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Friday, March 14, 2008

Clinton v. Obama; electability

I am 37 years old, and until this year I have always voted for the Republican candidate for president. I was too young to vote for Reagan, but I would have if I could have. I have voted for various Bushes 4 times, and Bob Dole. Keep in mind that particularly with W I voted for him not so much because I thought he was a good candidate, but that he was the best choice offered from the two major parties (that's not saying a lot).

In early January of this year I changed my party registration to Democrat to support the candidacy of Barack Obama. I know that he has been ranked the most liberal senator out there, yet he holds something akin to a constructionist view of the constitution, and his policies do not smack so much of pure liberalism as a non-conventional approach to conservative fiscal values. On the social side he's more liberal on some things than I would like, but I am not so naive as to expect complete agreement with anyone on all issues. I respect him for his (apparent) integrity, strength of character and cool demeanor under pressure.

Regardless of whether they have actually changed their affiliation, there are many, many people in the electorate like me. We are not so much being called to the Democratic Party as we are to the Obama campaign. Yet the fact is that if Obama becomes the nominee and then the president, many of us disgruntled Republicans and Independents will find more to call our own within the Democratic Party. Social Psychology being what it is, if Obama is the nominee, and we can vote for him, we'll be more likely to vote for the people he campaigns with and for on lower levels (House, Senate, Governors, etc.). Over time some of us will more closely identify with the Democratic Party and perhaps even change our allegience as demonstrated through registration.


Many of us are looking for a leader who will (at least attempt) to rise above the bitter partisanship that has marked the past 20 years of political discourse in this country. We see the problems facing our country in the numbers in our checkbooks and how they continue to diminish in the face of rising corporate profits, banking scandals, rising fuel and heating costs, etc. We look at Hillary Clinton in particular as part of the machine that got us to where we are. She has tried to change her colors on the campaign trail and be more populist in her tone. This works for people who haven't been following things closely for the past 20 years, but to look at her history it's very clear that she is a part of the establishment.

McCain has positioned himself as something of a maverick over the years, but now seems ready to fall in line with the NeoCon method for economic stimulation (lower or eliminate taxes for rich and corporate citizens).

Whether he can effect the type of change we want is still to be seen, but it is very clear based on history and character that neither McCain nor Clinton will bring about any great alteration in the way that things are done in Washington. Obama has the demeanor and the will to at least try, and there is some indication that he may build the sort of popular support amongst the electorate (political capital) that will allow him to enact what he envisions.

The Clinton campaign, in trying to woo the super delegates to their side, argues that the Democratic Party will rally to her side if she is the nominee. They point to the strength Democratic turnout in primaries this year and say that they can win. But they can't. That historic turnout isn't being driven so much by Clinton. She is not news. Anyone who's paid attention has known since the beginning of her first Senate run that she was angling for the presidency. She's never denied it.

Many of us disaffected Republicans and interested Independents have swelled the rolls of the Democratic Party this year because of Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. And while it's clear that Clinton supporters (traditional Democrats) will likely support whomever is the nominee, it is highly unlikely that the coalition of new and pending Democrats will fall in line for Clinton. She represents the kind of politics we all want to move away from. We want a new model of diplomacy and governance from our president. We want the kind of president that Barack Obama would seem to be.

And let's face it, if we are stuck with the old model of the presidency, McCain is much more trustworthy than Clinton. He's served in the military and he's fought against Republican administrations for years for issues. Clinton's fights in the political realm have focused on a Blue Dress, pig futures, shady real estate deals, the supposed suicide of a top administrator and "friend" who happened to have been feeling remorse about his role in some of the above and was considering talking about that... the list goes on.

The Democratic Party has a choice. It's similar to the choice the Republican party has faced over the past 10 years and fumbled badly on. Embrace the reality that many of us are interested in the political process, and want a candidate for president that we can believe in as a person, not just as a replaceable representative of a political platform. This new coalition of potential and pending democrats and aligned Independents is quite large and quite formidable. We'll support Obama, and feel more kinship with the party that places him in a position to win the presidency and change the direction of this country. At best many of us will abandon a party that pushes him aside for Clinton lies and dirty tricks. At worst we'll give our votes to the other side.

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