I live in Massachusetts, a predominantly liberal-Democrat state, and I am one of those liberal Democrats. Most of my contemporaries got on the Obama bandwagon enthusiastically and from the start; I did not. We had just elected a governer in Massachusetts who had a strikingly similar story to Obama’s and who had likewise inspired the masses with a message of Together We Can. I was very enthusiastic about Deval Patrick who held positions I agreed with and felt were very important. I thought he was an inspiring leader, intelligent, and had integrity. The only thing he lacked was government experience.
The first year or so of his governorship was disappointing. Not only did he not seem to be able to accomplish or lead, he became mired in a media blitz about some silly expenditures—new curtains in the state house (he paid for them himself), and a new state Cadillac. I still believed in his credentials and his intelligence, but his lack of political experience was rendering him incapable of achieving his agenda.
We are finally beginning to see some promise from Deval Patrick, though, and I’m encouraged by that. It’s progress that has come only with experience.
I was gun-shy about Obama, then, who similarly seemed intelligent and inspiring but lacked experience. The fact that both men are black was incidental; their stories, messages, and politics were otherwise very similar. I couldn’t understand why my friends were so enthused by Obama when Hillary had so much more experience and knowledge. Her ideas were better conceived as well. I still feel that Hillary was a stronger candidate.
I had been so enamored with Hillary and felt so unsure about Obama’s experience that I was an undecided voter for a time. I wanted to learn about both candidates and make a rational decision rather than just automatically voting with my party. (I knew that would be the likely result given how very liberal and very Democrat I am, but I wanted to make an informed decision.) I noticed that occasionally when I told friends I wasn’t sold on Obama, they sort of recoiled. The unwritten subtext—and I may have been imagining it—was that race might be playing a factor, that maybe I didn’t want to vote for him because was black.
On the other end, I’ve also heard the wave of support for Obama referred to as “white guilt.”
I hear the words, and I know there are people who will not vote for Obama because he’s black and those who will vote for Obama because he’s black. While obviously I’m aware of Obama’s race and I understand the historic significance of his getting elected, I don’t see him at all by the color of his skin. I similarly was baffled when the OJ Simpson trial became about race. The first thing I thought of when I thought of OJ Simpson was certainly not “black man.” It was “football hero,” “actor,” “spokesman,” and the like.
I’m not going to claim I never see the color of a person’s skin (there’s a great song in the Broadway comic musical Avenue Q: “Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist”), though I wish I didn’t. But as for Obama, I really had viewed him as an intelligent and eloquent US senator with less experience than Hillary Clinton who was running for president, and that’s about it.
In any case, over the past several months since Obama clinched the Democratic nomination, I have studied both candidates. I’ve watched the debates, and have considered the vice presidential choices fairly and objectively. Joe Biden was clearly a strong choice, highly qualified. I reserved judgment on Sarah Palin until I learned more about her. The Katie Couric interviews, and then the debate, were most enlightening. I had at first been excited at the prospect of a woman having a good shot at being vice president or even president, but I am now horrified at the idea of this woman in the White House. In Europe, they are laughing at her I think even louder than we are in this country. John Cleese had this to say:
Palin represents a very bad decision on McCain’s part—a cynical, manipulative, political decision. This alone shows what McCain is made of. I think McCain has waged an ugly campaign over the last month or so, and I don’t think he displays the type of leadership we need in this country or on the world stage. I certainly don’t agree with his social positions, and I think it’s important that our next Supreme Court judges be appointed by a moderate or liberal. So I became certain a while ago I would not vote for McCain and of course I would vote Democrat.
But in the past few weeks, I have moved beyond a begrudging support of my party’s nominee to an enthusiastic embrace of Obama’s candidacy. While he may not be terribly seasoned, he is a US senator, and I think the 20 months of campaigning have seasoned him more, helped him refine his positions, and develop the types of connections he will need to be a successful president in this country and on the world stage. He is calm and reasonable, logical, intelligent, and graceful. I love his healthcare plan. His priorities are right. Even though I know half of his ideas (at least) will not come to fruition, I think his head is in the right place, and that he supports the middle class, which is the true foundation of economic success in this country.
So I will vote for Barack Obama, wholeheartedly, and am encouraged at the recent endorsements he’s received from influential Republican-leaning publications and individuals. God bless Colin Powell, whose endorsement perhaps carries more weight than any other. I think he’s saved us all by getting behind Obama.
Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.