Once upon a time, as some of you know, this was a pretty political blog. Well, fair warning, it may get kind of political again before too long. Yesterday, I filed the paperwork to become a candidate for delegate to the Democratic National Convention, representing Alabama's 6th district. My declared candidate: Barack Obama.
Obama accepts the coveted Hey Jenny Slater endorsement at a rally in Birmingham.
This decision wasn't a simple one to make. When I first got politically involved in Alabama, it was with the "Draft Clark" movement back in the fall of 2003, and Wes Clark has endorsed Hillary Clinton; not coincidentally, most of the folks I worked with on Clark's campaign in 2004 are already volunteering with the Hillary campaign in '07. I did give some thought to joining them, but, well . . . here's why I didn't.
I don't think it's being overly melodramatic to say that the United States will be at a crossroads in 2008, facing the most important election of my lifetime. We're going to face a choice between two strategies regarding the Middle East and our foreign policy in general, and the choices couldn't be more different -- on the one hand we'll have the option of continuing the Bush administration's policy of staying entrenched in Iraq and threatening full-scale war against anyone who looks at us funny, on the other hand we'll have the option of mending our international relationships and solving problems with diplomacy instead of bombs. But we'll also be faced with the choice of whether we continue our trend toward saying to hell with the Constitution and gradually conceding every last bit of political power to the executive branch, or bring some sanity (and respect for true American democracy) back to our political system.
Some of the people currently running for president understand how serious this choice is. Sadly, I think most of them don't.
coughRudyGiulianicough. (By the way, doesn't it just figure that he wouldn't know the right way to make the peace sign?)
Does Hillary get it? Ummm . . . to a point. Obviously she's been one of the most outspoken critics of Bush's failed policies both abroad and at home; I think she's got the influence to repair a lot of our broken relationships with countries who were formerly some of our strongest allies. I think she's a brilliant woman, and whatever else you think about the job she'd do as president, you have to concede she'd do a pretty good job of making sure the trains run on time. To swipe a phrase from Warren G. Harding, she would at least bring about something of a "return to normalcy" in Washington.
But for me, at this point, normalcy isn't enough. Everything about our political system is damaged -- the way our politicians interact with the people, with other countries, even with one another -- and I'm not sure it would be enough just to apply the quick coat of paint that a mainstream, entrenched-in-the-system politician like Hillary would represent. I hear a lot of plans and analysis coming from her, a lot of it promising, but I just haven't heard a vision. And for all the things she clearly gets about policy and politics, I'm just not sure she gets how total an overhaul we need in Washington right now. At this very moment in our country, torture has somehow been made legal, we're thinking about invading Iran even though our military is already overextended in two countries, and certain elements of our executive branch feel that they can operate completely outside the Constitutionally prescribed frame of American government. This isn't just a "These guys suck, we need to clean house" kind of an election, this is a clean house and completely reverse everything that's happened in the last eight years kind of election. And again, I haven't heard enough from Hillary to convince me that she truly understands the scope of just how serious and urgent that job is going to be.
The reason I'm supporting Barack Obama is because I do think he understands that. He's not only outlined what we need to do as a country to wipe away the stain of the last eight years but done so in a way that emphasizes what he's for as opposed to what he's against, and that in and of itself is a rare thing coming from a politician. I think he's looked long and hard at just what a huge task it's going to be to fix Washington, and if he's willing to take on that job, then I'm willing to help him.
There are plenty of knocks on his candidacy, of course. He's black, so he can't get elected. He's got a Muslim-sounding name, so he really can't get elected. He doesn't have enough experience, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. But in response to those first two caveats: Maybe I'm just dumb and/or naive, but in spite of all the ugliness I've seen in this country over the past few years, in spite of the ways I've seen our worst instincts drawn out and pandered to, I really do think this country has reached a point in its historic evolution where we're too smart to turn down a candidate who's a good man just because he's black or has the middle name "Hussein." And as to the last strike against him, maybe a lack of experience in a Washington system as broken and bastardized as the one we're stuck with now isn't such a bad thing. Call me mercenary, but at this point I'm honestly less concerned with experience than I am with vision, courage, and a willingness to strike out on a completely new course for the country; if a candidate has those three qualities -- and obviously I believe that Obama does -- then I'm willing to overlook the fact that he's a bit of a political newbie.
If a group of people as diverse as Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, comedian Chris Rock, and former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Tony McPeak can support Obama, then so can you!
Obama's recent gains in some of the polls notwithstanding, I know he's facing an uphill battle here. I know there's a decent possibility that Hillary Clinton will get the nomination, and if that ends up happening, I'll support her wholeheartedly; on her worst day she's still preferable to just about any of the Republicans who've declared at this point. But as long as it's still the primary season, I feel like it's still my chance to support my ideal candidate, and Obama is that guy.
But be that as it may, I'm still interested in hearing who y'all are supporting and why, and that's a conversation I'm looking forward to having here (and many other places) over the next few months. (Incidentally, while I find most of the Republican candidates beneath contempt, you know who I really like? Ron Paul. I really think he may be the only Republican candidate who gets it at all when it comes to a practical policy in the war on terror. His domestic policies are different enough from mine that it'd be hard to actually pull the lever and vote for him, but if he did get elected president, I think I could still feel pretty secure that the country would finally be headed in the right direction again.)
In the meantime, of course, I'd like to point out that if you're a fellow resident of the sixth Congressional district of Alabama, and you're planning on (or even considering) voting for Obama in the Democratic primary on February 5, you'll be able to vote for me. And I hope you will. (I shouldn't be too hard to find, for if what I've heard is correct, the list of prospective Obama delegates from AL-6 -- which went for Bush by a nearly 2-1 margin in '04 -- is likely to be short.) If this is something you're interested in finding out more about, you're welcome to contact me via the e-mail address at top right.
Anyway, like I said, I look forward to this discussion being an ongoing one, but rest assured that political considerations will in no way completely take the place of football, cars, girls, bitching about dumb-ass celebrities, or any of the other wonderful things that have made this blog the rich tapestry you've come to know and love. I mean, I'm not a one-trick pony here. I'm trying to keep things interesting. Because it's all about the kids.