Wednesday, 2 January 2008

On Being Balls Out for Obama

It is a challenge for someone like me to throw my unqualified support behind a single contender for the presidency who is actually given a reasonable chance of winning that contest. My own views include a number of unpopular opinions, and American politics is usually unkind toward anyone with the guts to stand up for such ideas. Barack Obama may on balance be more conservative than I am, but he eloquently gives voice to a central concept in my own political thinking.
“To me, the issue is not are you centrist or are you liberal. The issue to me is--Is what you’re proposing going to work? Can you build a working coalition to make the lives of people better? And if it can work, you should support it whether it’s centrist, conservative, or liberal.”
From the time I heard his keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in which he eloquently challenged the conventional notion that we are a nation divided, and that there is little point in bridging our gaps or understanding our adversaries, but rather that
we worship an awesome God in the blue states, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the red states
I realized that here was someone who was finally giving voice to a powerful alternative to the false dichotomy which has divided us.

Even so I realize that inspirational oratory alone does not make a president or a leader. Political reality demands specific actions, proposals, compromises, and the ability to not only say the right thing but to work with a variety of players to make things happen. I am able to live with Obama's hybrid answer to health care which is not as bold as the plans I would prefer put forward by Kucinich or even Edwards, or his shying away from supporting gay marriage as I would. My tentativeness in supporting such a candidate probably lies more in being convinced that he can successfully drive through those programs where we are in agreement, and make progress on many fronts.

Obama's website does a good job of laying out his positions on issues. His commitment from the outset to rely on individual donors rather than institutional or corporate donors, puts him along with Edwards and Kucinich in the position of being less indebted to the moneyed interests which so many Americans, left, right, and center would like to see play less role in our politics. Having read his "Audacity of Hope", I am convinced of both his sincerity and his intellect.

Some liberal or progressive skeptics worry that Edwards is right that there is a battle to be joined against the corporate bigwigs, and Obama's inclusive approach is naive. Pitching the struggle as a battle, however, may be the naive position, which sets up yet another either/or formulation that will ultimately fall to the moneyed interests. I'm more inclined to agree with this assessment that
the sheer force of [Obama's] empathy and skills as a communicator, would broaden the political landscape and convince moderate Republicans and Independents to back progressive policies they ordinarily wouldn't go for.
Obama's promise to give the corporations "a seat at the table" when issues impacting them are discussed, is not the same as allowing them to set the agenda. I'm convinced that Obama can make it clear to those representatives that certain assumptions they once were able to make are no longer possibilities. It only makes sense to invite the participation of those who understand the current structures when seeking new solutions.

Last summer in talking with others who attended with me an Obama stump speech, the decided Obama supporter among them asked me whether I was "balls out" for Obama. Perhaps suffering from an affliction common among those of us in the second halves of our lives, my response was qualified. But now, with my own state caucus only 5 weeks away, this progressive has decided that it is time to declare my unmitigated support for Obama, without reservation.