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Why Obama

January 4th, 2008

Taoh-CoverA lot of what I like about Obama goes back to this speech, back in 2004. In many ways, Obama is the Bill Clinton of 2008. Like Clinton giving the keynote speech for a future lost Democratic bid in 1988, Obama came of note in 2004–except that Obama’s speech was far better, far more uprising. Obama is a stirring orator, someone capable of reaching across divided lines, and uniting people who might be surprised to find themselves on common ground. As I noted before, I have seen conservatives with an unabated hatred of Hillary Clinton and of Democrats in general say that they actually like Obama, or at least would be satisfied with him.

Usually, politicians try to offend the least number of people possible. To do so, they state their stands on issues as seldom as possible, swinging instead to generalized, feel-good rhetoric which, in the end, doesn’t really mean very much. They try to ride public trends, even if it means derailing their principles. They come across as shallow. I remember seeing a debate of the Democratic candidates where Clinton, Edwards, and Obama spoke on an issue. Clinton seemed calculating, and both she and Edwards–Edwards especially–spoke broadly but vaguely; in then end, I wasn’t sure what they meant. But Obama spoke specifically, giving examples and citing cases. I teach students how to write, and drill into them the importance of examples. When Obama gave his reasons, I felt that he was not just trying to rouse the crowd with dazzling campaign-style language. It seemed instead that he had studied the issue, fought with himself on deciding why he should see it this way or that, and came to a decision as to what was best, and now he was trying to explain it to me in a way that made sense. Edwards, who had just spoken before, appeared to me as superficial–crowd-pleasing within a liberal context, but essentially not meaningful.

I finally broke down and bought Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope, so that I could have a clearer picture of the candidate. What it has told me confirms the view I had had, and gives me even greater confidence in this candidate.

I have said before that where Bush claimed to be a united and not a divider, Obama actually is, even though he doesn’t try to claim that mantle like Bush so crassly (and so falsely) did. When I write on political matters, I do what a lot of people do: I write with conviction and anger, with an Us vs. Them paradigm. This is satisfying, but in the end, will not sway the other side so well.

Obama manages to say the exact kind of things that I want to say, but he does so in a way that shows due respect to all sides, taking into account differing perspectives and political points of view. He doesn’t say, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” nor does he try to obfuscate his way out of taking a stand. He points out the facts and the arguments that both sides would acknowledge, points out the core principle which is important to him, shows how these elements guided his decision, and then states clearly what he thinks should be done. In stating his case in this way, he shows you that he considers your point of view, values what is important to you, and that his decision is what he honestly feels best answers the problem at hand. He has not come to his decision through politics and polls, but through logic, understanding, and compassion. One example from his book was when a decision had to be made in Illinois concerning police interrogations; instead of simply laying down a decision, he called together all interested parties and hammered out a solution that everyone could agree to.

In this way, he comes across as trustworthy. If a Republican were to do this like Obama does, I would feel a lot more comfortable with them, and I think that this is very much why many independents and conservatives would accept Obama, where they might reject another candidate from either party.

I believe that Obama also has an intelligent and correct focus on what is important. I myself have always believed that the three best investments that we as a nation could make are in education, infrastructure, and science. In his book, in the chapter titled “Opportunity,” Obama lays out his big three investments: Education, Science, and Energy. He lays out the case for each, and I find myself reading his words as if I were reading my own. And while he placed energy in third place ahead of infrastructure, I find myself having to agree that it is a more pressing matter, and am not discouraged because he highlights the importance of infrastructure elsewhere.

And this is one of the things I like best about Obama: the wonkiness factor. It is the antithesis of Bush in 2000, making the case that he doesn’t need to know anything, he just needs to surround himself with “good people.” Obama appeals to me as the candidate who is actually smart enough to be president, who may not be an expert on everything, but knows enough about everything that he can make intelligent choices, and will not be led about by the nose like Bush has been. Obama has a good command of the issues, knows the facts that need to be known, and can explain it to people in ways that resonate and don’t condescend.

On the issues, Obama stands pretty much where I stand. He is a strong defender of the constitution as a living document, and opposes strict constructionism. He dislikes abortion but is pro-choice. He supports stem-cell research. He believes that deficits are dangerous, supports “pay as you go,” wants to get us out of crippling debt (and means it). He is no homophobe, and is extremely strong on civil rights. He supports free trade, but feels that strong efforts must be made to stop promoting the exportation of jobs; for example, no tax breaks for companies that send jobs overseas. He feels that the death penalty can be justified in extreme cases (we disagree on that a bit), but also understands that it is not a deterrent and is so prone to error and prejudice that it is not tenable. He believes that police interrogation should be videotaped. He rightly questions the way drugs are dealt with, and though he does not come out strongly on the issue, he gives me the clear impression that he knows the “war on drugs” is a sham (am I reading my biases into that?). He believes that good, solid, public education is essential, and is against vouchers or other easy feel-good political answers. He wants real reform and real funding for public education. He wants more teachers, more emphasis on teaching, more grants and support for students, and an end to crippling student debt. He approves of Ethanol, but not as the only alternative energy source. He is open to more nuclear, and supports big research into alternative fuels and renewable energy as well as higher fuel efficiency standards. He is very good on the environment. He is strong on campaign finance reform and reducing the influence of lobbyists, stating that the only lobbies he feels comfortable with are lobbies made up of people, or which work for the interests of the people–not because they are lobbies, but because their goals are already in sync with what he already believes. He is strong on gun control. He is strong on health care reform and well-versed on health issues. He is for corporations and the people cooperating for the benefit of all, but is strongly against corporate corruption and supremacy; the people come first. He believes in trickle-up, not trickle-down. He takes a reasonable middle road to immigration, open to more immigration but not to indiscriminate opening of the floodgates. (I do not agree with his fence-building support, if that was his intent in voting for it, he does seem to support cracking down on illegal employers.) He is pro-worker, pro-union, pro-people (as opposed to believing that if we support organizations, that we can trust them to take care of the people). He is strong on values, but not on ramming them down our throats. He is pro-Social Security, and against privatization. He is for middle-class tax cuts, and feels that the wealthy have been given far too much and should be made to pay their share. And though he has been called weak on foreign policy, he was one of the few voices of reason on Iraq from the very start, and shows the same level-headed promise in other areas–speaking from principle rather than from politics.

I have seen many liberals voice discomfort with Obama, which strikes me as strange because his stand on the issues is solidly liberal. I think what makes them uneasy is the fact that he does not dismiss alternate points of view out of hand. That he values what conservatives think and feel, even if he eventually disagrees with them on specifics. However, this is what makes Obama strong: that he can see both sides of an issue, draw in people from both sides, and come to a decision that many more can feel comfortable with because they feel that their values have been addressed and their leader is a true, honest straight-shooter.

I believe that Obama represents America and Americans better than anyone else out there. I see him as the most honest and informed candidate. I believe that he has the greatest appeal, the greatest likability, and is the greatest orator in the crowd. I believe that he has the best chance of winning, and more importantly, the best chance of being a great leader who takes us exactly where we need to go.

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  1. January 5th, 2008 at 02:28 | #1

    Obama certainly gave a great 2004 Keynote address and he is a great speaker. The challenge for Obama is that he occasinally lapses into a boring law professor drone. TJ Walker

  2. Andy
    January 8th, 2008 at 23:48 | #2

    Obama is definitely the dark horse. We and the whole world knows they throw Hillary out there because they are going to have her nominated. Now that Obama came out and we hear, not just see, him, he made his big splash and stole the show. Hillary should learn nothing is given handed to her. She actually has to prove herself, especially on the podium.

    Obama all the way!

  3. Outfox
    February 3rd, 2008 at 12:01 | #3

    I have to say that I am struggling with the Obama option now that he has the Kennedy backing. Doesn’t this strike an odd chord in that the very institutions he wants to end are backing him? How on earth is going be anything more than a puppet at the hands of his own ‘establised’ backers?

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