Monday, February 04, 2008

Why I'm Voting For Obama

I've been putting off writing this one out of laziness, and last Friday Bill Maher ended up saying a lot of what I'm going to say, almost verbatim, but I figure now is the time, so here it is.

I had been pretty torn between Obama and Edwards. Edwards pretty much ran the campaign that I keep wishing a Democrat would run, one that articulates liberal issues instead of running away from them. But then I also liked Obama, for a lot of reasons that seem to not be based in anything so concrete. Vague, ethereal ideas about "uniting America" and "looking to hope instead of fear," having "a transformative effect on the Black Community" and the like. THis is precisely the sort of reasoning I've always been repelled by in politics. It basically amounts to voting for a cult of personality, something I've always thought was pretty dangerous.

Well, Edwards dropping out last week made the decision a lot easier (and even if he hadn't formally dropped out, his third-place showing in SC pretty much precluded him from even being an outside chance candidate). So it's down to Obama and Hillary, and here's my thought process, laid out as logically as possible.

To start with, let me say that I have nothing against Hillary, and if she gets the nomination, I will vote for her over whatever loser the GOP runs. But she has some serious weaknesses as a candidate. The biggest is that half of the country just plain hates her. I'm not talking about the kind of hatred we have for Bush (you know, the kind that's based on his actual actions over the last 8 years). It's more like...say, Jerry Falwell (I know he's dead, but just for example). Falwell doesn't even have to open his mouth, I just see his face and my blood boils, and I know it's the same for a lot of liberals. That's what Hillary does to these people. I have no idea why, but...well, yeah, I do know why. It's because she fits their profile of a cold, uppity, dominating "feminist" that sets off all their paranoid fantasies of, I dunno, mandatory castration for all male children or whatever they think is going to happen. (What really confuses me is their hatred of Bill Clinton, as competent and moderate a president as I can imagine. He kept the economy in good shape, turned a deficit into a projected surplus, and even made massive cuts to welfare. He didn't even push on gays in the military. What the hell were they so upset about?)

Obama, on the other hand, actually appeals to moderate conservatives, the kind of people you need to win an election (including my dad, who told me he would vote for Obama). Now, if I thought Hillary was right on the issues and Obama was wrong, I'd go with her, but there's really very little difference between them on any issue. And sure, Clinton has more experience, but not by a definitive margin. So all I'm left to go on is a simple strategic calculation, and my own intuition.

The GOP is in a shambles right now. The hardcore apparantly hate John McCain. Some are talking about not voting if he's the candidate, which is probably just talk, but the one thing that could bring that party together would be their deep, misogyny-feuled hatred of Hillary Clinton. Obama diffuses this. He doesn't produce this reaction. And for that reason, he can win (actually, I think Hillary can probably win, too, but Obama has a better chance, imo).

And remember, we're not just talking about winning this election. In 2009, assuming we win the White House, we will start moving troops out of Iraq. And things are not likely to go well. Iraq could well slide into the chaos that many on the right predict (it will probably happen if we stay there indefinitely, too). And even if everything goes better than anyone could predict, there are a lot of people who will be very angry. They will interpret this as a humiliating defeat for our military, and they will start looking for ways to blame the liberals, to say we stabbed the military in the back when we were close to victory. The animosity that has the country split over the war could potentially get much, much worse. I'm not saying this won't happen if we elect Obama, but if you let them hang the demon-mask of Hillary on such a disaster, with the subtext of "that's what you get for electing a woman," you have the potential for a much worse backlash.

And speaking of the war, we have to look at Hillary's vote for authorization. In 2004, this was the achilles heel that brought down John Kerry, the whole "I voted for it before I voted against it"/"flip-flopper" thing. Our candidate is going to be running against John McCain, a guy who wants to stay in Iraq for 100 years. The argument of "If you're so against this war, why did you vote for it?" could be crippling in a time when we've got the public largely behind us on this issue.

So there you have my endorsement, if it's worth anything to you.

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