I recently had a conversation with a friend who is not a big fan of Senator Obama. He said that Obama is great at making speeches, but none of his supporters even know where he stands on the issues. Being that I am terrible at thinking on my feet in these types of situations, I didn’t really have an answer for that other than it seeming to be a critique more of the average Obama supporter than Obama himself, which I also did not state. If pressed I might have said that the average Obama supporter probably doesn’t know where he stands on the issues in the same exact way as Clinton or McCain supporters don’t. (Hillary supports health care and a gas tax holiday. Average Clinton supporter know anything beyond that? And who knows what McCain supports these days since it seems to be the exact opposite of what he supported 8 years ago when he lost to Bush.) But honestly, it’s time to stop this nonsense, and I’m as guilty as anyone of Clinton hate. The last two elections I have voted for the lesser of two evils. I supported McCain in 2000, but he lost in the primaries so I was forced to vote for Bush. (In hind-sight that may not have been the lesser evil.) I supported Kerry in 2004 (in that I grudgingly voted for that smarmy bastard) and he lost to Bush. I want to be able to vote FOR someone this year instead of against someone or unenthusiastically fill in the circle for the candidate who I deem will screw up the country less. So let’s get back to what attracted me to Obama in the first place. Here are some things that impressed me about Senator Obama enough that I now support him instead of making jokes about the “Obama-nation.”
1) Honesty - I know some people will argue with me on this one, saying that Obama is a fake, a shell game, someone who puts on a front to appeal to people but has no substance. I’ve heard that argument and I reject it based on a couple of things. The first is his handling of Rev. Wright. He’s still taking crap about it, but when this manufactured scandal broke, Obama did not “Throw Rev. Wright under the bus” as so many pundits love to talk about. He spoke honestly to the American people about race in this country, the feelings on both sides, and the struggles we all face sharing this great country. When his “Clinging to guns and religion” gaffe came out, he did not deny it he explained it. He is saying the same things even now (although worded a lot more carefully.)
2) Duality – Obama is both Black and White. He is, by background or some innate ability, uniquely able to see and understand both sides of the issues. While he takes one side, he actually takes the time to understand the arguments against it. It goes back a ways, but while in the Illinois legislature he passed a law requiring all police interrogations to be video-taped. The law was opposed by law enforcement but Obama met with his opponents and won them over. He actually addressed their concerns. Our current president doesn’t listen to polls and refuses to answer to the increasing number of people who oppose his policies (72% of the country last I checked.) Obama has the potential to be what I have wanted in a president for a long, long time: Someone who is president of the United States of America and not just the red-states or the blue-states.
3) Speeches – The first time I actually LISTENED to Obama, was not his famous speech in ‘02. I instead came late to the game and listened to a speech he gave on Religion on June 28, 2007. Some say that Obama is all speech and no action. I don’t see a problem with that. Name a single president since George Washington that is known more for what he did than what he said. Nixon? Grant? Perhaps someone can tell me if I’m wrong on this, but George Washington was the first and only president to lead his troops into battle (in the whiskey rebellion if you’re curious.) Since then the President of the United States of America is there to meet with people and give speeches. Speeches are the “Doing things” of the presidency.
“Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall.”
“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
“Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent…”
Good presidents are remembered for what they said, bad presidents are remembered for what they did. Will anyone remember a single speech that President Bush gave? Obama is not president and people already remember his “speech in 2002″ and his “A more perfect union” speech on race. As president, Obama will continue to speak out and set the tone for the nation.
4) Tone – The president sets the tone for the nation’s discourse. He is the face of America to the rest of the world. Obama’s message of hope, personal responsibility, and involvement of the people in the workings of government is just what this country needs right now. We face enormous challenges in the coming years and if the cynical, jaded nature of most of us bitter Americans continues to hold sway, we stand no chance of facing them. We will slip quietly into recession, depression, and irrelevance to the rest of the world. We need a message of hope right now and that message of hope is resonating with millions of people across this nation. I went to the rally where Edwards endorsed Obama in Grand Rapids, MI and sat in the crowd. There was an awesome feeling of excitement there that was incredibly refreshing after watching the cynical talking heads on TV for weeks on end.
5) Transparency – I have read through Obama’s positions on just about everything (They’re available right on his website) and agree with most of them. The one that I like the most out of Obama’s camp is his focus on Transparency in government. The Bush administration has been the most secretive one in history, and Obama plans on making the government accountable to the people again. That alone is reason enough to vote for him in my book.
All things considered, I admire Obama’s ability to communicate and imbue his supporters with enthusiasm but that is not why I support him for President. I support him for President because out of all the candidates I believe he alone stands a chance at making the states of America united again.