The Republican Party and conservatism shifted radically away from me over the last decade, and John McCain is not the man I believed him to be.
Obama is honest, thoughtful and charismatic. He may also become the most inspirational leader of my lifetime. When America is adrift domestically and abroad, Obama has the best chance of changing our course.
Will someday I develop buyer’s remorse? Possibly.
And I know we’re electing a President, not a savior. It’s impossible for Obama to live up to the expectations his supporters have of him.
Do I like the prospects of a dominant, single party rule in Washington? Nope. Nor do I have much respect for the current Democratic leadership in Congress.
But change must come, now. And I can think of at least ten reasons:
1. More of the same is unthinkable
Republicans veered horribly, perhaps irrevocably, off track. The ideals of Goldwater, Buckley and Reagan are long abandoned: less, but good, government… rugged individualism… private liberty for all people… calm, reasoned approach to policy instead of petulance… fiscal conservatism.
This administration instead amassed the largest debt in history and passed along a near impossible burden to future generations of Americans. The crony-laden incompetence of Katrina (and the shame of seeing black, poor Americans suffering through some third-world-like disaster recovery) exposed Republicans as unable — or unworthy — to govern.
Today’s Republican leadership is little more than jargon and a wistful embrace of ideals they have abandoned time and again. Maverick McCain voted 90% of the time with Bush, and the Republican Party needs to be made accountable.
2. A prudent execution of foreign policy
The last eight years has seen a devastating collapse in America’s reputation abroad, despite a world united with America after September 11. We’ve squandered our moral authority with belligerent and ineffective foreign policy and hypocrisy laid bare for the world to see. We institutionalized and sanctioned torture.
We weren’t prepared to wage war against a stateless terrorism, and we’ve done relatively little to adapt. We’re closing in on a trillion dollars for an Iraq war where “success” is now defined as getting the shit back to shoe level, and we’ve underfunded the battle in Afghanistan where terrorist networks have reassembled. A Republican administration (which was either lying or incompetent) declared “major combat operations over” in 2003, and set a budget of $60 billion to fund a war. At this rate, assassinating Saddam and bribing every Iraqi $125,000 would have been cheaper and more prudent than a neocon-led strategy.
Obama was right about the Iraq war, and more than 18 months ago called for a refocused effort in Afghanistan. He has realists advising him, and he won’t abdicate leadership to a military without clear goals.
3. Thoughtful and powerful oratory matters
Words matter. Words can inspire, and rouse others to greatness. Words can break barriers and divisions between people. Words can define how we look at ourselves, and how the world sees us. The American presidency is about leadership not management… Reagan was a great communicator, and through a simple narrative made America a shining city on the hill, reckoned with an evil empire, and challenged the world to freedom.
No politician — no person — has delivered a speech that so stirred me, so surprised me, as Barack Obama’s speech four years ago at the national convention. I’ve been a “decided voter” since that night.
Big speeches, impassioned and inspired words, can change the world. Barack Obama has the potential to bring out the greatness of America, and mark the start a new period of American leadership.
4a. Obama is more American
Instead of embracing the Constitution, the Republican administration has brought us the unitary executive theory, seizing power in the name of “protecting America” from harm. Obama understands the President first swears an oath to uphold and protect the Constitution, and the moment we compromise the Constitution in the name of fear, instability or expediency we destroy that which makes America.
4b. Obama is more American (part deux)
This is a black man born to a single mom, raised by white grandparents, without a single head start in life. He is the very personification of the one thing that has made America unique among the world. No matter who you are, or where you start in life in this country, we all are raised to believe we can become anything, achieve anything. The ability to transcend, to move beyond where we are in life, is something Obama will spawn again for America, both figuratively and literally.
5. McCain was once an honorable man
I was a big McCain supporter in 2000, even helped organize for his campaign. He’s a hero, and demonstrated great character as a POW. His “maverick” tendencies in the Senate made me think he really did value his country over politics. But the man who said “I won’t take the low road to the highest office in the land” has been exposed as a fraud… willing to say anything to gain the Presidency. Now he campaigns to peoples’ worst tendencies… their fear, bigotry and jealousy.
Today the words that come from McCain seem made up, like he doesn’t really believe them himself.
6. President Palin, and the simple unseriousness of Republicans
Picking Palin was impetuous, pandering and dangerous, and disqualifies McCain. Her selection simply wasn’t a serious decision, it certainly wasn’t putting America first, and was more cynicism from the Republican party.
The triangle of doom that grips the party — religious fundamentalist from one angle, neocons from the second, and anti-government types from the third — have little in common but belligerence, and are tearing the soul of the party.
There isn’t much room today in the Republican party for realists, pragmatists or libertarians. Today the party is dominated by zealots and cynics and many, many unserious people.
A lot of good people will vote Republican in this election, based on an ideal view of what they thought the party once stood for… or an imagined view of what it should be. But many simply aren’t paying attention to the facts of the day.
7. Obama is a conservative
I find him personally more conservative, reserved and pragmatic than John McCain. His calm, cool temperament is in stark contrast to McCain’s erratic, hot-headedness as he’s jumped from policy to policy on the economy and picking the next American fight overseas. Obama’s tax policy is responsible. His economic policies are pro-business, especially small business. His family, faith and personal story are more traditional than McCain’s.
The next President will inherit a colossal mess, and my guess is any liberal tendencies Obama does have will be constrained by the reality of an economy on the ropes, unfinished military action abroad, and crumbling infrastructure at home.
Defending America from the threats of extremism abroad and at home was once the role of conservatism. Today, the “conservative party” is more likely to be extremists.
8. More technology, more efficiency and more support for business
Obama understands innovation, entrepreneurship and technology are at the heart of American competitiveness. He’s announced policies to eliminate the capital gains tax on investments made into startups, help small businesses create new jobs and afford healthcare, double the federal funding for science and technology research and fund a national network of public-private business incubators. He also plans to appoint a cabinet-level position of Chief Technology Officer for the United States, which could result in greater efficiency, reduced costs and a leaner, more effective government bureaucracy. He understands America could lead the world in energy technology, and that “drill, baby, drill” is a pedantic response to sending $700b a year to buy oil from regimes aligned against us, or against freedom.
9. A progressive agenda
I’ve always been a political junkie, campaigning in junior high for Reagan, proudly wearing a “Bush/Quayle” t-shirt to school, and buying into the “compassionate conservatism” that GWB promised in 2000. Fundamentally, I still believe the American people, American business and American communities are best capable of propelling our country forward.
But I’m a progressive, and I understand that certain things fall to the government to do when the country cannot, or will not. We must make an investment into the infrastructure of America, the roads and bridges, power and communication grids, and water systems. We must solve spiraling health care costs that kill small businesses and leave sick people without care. We have to fix the crisis with secondary education that ranks near the bottom of all competitive nations.
Obama represents a realistic progressive agenda. He seems likely to set achievable goals, inspire people toward success, and be honest about the challenges we face.
10. Beyond the nonsense
Obama represents a chance to move beyond the nonsense that has plagued America. He’s a new generation, untarnished by the cultural wars the Baby Boomers have fought for a lifetime. He is atonement for America’s original sin of slavery and racism, and moves beyond identity politics. His non-fundamentalist Christianity represents the best of faith without arrogance. He’s curious about the world around him, has a questioning intellect and is not dogmatic in his beliefs. He seems open to the possibility that he’s wrong about something, but unafraid to tell you what he really believes. He speaks to Americans as adults, appealing to our best nature, and not our worst.