Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Agents of Change
I've been obsessed with the primaries this year, particularly on the Democratic side. Never before in my life have I felt so invested in the political process, in large part due to the promise of the unique set of candidates and my good riddance attitude towards the ineptitude of the incumbent. There has been much talk about readiness to handle the duties of the job from day one. That talk seems to be falling on deaf ears. Now that the former governors/mayors/CEO's are basically out of the running, leaving us with a choice between senators (McCain, Clinton, or Obama), playing the experience card isn't especially effective because the three of them are on relatively equal footing. Having more years on the job does not necessarily make you superior at it. Having had more success is what determines who should be "promoted". I respect McCain's status as a war hero in a day and age when the word hero is usually abused to describe whoever has made a game winning shot or homerun or touchdown. Speaking of sports I also admire the work McCain did to promote boxing reform. But my admiration for Mr. "Hundred Year War" only goes so far. Even a fair amount of Republicans must realize by now that more of the same is not what this country needs at this point in time. If we dwelled in a day and age of booming prosperity, that would be one thing. But we are on the verge of a recession, at war for reasons that are scarcely comprehensible, and the gap between the haves and the have nots has never been wider. Those of you who have non-American friends surely have figured out by now that America is not seen by the world at large as so bright a beacon of all things wonderful as it used to be. For all the noise that has been made in debates about keeping illegal aliens out of this country, the fact is that if we maintain the current course the problem will go away on its own because nobody will want to come to the land of unprovoked aggression, a land where higher education and home ownership is not affordable to the many, a land that is controlled by the lobbyists of the few (why the heck does it need to be legal for me to buy a machine gun, illegal to buy a single joint, but perfectly legal to buy vodka by the gallons without so much as a prescription?). McCain would certainly be a better president than the current Bush and probably superior to the first one as well, but all in all he represents more of the same when it is pornographically obvious that we're in need of something different. As for Hillary Clinton, I respect both her and her husband, though I only particularly like Bill (I guess Chelsea is okay too so I'll stay tuned for her eventual run). Unlike Bill Clinton, Hillary simply does not inspire me. Perhaps if I was a woman I'd feel different, but I'm unwilling to have a sex change simply to discover her appeal. She and others have criticized Obama for being all style and no substance, but the truth is that there is much substance behind the ability to inspire and motivate and instill hope in millions of people. This is one of the main reasons why people remember JFK's presidency so fondly. It is one of the reasons why the also too brief life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continues to affect people. The ability to convince a nation to both do for themselves and for their country is a pretty useful one for its leader to have, and the primary results to date have made it abundantly clear that Barack Obama possesses far more of this quality than Clinton or McCain. His term of public service may be relatively brief but I am very impressed by what Obama accomplished as a community organizer and as a senator. Most of all I am incredibly impressed by what he has done over the past few months. Those reading these words may recall that he was considered a major long shot in the early days of the race for a variety of reasons. One of his biggest selling points was being an agent of change, but the novelty of the opportunity to elect a non-white male President was negated by Hillary's presence. They can both lay equal claim to the "agent of change" angle. Some went so far as to say Bill Clinton is "blacker" (whatever the heck that means) than Obama, which basically meant that Hillary was almost black by association, so the biracial Obama could barely lay claim to being the most African-American of the candidates. And let's face it, the man's name is Barack Husein Obama and he's running for president while this country is still feeling the aftereffects of 9/11 and is at war in the Middle East. He had the burden of assuring everyone that he is indeed Christian, not Muslim. Add these things up along with being the least experienced on paper candidate and Obama did not seem to have a prayer no matter what his religion was. It appeared that the most impressive thing he'd be able to accomplish was to get more votes than Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton had before him. The force of his personality and I suppose his being the most attractive of the candidates (once pretty boy Edwards dropped out, that is) were pretty much all he had going for him. He entered the race as a man of grand ideals able to articulate them with much eloquence, which meant he'd probably be great as a talk show host or at least a pseduo-regular guest on Oprah, but could this be enough to propel him to the presidency? No way in hell. Well that was then and this is now. He has received more votes and raised more money than any other candidate. People believe in him as a reflection of believing in themselves and believing in better days ahead for this country. The people who support Obama are those who want their children to inherit a better world than the one passed down to them by their parents. These people are not enslaved by the cult of personality. They're simply individuals falling into just about every demographic who desire an alternative to simply being jaded as they watch the rich get rich and the rest get further disenfranchised. I believe overcoming what he has to date is a mighty strong indication that Barack Obama would be a fine President. McCain's biggest accomplishment to date has been to be a model POW, and Hillary's greatest feat is standing by her cheating man because her political aspirations were greater than her pride. Neither of these things trumps what Obama has accomplished IMHO. I didn't vote for him because he's under 70. I didn't cast my vote due to his race or his gender or his spouse. Slogans and catchphrases did noting to affect which lever I pulled in the ballot box, and negative attack ads only proved to me that the competition felt it was easier to pick on alleged flaws in him than to point out superior merits of their own case. As an American I think it would be nice to be represented at the top for a change by someone I am impressed by and proud of. Not only is Obama the only remaining candidate who was smart enough not to be initially duped into thinking we needed to wage war against people who had no WMD's and nothing whatsoever to do with the attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center, but I believe he's the only candidate who has not gained an unfair advantage by taking HGH and steroids (okay, you caught me, I made that up). The best thing about the upcoming Presidential election is that no matter which of the remaining candidates (including those wacky dreamers Huckabee Hound and Ron "4%" Paul) ends up getting elected, by default the next term will be a vast improvement over the current state of affairs.
- Roy Pickering (Author of "Feeding the Squirrels: A Novella)