August 2008

I spent last week watching the Democratic convention. I was nervous the first two days, when one lame speaker after another took the podium, people who have no idea how to give a good speech. But hearing from the military people who have lost faith in Bush on the third day was great. And all the prime speeches were very good. Dennis Kucinich riled them up like a righteous lunatic. And if you didn’t hear John Kerry’s surprisingly good speech, here it is:

One thing that always bugs me is that people always say that Obama hasn’t explained what “change” he’s promising and that it’s all been vague promises. What they really mean is that he hasn’t gotten it on TV. He’s had very detailed plans on all the issues for months. I don’t know what people are expecting–a half-hour infomercial for people too lazy to go to his site? He could have spent all his speeches explaining his policies, but I am sure not a word would have made it into the nightly newscasts, because that’s not “news.”

I’ve been trying to understand the details of Obama’s plan, and I like it.
Here’s a great summary of his economic plan.

While they killed several trees trying to sum up Obama’s plan (perhaps a reason why people don’t exactly understand what he’s proposing, McCain’s plan can be summed in five words: “Cut taxes for the rich.”


So how about Obama?

He clearly doesn’t have much experience in Washington. But how much experience do you need? Is there really a great benefit to having experienced the ways of Washington over the last 20 years? Maybe you’d be naive, maybe you’d try to get too much done or trust people too much. But he’d basically have the same amount of Washington experience that Clinton, Reagan, Bush, Carter, and whatever other governors had. Do I think Obama’s missed out on some skill set that they gained from being governor? Not really. Running a presidential campaign is just as challenging. It takes just as much leadership and planning, as the recently leaked memos from Clinton’s campaign show. Obama’s managed to build an amazing network, put all the right people in place, make the choices that need to be made, and put himself in good position to win, all without selling out on his commitment to “a different kind of politics.”

No, he’s not blowing McCain away. But who would really expect that from a candidate who is so unknown to the country, who is black, and who is facing the one candidate that can elicit sympathies from both sides of the aisle? Combined with going up against a much more cutthroat party that will do whatever it takes to win, –abandon any principle, destroy any lives–with an entrenched echo chamber of media outlets that are either in the right wing’s pocket or too afraid to speak the truth to their lies…I think he’s doing fine to be where he is.

And he is offering a new type of politics. As new as you can get, anyway, and still have a chance to win. He’s staying positive while fighting back. He gives thoughtful answers, not just soundbites. And as anyone that goes to his website knows, he does have an actual plan to solve or alleviate some of the problems that the current administration has gotten us into. He’s an incrementalist, which is probably what he would need to be to get anything done–nobody’s going to walk in and get health care done in week one.

What’s most important is that he listens. He listens to various points of view and stakes out a position based on his best judgment and the information available. He doesn’t focus on only what’s going to score points or how he can stay in office; he seems to genuinely want to make the country better.

Of course, I’m drawn to him because he’s a Democrat and not a Republican. It can be hard to avoid that Pavlovian response of supporting your party no matter who the candidate is. But there is good reason to support the Democratic candidate. The Republican machine has proven over the past several years to be utterly without principle, unconcerned with the effect of policy on the country, willing to break laws and corrupt itself in the interest of holding onto power, nothing more. The Democrats have been certainly hapless, but at least it looks like they have things they want to accomplish. Yes, there are hypocrisies and crass political calculations, but at least there’s something behind it, some goal. You can see this echoed in the ads that McCain and Obama put out. McCain tries to persuade you that Obama’s not ready to lead because he’s a “celebrity”, without giving any explanation why. Obama criticizes McCain’s actual policies and tells you about what he plans to do. McCain’s promises are complete something-for-nothing fantasies in the tradition of W. He says he’ll pay for everything from the savings we make by someday getting out of Iraq! In 100 years or so, of course. Obama’s plans don’t completely add up, but they are at least in the sphere of reality.

So, that’s why I’m in favor of Obama, without really getting into why McCain is a total sham, an unhinged warmonger who will accelerate the U.S.’s descent from world leadership into oblivion. Obama gives us a fighting chance to reverse course.

First he was just a jackass, running ads telling people how life “must be nice” for Obama the “celebrity”, who was raised by a single mother and had to work for his success, unlike the admiral’s son who threw away his education, and dumped his wife when she was badly injured for a new multimillionaire trophy¬† wife.

Now he’s just getting scary. Sounds like he wants to push us¬† to war any chance he can get. If he’s leading us into war with Russia, in defense of a country his top advisor was paid to represent, what can we possibly look forward to when he becomes president? I thought anyone would pale in comparison to Bush, but these days he’s not looking any better…