So let me be upfront about it: I support Barack Obama’s candidacy.
It’s not because of his platform. I’ve ignored the platforms of all the candidates because pragmatism will force them to renege on a lot of promises. It’s not because I find him inspiring. I don’t have an opinion about that because I don’t care to form one. It’s not because I toe the Democrat party line. I’ve voted for Republicans in the past.
I support Obama’s candidacy out of pragmatism (that word again) and history.
It’s all too easy to get swallowed up in the echo chamber that is political coverage in the media. And it’s all too easy to perceive no progress being made when opposing forces continually butt heads. But that’s how a system of checks and balances is supposed to work. The last eight years has been a spectacular display of that system pretty much breaking down.
Honestly, the presidential race is, to use the Wall Street term, overvalued. Candidates make all these promises, and the romance of a central authority figure feeds into the idea of the president being the "leader of the free world". But the president doesn’t legislate. He — or perhaps soon she — can propose legislation like everyone who writes to their Congressperson. The big difference is your failure to get a bill past committee doesn’t get broadcast on the 24-7 news cycle. You don’t need to answer to opinion polls.
I’m far more concerned with the balance of power in Congress. The 2006 midterm elections gave me a glimmer of hope that perhaps the few scant issues about which I care may be part of the discourse. The Republican-controlled Congress from the 12 years before made it clear I was persona non grata to them.
At the same time, I have a foreboding feeling that a Democrat-controlled Congress and a Democrat-controlled White House will indulge in the same folly as the Republican-controlled Congress and Republican-controlled White House of the last eight years. Terry Schaivo, anyone?
But all my Democrat friends would relish the day "our side" gets to make the decisions. My perspective is not so rooted in panacea.
Thing is, the United States of America has a credibility problem even among our international friends. A change in management is direly needed if we want to do business — not strictly in a commercial sense — with other nations. So in this case, I’m going to quell my unease and hope Democrats can keep their margin in the House and put a Democrat in the White House.
But which Democrat?
I didn’t mind Bill Clinton when he was president. I think the booming dot-com bubble economy happened independent of anything he did, but everyone was willing to give him the credit for it anyway. I can’t remember anything particularly striking he did policy-wise, although "Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, Don’t Confirm" was a total fuck-up.
I just don’t trust nepotism. We’ve had Bush the father. Then Clinton the husband. Then Bush the son. Next — Clinton the wife? What’s next? Jed? And after that Roger? Then Jenna? Then Chelsea? Albert Einstein has some sage words about that: "Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Is this country really going to move forward by electing the same two families to office?
So I throw my proverbial hat in the ring with Obama for a terrible reason — he’s the least evil of alternatives.
Before you throw Ron Paul in my face, let me preemptively reply "Alexander Hamilton", the guy on the $10 bill. He wanted to establish a monarchy in the U.S., a crazy idea extreme enough to make the system of checks and balances seem quaint. I appreciate Paul in the same way I appreciate Hamilton, but I wouldn’t want him to be my president.
But Obama? He would essentially be the same kind of change in management Bill Clinton was in 1992. George H. Bush rode the coattails of Ronald Reagan. Clinton did not come in from such a perch.
I’ve heard a lot of criticism about Obama having an ambiguous platform. I remember those same criticisms levied at Clinton during his first campaign. I’m fine with that.
Instead, I prefer that the system of checks and balances also checks against nepotism and short memories. I don’t want to have to keep choosing between a Clinton and a Bush.