I spoke with my father back in Ohio this afternoon. He is a lifelong Republican, though no fan of George Bush. While he could not bring himself to vote for Senator Kerry in 2004, he refused to vote to re-elect Dubya.
Four years on, he has joined the legion of disillusioned Republicans. He simply cannot abide John McCain, and over the course of the year, as he and I have discussed this election and this time in history, he has slowly come around to the Obama side. It was just last week that he surprised me by confiding that he’d decided to vote for Barack.
Today, he told me something that I think captured the essence of what Obama achieved last night. My father told me “I told you last week that I had decided to vote for your man, Obama, but after watching last night’s debate, I finally feel completely at ease with that decision.”
That’s what Obama accomplished last night. He made independents and likely even untold disillusioned Republicans feel at ease. That, to me, is the game clincher.
I didn’t want to leave you with such a short diary, really more of a long comment, so I’m attaching to the above story a list I sent to my father and to other fence-sitters I know, a list of reasons why I’m working so hard in support of Senator Barack Obama. I hope someone finds a use for it in their efforts to coax more fence-sitters down onto our side.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because on the day Barack Obama is inaugurated, America will think differently of itself, and this is no small thing. Imagine the symbolism of it. Do not short shrift symbols, for they are very powerful. To be able to point to a President Barack Obama and tell a child of any color anywhere in America that they, too, through education and hard work, could someday be anything they want to be…that’s a powerful thing, especially in our melting-pot nation.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama’s narrative is quintessentially American. His is an All-American success story. A biracial kid with an absentee father raised by a single mother on food stamps. A kid with a funny name whose improbable path carried him from Hawaii to Indonesia to Chicago to Washington; a Harvard law grad who turned away from a coveted Supreme Court clerkship to work just out of law school as a community organizer on Chicago’s South Side; a United States Senator who, until his presidential campaign, still shopped for groceries with his young children, and who only recently got out from underneath his student loans; a family man with a solid marriage to a bright and dynamic, articulate and self-made woman; a man of faith who walks the walk of his religion. Nothing was handed to this man – everything he has accomplished has come from the sweat of his own grit and determination.
(Correction per noice: “Obama’s work as a community organizer was before he went to Harvard Law. He did it after he graduated from Columbia University. After Harvard Law, he went to work as a civil rights attorney instead of going for a Supreme Court clerkship.” Thanks also to kimberlyweldon and SDLinn for correcting my error!)
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Senator Obama inspires people of all ages to action. And while inspiration alone isn’t enough to get the job done, it’s a necessary ingredient to begin the hard work. After sixteen years of Clinton and Bush hyper-partisanship, Obama’s appeal to Americans to have the audacity to hope falls on fertile ground. He is a hope-mongerer facing down a legion of entrenched, Washingtonian hope-mockers. His unwillingness to cross the line into the dark side of politics has touched a fundamental place in the hearts of many who are eager to believe that the political process is not entirely a cynical joke.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Senator Obama understands that you win elections not by pandering to your base, but by drawing support from independents and from the opposite side, by articulating what unifies people rather than exploiting what divides them. Change comes not just from knowing how to work the levers of power – it takes more than that. It takes creating the popular movements necessary to support and sustain change. No other candidate spurs that kind of enthusiasm.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because most politicians talk about “I”, the crafter of the policy, whereas Obama talks about “we” and “us”, the people who demand it and who jointly carry it out. He talks about this nation as if all of us are in it together. He speaks to the nation rather than preaching to the partisan choir. If he inspires fervor, it speaks only to the deep need of Americans to put behind us decades of the politics of selfishness, pettiness, divisiveness, cynicism, and greed. Americans are sick of it. Most of us are well aware that our nation, indeed the world, faces issues that are intractable, overwhelming, and terrifying, and we know deep inside ourselves that we have to do something different than what we’ve been doing in order to address them.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama’s appeal also rests on an attractive optimism, a chance for America to move beyond the poisonous legacy of the divisions wrought between liberals and conservatives by the 1960s, Vietnam, and the 1990s. He meets a hunger that exists nationwide to turn the page on the tired ideological battles of the past. He captures the electorate’s hunger for meaningful change. With septuagenarian Senator John McCain as the Republican nominee, a man with broad popular appeal but also a man who, if elected, would be the oldest president at inauguration in American history, what better choice between past and future could Americans be offered than between he and Obama?
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama has built a powerful political network unlike seen before, based on cross-cultural and multi-generational grassroots movements and community building. He possesses an exceptional and enduring talent for organization and for connecting with voters, and has attracted voters on a level unseen in decades: over two million Americans have contributed to his campaign! He is about participation, and participation wins elections. His appeal is also much broader ideologically and racially than perhaps any politician in American history, and his demographic diversity contrasts sharply and is more representative of America than Senator McCain’s demographic monotony: mostly white, and mostly male.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because his relatively short time in Washington is more asset than handicap. Not long removed from the pool of the people, in Obama ordinary, everyday hard-working Americans of every political stripe will have a friend in the White House.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because he has the judgment and character necessary to lead this nation in these perilous times. He is serious, thoughtful, and decent. He exhibits charisma, coolness under fire, and an impresive understanding of the issues that face us. He gives rational explanations of his positions and brings people into his thought process, rather than talking down to them. He thinks about the questions, the daunting questions we face, and he answers those questions. He articulates and embodies the idea of a nobler America. He is pragmatic, and has exhibited throughout his political career a genuine commitment to the idea of finding pragmatic solutions by reaching across the partisan divide, and forging relationships with those of differing viewpoints.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because his is the face of the future. America in the coming decades will be predominantly a nation of color, and with the election of Barack Obama America will send a message to its own future that it is unafraid of it, that it welcomes it, and embraces it. That a black man in a country that denied black people the vote as recently as 1964, in a country whose past is disfigured by slavery, segregation, and unequal voting rights, is now the nominee of a major political party is itself an extraordinary comment on how far America has come over the past half-century. His election to the presidency would signal that the next half-century will likely bring continued progress toward genuine equality for every race, color, creed and orientation.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because on the day Barack Obama is inaugurated, the world will think differently of America. The election of Obama, a man with a multicultural name and heritage, would overnight begin to improve the image of the United States abroad, and send the global message that a post-Bush and post-Clinton 21st-century American era has arrived. With his election, the value of America’s moral currency abroad would begin to be restored.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because of Obama’s stalwart opposition to the Iraq War since before its beginning, and his stalwart dedication to see the Iraq War to its end. Obama said, in 2002: “I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world and strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda. I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.” In 2008, Obama speaks once again for millions: “I don’t want to just end the war, I want to end the mind-set that got us into war in the first place.”
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama is a Harvard-educated constitutional law scholar, and civil libertarian. In his campaign speeches, he has frequently referred to his desire to close Guantanamo, stop torture, restore habeas corpus rights to detainees, bring back our lost civil liberties, and return to a presidency that sticks to its vow to follow the U.S. Constitution.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama pushes progressive values into the mainstream. He constantly talks about his core liberal philosophy in a way that’s appealing to non-liberals. He has an ability to use his eloquence not just to persuade, but to mobilize, and to unite. Unlike the method of triangulating, moving Democrats to the middle, Obama moves the middle to our values. He stands for progressive values while appealing to common sense and pragmatism over ideology and demagoguery. And the end effect might be an ascendant, mainstream progressive party that enacts its values into laws.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because Obama has the potential to be a transformative American leader. The best leaders are like magnets beneath a piece of paper, invisibly aligning iron filings into new patterns of their design. Obama could be such a leader. Most of the presidents in American history who have been transformative have been charismatic figures with exceptional oratorical skills who persuaded Americans to share in their larger vision. I am not able to imagine a President John McCain being similarly transformative, or being such a magnet.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because I know that most voters do not vote primarily on the basis of policies, but rather on values, connection, authenticity, trust, and identity. Obama has solid values. He connects with voters as no politician has done since Reagan, or Kennedy. His authenticity is unquestioned. Polls have consistently revealed great differences between Obama and McCain on matters of trust and identity.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because after the bitterness of the Bush years, America badly needs a dose of unity. We face huge issues in the years to come, and to work through them we need not only optimism, creativity, and courage, but also trust in one another, and an end to bitter partisanship. None of that arises out of cynicism and despair. Does anyone foresee an end to – or even an easing of – our bitter divisions with a President McCain?
I’m voting for Barack Obama because this era demands a president who will include all of us in the debate over our future, whether or not we agree on every issue. And while I do not agree with Senator Obama on every issue, it does not matter so much to me, because this election campaign is about so much more than individuals and their pet issues. It is about the reacquisition of an ideal that has been stolen away from us.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because for now, at this time in history, I believe Barack Obama to be the best antidote we’ve got to the darkness and division we’ve endured for too many years. He’s our best hope to re-dignify the office of President of the United States with a stature that symbolizes the awesomeness of America. He’s our best hope not to make change, but to remind us of our ability to make change.
I’m voting for Barack Obama because there is no question Obama is an icon of hope. And despite ridicule to the contrary, hope does matter. When people join movements to realize raised hopes, our nation has a chance of changing for the better. When they damp their hopes, as his opponents throughout this campaign have suggested, the status quo is preserved. Hope and fear, future and past are the determining factors in this election. Not gender, not race. Will grouchy and divided Americans be driven primarily by their fears, or by their hopes? By their nostalgia for some “better” past, or by the courage to face a new future? The possibility of a new president named Barack Hussein Obama hangs on the answer.
Yes, we can! Si se puede!
Update: Yeah! Rec List! First time since March…thanks everyone!!!
Update II: The overwhelmingly positive response to this diary is the biggest honor I’ve received since having met Senator Barack Obama here in Eugene, Oregon back on May 9th. Yes, I met the next President of the United States, and the picture of that meeting sits here still, framed, next to my computer. It inspires me every day, and to think that I’ve helped inspire others brings tears to my eyes. Thanks everyone. What a fantastic place is DailyKos.