troubled by the positive response Obama draws from the right. Sure, maybe they’re just gaming the campaign system, but when an ultra-conservative like Michael Smerconish (of the Philly Inquirer) writes an incredibly glowing profile of Obama, I can’t help but wonder why they find him so compelling, and whether that’s happening because he’s more aligned with their politics than I’d like my candidate to be.

So what I decide about Obama, I suspect, will depend on how he responds to that support/respect he’s getting from the far right. If he can convince me that he appreciates but doesn’t accept it, I’ll feel a lot better. If he uses it as evidence that he’s “a uniter,” well, I’m not sure if I want to be united with a political philosophy that I find detestable on every level.

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4 Responses to Why I’m not sold on Obama

  1. kip says:

    Charisma goes a long way, just look how far Reagan went! Also, Barack’s voting record is considered more left than Hillary’s.

  2. Mmasingira Mtembori says:

    Please give unity a chance. Why do you Americans have to be divided like this? Why classify yourselves as “rightist”, “leftist”, “democrat”, “republican”. Please give Obama a chance. Listen to his speech in 2004. He is a genuine leader.

  3. sethkahn says:

    Kip: Senate voting records mean very little. There are horse-trades and all kinds of factors that influence votes way beyond the substance or original intentions of legislation. So yes, he rates more liberal than HRC, but he’s sponsored almost nothing of value. Believe me, I wish he were as liberal as his voting record indicates.

    Mmasingira: I do listen to Obama; that’s why I haven’t written him off entirely. I find his rhetorical skills remarkable (and I have a PhD in Rhetoric, so I don’t use that term as a perjorative). As for unity, sure, I’d love some, but not at the expense of my core principles. George W. Bush has been calling for unity since 2000 (Obama didn’t invent the idea, right?), but it’s been unity on very specific terms: his. I’m not convinced that Obama’s core principles are close enough to mine to warrant a commitment. I won’t privilege some abstract concept of “unity” above the principles that I’ve committed my life and work to fulfilling.

  4. Mosesev says:

    i am gonna show this to my friend, brother

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