In 2004, I held my nose and voted for John Kerry hoping for an end to the disastrous four years of Bush's reign. Kerry, an uninspiring and dusty, ineffectual senator, was the lesser of two evils. He didn't put up much of a fight and faded back into irrelevance.
This election, no candidate excited me during the primaries — the Republicans ran a bunch of caricatures and empty suits, while the Democrats fielded a gaggle of dissembling senators. Although Barack Obama's choice of running to the right of Hillary Clinton on many issues rubbed me the wrong way, I couldn't vote for Clinton because she exemplifies the carpet-bagging politician with more raw ambition than sense of morality, and I thought we could do better than to elect another familiar name as president. I didn't start paying much attention to Barack Obama until he clinched the nomination.
Three things stand out about Obama:
- When he talks about his campaign being not about him but about us, and when he issues calls for national unity and cooperation, I believe him. A country facing enormous challenges in the coming years needs a president who can identify with real people and their problems, not one who plays the populist only on the campaign trail.
- Obama can finally get us past the same tired issues from the 1960's because he didn't live through them. Frankly, I hope we never see another candidate running based on his experiences in Vietnam or a candidate bitter about conflicts and scandals long dead to the majority of Americans.
- He acts like an adult, which seems shocking for a presidential nominee. It takes a massive ego to run for president, and either Obama hides his well, or he's restrained enough not to act like a baby when things don't go his way. His coolness under pressure, a sharp contrast to McCain's kamikaze attitude, will help restore the damage done from Bush's blundering in the world and help Obama to enact his agenda at home.
On the issues, Obama comes across as centrist but progressive. He'll get us out of Iraq, and we'll likely not have another Cold War with Russia or invasion of Iran (which seem much more possible under a McCain administration). On energy, I hope that he'll point us toward conservation and innovation, even if it takes *gasp* Federal funds to get us there. The nation has stuck its head in the sand on global warming for far too long. He has a more credible healthcare plan, which, if it weren't for the failing economy, would've been the biggest issue of the election, I think.
When dealing with the current economic meltdown, Obama is in a much better position to do whatever it takes to dig us out of the rut we've found ourselves in. Wages have decreased over the past 10 years, and the divide between the richest and poorest Americans is the highest it's been since the 1920's. The only thing "trickle-down" economics has brought most Americans is the same unhealthy lust for debt that has busted both Wall Street bankers and Wal-Mart shoppers alike. Obama knows that cutting funding for scientific research (as McCain and Palin love to tout) and giving more tax breaks for huge corporations aren't going to get us out of this mess.
In fact, it may take massive spending (in the right places) to stimulate the economy. I believe that Obama is up to the task of steering the country responsibly, even considering the likely Democratic majority in Congress. We're due for another New Deal, where corporations can take a back seat to citizens, for once. If the unencumbered Democrats can finally invest in our infrastructure (including public transportation, please!), bring us closer to universal, affordable healthcare, spur development in alternative energy (I've got money in GEX!) and other non-evil industries, and provide relief to America's workers, then I say, "Bring it on."
Also, I'm sad to see that my home-town paper and former employer, The Eagle-Tribune, continues to grasp onto its jingoistic right-wing mantle by endorsing McCain, against the economic interests of the vast majority of Essex County's citizens. If it weren't for the fact that the company still employs family and friends, I'd be wishing for its swift decline into print-media irrelevance and an end to the hostage it's held on the Merrimack Valley's collective consciousness for the past 100 years.