Saturday, March 8, 2008

Making The Case For Obama

As anyone who reads this blog with any regularity can attest, I am most certainly in the bag for Barack Obama. In fact, as Dan Savage, who is a correspondent for Real Time with Bill Maher on HBO and happens to be homosexual says, I'm probably a little gay for Obama. So when I had a bit of a spirited back and forth with one of my brothers-in-law recently in the comments section of this post, I stopped for a second and tried to discern how biased I am for this guy and the reasons why.

I had made the argument (now moot, of course) that if Hillary Clinton lost either Texas or Ohio that she should bow out of the primary race for the good of the party (full disclosure: I'm not a Democrat and I am pretty disgusted with the way those elected officials have comported themselves over the last few years). His argument was that she has worked her entire life to get where she is now and that, were he her, there is no way that he would give up in the eleventh hour of a hard fought campaign just for the sake of party unity. I can totally see why he (and she) would feel this way and I can't argue against that. If my only argument was to preserve party unity, which it's not.

I am by no means a political scientist and my knowledge of political history in America would be quite obviously dwarfed by someone who is but I don't think that I'm going out on a limb here by stating that I think we are witnessing a pivotal moment in American politics. Not just that we are essentially choosing between a black man or a woman to be our next leader but what we are seeing happen with new voters (and new young voters specifically). I freely admit that I did not vote in 1992 or 1996, the first two presidential elections in which I was eligible. The reason? I just didn't care. Now you can chalk this up to my legendary cynicism or to the overwhelming ennui of Generation X (Jesus, how outdated does that terminology sound?) but the fact remains that millions of young people in this country have mostly eschewed politics for the simple reason that they didn't think that it mattered in their lives.

But no longer. Barack Obama has shown those youngsters (and that's officially the first time I've used the term 'youngsters' in my adult life; glad it was typed and not uttered) that there is something to care about in American politics. That they matter in the political process. That they are, to quote The Man, "the change that we seek". And when I look at the Democratic primary race right now, and I handicap it (as I feel compelled to do), I see one of two scenarios: 1) Barack Obama wins the nomination (and henceforth, the presidency) and an entire generation of Americans find themselves inspired by and permanently invested in the democratic process and the dream that is America, or 2) Hillary Clinton wins the nomination by the grace of the Democratic superdelegates (and maybe the presidency) and an entire generation of Americans find themselves just as disconnected and disenfranchised as I was back in '92. We can't afford as a nation to lose this generation of voters to the predictably sleazy politics of the last century.

This isn't merely a race for the presidency of the United States of America; it's a litmus test of the spirit of the American youth. It's a choice between engaging millions of young voters in the democratic process or disillusioning these same voters for what will surely be an entire generation. I feel particularly inspired when I see young people out en masse for Obama when I can remember every one of my buddies in college (myself included) not giving a damn about who was the leader of the free world at the time. I just hate to see us start to backslide as a nation in the face of so much progress. Just something for you to think about.


Anonymous said...

I'm with you completely in supporting Obama, partly because he is a member of my generation--Generation Jones. As several major media outlets, incluidng the New York Times and Newsweek, have recently written that Obama is specifically a member of Generation Jones, born 1954-1965, between the Boomers and Xers. I'm also part of GenJones, and I'm more than ready to finally see one of my generational cohorts in a leadership position.

JBW said...

Thanks for the info, pollfan. I was not aware of the existance of Generation Jones but I suppose it was inevitable that every niche in birth order be given a label by society. I just finished reading the Wikipedia article; very interesting. Thanks for reading my stuff and please spread the word.

Unknown said...

Never heard of "generation jones" either, but i guess that makes me a "boomer" much as i hate the term and the association.

as such, let me just say here what i've said to you in person, i have heard all this before, re: 1960's, and to what avail? some of our disappointments were self inflicted, i. e. drugs & violent demonstrations that eroded what public support the anti-war movement had. having said this, assasinations and becoming our own becomming enmeshed in "the establishment" after graduation (aka greed) killed whatever was left of "the movement".

so, personally, i have tempered my enthusiasm for Obama having already been down that road and become entirely cinical of politicians, the system, and us in the process. hope may spring eternal, but it has become a dim light to say the least.

like you, i also fear that young supporters, especially the young supporters, and more especially the young black supporters and other disenfranchised supporters will also withdraw from the system if anything at all should, once again, fail.

this country, needs all its assets to contribute however they best can. you have mentioned that you didn't care previously. you are not alone. you've said your vote doesn't matter. perhaps you and the others are right. i hope not. (there's that word again....)

on the other hand, what if it turns out to be true that all it takes for evil (define as you will) to triumph is for the good to remain seated and silent?

from where i sit, this is exactly what has happened since "the movement" fell apart. i am as guilty as anyone else. in becoming wholeheartedly disgusted, i have also become apathetic. this is the worst that could happen and one of the very things i was angry at when i was twenty something.

"if it IS to be, it must start with me..." i may no longer be up to it. perhaps "generation jones" will be better than we were. maybe their results will be better too. maybe they are worthy. we obviously were not.

Anonymous said...

This is one of the most contested primaries I think I've seen in my lifetime. It probably takes the cake. Do you think the primaries momentum will carry into the general election? Or will this be another "Vote or die" flash in the pan?

I find it very interesting that so many people (media, et alii) view Obama as a clearcut victor over McCain. From my surface standpoint it seems much more complicated than that. What we've got is a liberal Republican and (from what I've heard) possibly the most liberal Democrat sprinting towards the finish line. It seems that as this process wears on, some of this "liberal's liberal" policy and so-forth will really be dwelled on. McCain could end up being viewed as a very moderate choice.

I could see a scenario where McCain wins Republican votes by default and wins over some of the more conservative Democrats, like your mother. Now, do I foresee a day when your mom votes for a Republican candidate of any sort? No. She has appearances to uphold. ;) However, we all know that for every liberal Republican in New York, there's a conservative Democrat down in Texas.

It will all be very interesting, to say the least.

JBW said...

Reed and I have indeed had this discussion before and I don't deny that I and many others are perhaps setting ourselves up for another big letdown but at this point I feel that we definitely need to start steering this country in another direction and this guy could be the start of that. I suppose every generation has their share of cynicism/hope and how they use and live those concepts define us as a people.

As far as McCain vs. Obama I've seen the national polls and it looks good for Obama. I honestly don't know how these will translate into the outmoded electoral college system so that remains to be determined. I do think that when it comes down to a choice between 4 more years of Bush policy (which is what McCain is hitching his star to) vs. new ideas and a fresh start, between the old man vs. the young upstart, between the Beltway insider vs. the Mr. Smith newcomer that people will choose change.

If Barack Obama wins this nomination and goes up against McCain in the general, I think a good strategy would be to hammer him everyday about specifics on the Iraq war:what are the benchmarks for victory, how long will we stay, how much will it cost us, how will we know when we've won, is it even possible? These are the questions that everyone I talk to who supports this war can never answer; for that matter, they are the questions the Bush administration can't answer either. The surge was just a way to push having to answer them down the road for the next guy/gal to live at 1600 to figure out and I don't see McCain doing that. Barring another terror attack or an "October surprise" I think Obama has a real shot at this. I do agree that it will be interesting indeed.