Monday, February 11, 2008

The O/C

For the last several days I've been trying to figure out what to say about Obama vs Clinton and why I prefer Barack to Hillary. But the more I think about it, the less it comes down to facts I can nail down. When I put the major issues at hand (as decided by the press) into the various calculators, Obama comes out on ahead of Clinton in 4 of 4 attempts (although usually as the 2nd choice to various also rans because of the lack of decisive support for civil rights for gays). When I look at their voting histories or statements side by side, on the surface they appear to be close to each other and about 65-75% of what I'm interested in supporting, where that final unmatched 25-35% is taken up by one issue usually favored only by Republicans and the fact that I just plain don't give a damn about most of the big manufactured "issues" that get so many people up in arms and asking ignorant questions on national TV. If Obama weren't running, I'd be supporting Hillary as the most qualified and well matched candidate that I'd be willing to support. But Obama is running, and I like him more.

The first time I heard Obama speak, he gave that oustanding address at the Democratic National Convention. It was eloquent, inspirational, and personal. I heard it on the radio while driving home and stayed in my car for many minutes after I got home so I wouldn't miss a word. If he had kicked Kerry out of the running that night, I would have voted for him. At this same DNC, which was held in Boston, I went with some friends to a Women's Rally with other democratic big names such as Carol Moseley Braun and Madeline Albright, who were awesome and awe inspiring, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, who wasn't. I'm not sure if I discussed this with my friends at the time, and have avoided speaking about it since in case Hillary became the best candidate, but her speech and demeanor turned me stone cold. Her speech was rigid, conventional, and pandering - full of "requisite" soundbites rather than something I could identify as her voice. And after nearly a decade of listening to a man whose every spoken word makes me want to vomit and foam at the mouth, I really want a president I enjoy listening to.

The reasons behind why I respond with joy to Obama and freeze up to Clinton come from why they are saying what they say and voting the way they do. Or at least my perception of why since I'm not close personal friends of either. So it's still subjective (maybe it does come down to a feeling) but I can at least analyze it a little. Obama gets that our international standing is at an all time low. He gets that the current administration leads with fear and tries to get us to hate and fear others - muslims, immigrants, etc... to get us to fall in line with policies that strip our civil liberties and constitutional rights in the guise of providing some dubious "safety". His policy toward immigration is driven by a desire to reduce fear. Fear is reduced when people live in times of plenty, and leaders promote hope and have plans for building the future. All of his speeches are about doing what is best not just in the now, but for the future, how America can again be a force for good, and how he'd like to lead us there.

Clinton, on the other hand, speaks very emphatically about how she is tough and will beat the Republicans, not about reducing fear. Her talking points sound like they've been poll tested to the point where she no longer has an association with them. She talks a lot about solving problems that I don't have with solutions that I don't really like, for reasons I find dubious (like "the people say I need to have an opinion and this is the best tolerated one"). But I know other people like them because they're what I see in the headlines - without any reflection or analysis given. This whole immigration non-issue is being tackled from the point of an immigration problem, when, like Obama, I see the problem being more driven by fear of competition for meager resources and the immigrants are a cheap scapegoat for other problems. I feel like she votes to keep getting elected, not to lead.

People who don't know where their next meal is coming from don't have the resources to consider their actions on the future. If they die of starvation, their grandkids aren't an issue. They will eat the last gorilla for dinner. Never mind that we Americans are far from dying from starvation, but this administration has fostered us thinking that we are constantly on the verge of being wiped out by terrorists and WMDs giving us the same shortsighted outlook as refugees. Cynthia Tucker, a journalist from Atlanta, wrote that the American Dream is not democracy as such; it's the idea of economic mobility. The idea and reality that our lives are not determined by fear or birthright and anyone can become wealthy and successful and powerful is what makes America a place of hopes and dreams. I would argue that our country has been denuded of hopes and stripped of dreams as our economy erodes (they're accepting Euros in manhattan shops these days) and our infrastructure crumbles. Hillary doesn't make me hopeful. Hillary doesn't inspire me to dream of a better America. Obama does.

As leaders, Hillary has a history of getting shut down when faced with opposition. Obama has a history finding common ground between opposing forces. Maybe she's learned from these defeats, but I still see her pushing a preset agenda, rather than negotiating a win for both sides. The Clintons can play dirty, but they don't do so enough against the Republican spin machine; they choose the wrong targets. I honestly don't know how Obama will handle a smear campaign, but he says he's willing to strike back hard and fast - and somehow the nastiness that started early in the primaries got shut down. Who shut it down? I don't know. The fact that it stopped speaks well of both candidates. The attack ads are making a resurgence, though so I don't know if this state of trying to win on merit rather than yanking the rug out from the opponent will stand.

As for electability, a black man and any woman are hard sells in the red states no question. But Obama doesn't have the virulent hatred that Clinton has to contend with. If she gets the nomination, the Republicans will have a field day hating her, and not have to support their own candidate at all. It's not fair, it's not nice, but I honestly believe it to be true. Obama is not a total unknown, but he hasn't made as many enemies. It's going to be tougher to rouse against him because the predisposition to dismiss him out of hand isn't there. And for some reason it's still ok to print and discuss tripe like "women can't control their emotions" as if it is either fact or relevant, but one can't say outright the same thing about a black man.

If we elect Obama, a man with an African father, an American mother (who was into microfinance), an Indonesian sister and a Chinese Canadian brother in law, the world sees the new face of America not only as someone who understands the world outside our borders, but as a symbol of change. I'm not sure if Clinton does the same. I do remember the Clintons taking Chelsea on world tours to meet and greet the world's leaders on every school vacation - that was a good move of theirs. I know that Clinton has cultivated relationships with world leaders. I just don't know if that will hold sway with the world's populace.

Clinton, if elected, will probably walk into the office with a full cabinet and major advisors selected, ready to rock and roll. A lot of good could come from that. But I think a lot of the people will be from the old administration and however good I had it during the Bill Clinton years, I don't want to go back there. We did Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Bush already. I want something new, I want something different - and I'll buy into the soundbite - I want change. Granted, I'm someone who got a job on the opposite coast of a very large country just to force some change on myself, I might not be representative in wanting change that involves unknowns.

Obama has given every indication that he will listen to and incorporate the advice of experts into his plans, so I hope he comes up with a top notch core team quickly, but not all from the Clinton clan. Obama has enough experience that he knows how things work, but not so much that he's given over to it as the only way things can work. One has to understand the rules in order to break them deliberately, but living with the rules for too long makes one lose that sense of needing to break them.

We live in interesting times to be sure. I not only have one, but two qualified "minority" candidates to choose from for president who have a real hope of being elected. If Obama doesn't make it, I'll throw in behind Clinton, but I hope I don't have to. This wound up being more touchy-feely than I'd hoped. Please let me know if you have any facts to back up my feelings. Is it so wrong to want a president I can listen to with pride?


S said...

"Is it so wrong to want a President I can listen to with pride"


B/c I am enjoying having a PRIME MINISTER... not some spineless wonder.


Up My Mind said...

It's tough to decide. I don't feel that any of the candidates will make a difference or change things. Personally, I don't think Obama has a chance at making anything happen if he's President...he'll still have a Congress that's petty, split between two ideologies (with the extremists on either side carrying the party, it seems). Anyone who wins will have this.

What drives me nuts is that if you look at the voting records of both of them, they pretty much stopped voting mid-way through last year. Unless it was anything that could be seen as "anti-military" by the press. It drives me nuts. You've been elected to do a job, wich you are neglecting because you want a promotion. Well. Sorry. Not going to promote you if you can't do your job. If you can't be strong enough or brave enough to make a decision and take a stand now, because you might not get voted into office...Well, heck. What kind of signal does that send? Tells me you will do anything, say anything, to get into office. It does not tell me you'll do anything to help the people of this country or do what it takes to run this country by making informed decisions and voting Yes or No on bills up for approval.

I guess I'm different. I don't want a president that will move me. Great speakers don't necessarily mean great leaders. I want a president that has a brain, uses common sense, is practical, and works for the common good of all Americans, not just those party members that believe as he/she does. I want a president that will be a leader, and can admit to mistakes, errors, etc and change course if that will adapt to circumstances and additional information that comes in over time. Life and the world are not static.

And that means being able to compromise and talk and work with all parties. And it's also necessary to do this on an international level.

Maybe someone can point me to some additional info on Obama, but I'm not getting a very strong leadership vibe. Maybe it's just me. Not that I'm all that partial to Clinton...she's got a lot of negative baggage. Very much part of the same-old, same-old club.

Sigh. Guess I'll know my choice when I'm filling out my ballot later this year...

CrankyOtter said...

S: thanks

UMM: Thanks for taking the time for such a thoughtful comment. I wasn't as articulate as I'd assumed I'd be, and I wasn't as analytic as I'd thought I'd be either. But since I'm choosing who I feel is the better of good options, I'm not as worried about that.

It *is* tough to decide. But I do think that Clinton won't change anything politically. I still hold out hope for Obama. I think if HRC gets in, the republicans will spend all their time stonewalling *her* on useless crap like the definition of "is" while they try to stymie the democrats generally. I don't think the stonewalling will be quite as focused against Obama himself, but they will continue to stymie the democrats. What I don't have is a crystal ball to know how true that is.

I understand that the letting the day job go while pandering for the promotion is not generally a good thing, but it's what we've got to work with. And do we know McCain's voting record in the same period? Did the GOP have Romney step down so he could go back and make motions like a senator, just so he could hold that up the HRC or BO later? People running for president are by definition ambitious, and history has shown that spending face time in the public trumps doing the current job of senator if you want to get elected. I don't care much for it either, but I can't overly fault either for the choice.

I'm glad you have your own criteria for president. Because maybe "moving me" isn't the best way to decide. But what moves me the most about Obama is that he's one of the first people I've seen in 7 years come out and say "we need to start by stopping the fear" and getting any airtime for the message. And see at the root of our most failed policies the driver of fear. So to effect change, I think removing the fear is the cure - the other stuff is treating and containing the symptoms of policies run from fear.

These are exceptional criteria:
- has a brain
- uses common sense
- is practical
- and works for the common good of all Americans
- will be a leader
- can admit to mistakes, errors
- can change course if needed
- will adapt to changing circumstances or additional information
- able to compromise
- can talk and work with all parties
- can talk and work on an international level.

While they don't describe our current president to any degree except his antimatter self, I think they apply pretty well to both Clinton and Obama, and somewhat to McCain, although he's starting to look a little more wonky (to use the technical term).

I should read a little more about Obama's role in bringing two disparate concerns in IL together to repeal the death penalty there, but he plays that as experience in finding common ground and accomplishing measurable acts from it.

The one thing I do think about is that if Hillary gets in, she'll probably have a large percentage of women in powerful positions. And I think it would be fantastic to see that. I'm not so sure the same can be said of Obama. I wish they put up their "fantasy cabinet" before the election. (Maybe that could be the next onlne phenom - "Fantasy Government", collect voting scores...) The current president has done a great job of appointing people of diverse appearance to prominent roles. To bad they aren't diverse in their thinking, or able to subsequently stand up to him when he's wrong, and the 2 justices that really mattered went to older, privileged white guys who, to my mind, add no value.

I'll see what I can do to dig up more reason to justify my inclination.

Up My Mind said...

No, you were articulate. And you don't have to justify your choice...I'm just struggling to find info to back up my feelings.

Don't mean to spew all over your just seems no one around me cares much or wants to discuss the election.

Here’s where I’m struggling:

I like Obama's message. But from what I see he talks the talk, but is/has been doing things the same way as everyone else.

HRC definitely won’t be bringing change to the office. She is very much a part of the “good ol’ boys” network, if that makes any sense? But she has the connections and political capital that might make it possible to get some things done. Not much, granted, but she’s not campaigning on “change”.

Obama will be blocked the same, just not as "personally" vindictive. He might even be blocked more because of his perceived stand for Change. I don't think he has the influence or political capital to get anything done...

And running on a platform of change, when he isn’t able to make major, significant, visual changes (at least visible to the general population) the next election cycle will see Republicans back in power.

It’s frustrating that I feel like neither one of them will be able to accomplish much as president…

I really worry over the 10, 20, 30 and 40 year impact with the Supreme Court Justices, etc. Maybe I should be more short-sighted. Help!

And I would LOVE to see their cabinets. That is an awesome idea. :)