It's Super Duper Fat Tuesday Eve, and as has been the case most of my life, I'm not feeling deeply connected with the political mindsets of any of the major candidates. Nonetheless, unlike many past elections, I will be voting in this primary for a major-party candidate, Barack Obama, and I'll be doing so with a reasonable amount of comfort.
There's much that Obama and I disagree on, and let me outline some of that laundry list:
I don't believe, as he does, that "civil unions" create equality, I think that any thinking person must be suspicious of any system which attempts to create "separate but equal" queues for its citizens.
Obama's support of the death penalty, while one I can relate to, is not my own, I believe the horrifyingly bad record of Death Penalty jurisprudence in the United States demonstrates problems that give me qualms about such "final penalties".
Obama supported the 2006 version of the USA Patriot Act.
Obama supports "cap and trade", rather than emissions tax approaches to CO2 harm reduction. It is my feeling that the systems he supports rely too much on protecting existing industries from the problems created by their past practices and not enough on creating a system that balances any emissions against other economic and environmental goods.
So, why Obama?
Two issues dominate my thinking this election. Foreign policy in Iraq, and the economic health of the country. On the Republican side, the race is largely left to McCain at this point, and he refuses to accept the enormous failure of policy and of government that our involvement in Iraq represents even today. This blinds him to the economic damage being done as well. For someone who had (to me) a fairly convincing record in years past as someone who believed in fiscal responsibility, McCain seems to have taken a dark turn, one matched by his sudden shift towards rights-sapping 'social conservatism' and, well, thanks but no thanks.
On the Democratic side, I find little basis in direct policy on which to choose between Clinton and Obama. Either, I think, could make a pretty decent president. I think both recognize the problems in Iraq without ignoring the enormous practical difficulties and consequences of immediate withdrawal--and recognize just what the war in Iraq is costing is. (They both have plans which concern me economically, too.) Neither supports same-sex marriage. And the election of either would represent a historic moment for the country in either case.
I'm not saying there aren't policy differences between the two. It's simply that, when I count up the differences, they seem small and offsetting, and that leads me to consider a factor that moves beyond one of pure issues.
The power of the presidency resides in part in the "bully pulpit", the ability to have oneself heard and to apply pressure on issues to affect change. In the end, while I believe Clinton has made enormous strides at speaking well and effectively (in particular, during the last debate), I personally believe that Obama is arguably the strongest speaker we've had up for a presidential race in the past twenty years, and, left "in balance" on specific issues, it's my best estimation that this speaking ability will allow Obama to be an even more effective leader.
We need that. We need direction, purpose and change in this country, and while I am always cynical about what we'll really see, I think Obama represents the best hope we have for a brighter tomorrow.