I live in a Super Tuesday state, and I got to vote today. I'm also a registered Democrat, and I had the choice of voting for two very good candidates. On the one hand, there is Barak Obama -- the charismatic Senator from Illinois, a uniter, a social activist, a "black Kennedy" as Gary Trudeau puts it. On the other, there is Hillary Clinton, the intelligent, capable Senator from New York: former First Lady, policy wonk, Yale grad, establishment operator extraordinaire. I think between these two candidates, the Democratic party really has an embarrassment of riches. I would not hesitate to vote for either of these people come November... but who do I choose to vote for now?
My main problem with Hillary is that she's a horribly known quantity for a lot of people in the Republican Party and elsewhere on the far Right who absolutely, rabidly, ape-shit hate her. As Stanley Fish noted in a New York Times op-ed piece earlier this week:
Back in November, I wrote a column on Clinton’s response to a question about giving driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants. My reward was to pick up an e-mail pal who has to date sent me 24 lengthy documents culled from what he calls his “Hillary File.” If you take that file on faith, Hillary Clinton is a murderer, a burglar, a destroyer of property, a blackmailer, a psychological rapist, a white-collar criminal, an adulteress, a blasphemer, a liar, the proprietor of a secret police, a predatory lender, a misogynist, a witness tamperer, a street criminal, a criminal intimidator, a harasser and a sociopath. These accusations are “supported” by innuendo, tortured logic, strained conclusions and photographs that are declared to tell their own story, but don’t.
The last thing I want is to encourage those people to turn out at the polls this Fall. I was reminded of this earlier this week in a newspaper article about a rural, conservative farming community about 200 miles from where I currently sit. This is a town with a dying downtown, whose local economy has suffered heavily from nearly eight years of Republican neglect, and yet the chief political sentiment in town is "ANYONE but Hillary".
If Hillary suffers in my mind because people know her too well, Barak Obama suffers in my mind because I don't know if he knows national politics well enough. He hasn't even served out a full term in the Senate yet. For almost 30 years, I've watched people want to elect presidents who are not Washington "insiders". This year's variant involves finding "the candidate for change". After finding a Texas village idiot with a famous name in 2000 to run for President on the theme of "change" and "changing the tone in Washington", I'm a little done with "change" candidates. How about "experienced, capable" candidates anyone? Harry Truman, Dwight Eisenhower, and Lyndon Johnson were all seasoned political and diplomatic operatives. They, for the most part, did pretty well by this country.
I know that Barak Obama is an intelligent, thoughtful man. I know that he's got a great touch with people, and that he's got a great eye for symbolism. He's got that sense of glamor and political theater in spades that we'd all LOVE a President to have. I'm just not sure what will happen when he arrives in Washington and he faces an absolutely recalcitrant Republican opposition, and has to start dealing with the Right Wing muckrakers who will start appearing on the Internet and the Sunday talk shows. How will he deal with it when he's criticized for how staffers in his White House are auditing office expenses? How long does it take for him to become a "flip-flopper" and then become a "liar", and then have people saying "anyone but Obama"? Will he be able to do anything about the war in Iraq? Will he be able to pass Universal Healthcare Insurance? What about regulating greed on the stock market? He just seems like a bit of an unknown quantity to me.
All this said, I like both of these candidates. Hillary can come off as someone who is always "on" as a politician; everything she does is designed if not to engage you, then at least to not annoy you. The so-called "slip" that Hillary made immediately before the New Hampshire primary convinced me that there is someone interesting under that calculating image. To my mind, I need to see her make more "mistakes" like that one. As for Barak Obama, I'd like to hear more about what he has to offer in terms of concrete proposals besides "hope". All that said, I believe that these two candidates are light years ahead of what we've had for the last 7+ years.
on 2008-02-05 at 1:38 p.m.
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