Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Practicality of Hope

- by J.M.

There is no denying that Sen. Obama has tapped into a longing - particularly among young voters - for something new. Beginning in 2002, before his election to the Senate, Sen. Obama repeatedly voiced his disapproval of the imminent invasion of Iraq. (See, e.g., here, here, here, and here). He has rejected campaign contributions from federal lobbyists and political action committees (PACs) (although the Clinton campaign has noted that he does accept contributions from state lobbyists). He's a fresh face, blessedly divorced from political dynasties such as the Clintons and the Bushes. He has an unforced sense of humor, on full display when he danced with Ellen, challenged Stephen Colbert to a "grit-off," and referred to himself as "skinny but [ ] tough." And he has a widely acknowledged ability to inspire - even his adversaries, such as Gov. Huckabee, recognize this gift. This is, in fact, Sen. Obama's greatest asset - the inspiration he offers to a weary, frustrated citizenry.

"Mr. J.M." (who, upon request, shall remain at least somewhat anonymous) is a committed, passionate supporter of Sen. Clinton. He admires her tenacity, her record of accomplishment, her grace under the extreme pressure of the publicity surrounding her husband's misdeeds. He is the sort of person who is not easily swayed by abstract notions of "change" and "inspiration" - he needs proof. Particularly after two presidential elections in which personality or "likeability" (who would you rather have a beer with?) played a large role.

I share much of Mr. J.M.'s admiration for Sen. Clinton, but I am not nearly so skeptical of the benefit of inspiration. If there's one thing this country could use right now, it's a little hope and optimism. A little stimulation to engage politically and philanthropically. Particularly among Democrats - stung by the results of the 2000 election, defeated by the results of the 2004 election, and disappointed by the performance the Democrat-controlled Congress after the 2006 mid-term elections - there is a craving for someone new, optimistic, and willing to challenge the status quo.

Many of Sen. Obama's proposals are impractically idealistic. But there is a value to his idealism nonetheless. Whether or not his proposals are supported by the Congress, whether or not he is able to bridge party lines, I do not doubt that Sen. Obama will actually speak out against the policies and rhetoric of the radical right that has enjoyed an unprecedented stronghold over all three branches of government. For far too long moderates and liberals have been largely unwilling to challenge the administration, for fear of being unfairly labeled "un-American" and "un-patriotic." As the nation shifted further and further to the right, traditional conservatives like McCain (a fiscal conservative who has steadfastly supported the war in Iraq) were identified with the "left," while moderate-Democrats such as the Clintons were labeled "radicals." Sen. Obama, unlike those entrenched in the politics of the past 20 years, has fought back, undaunted by labels. He has offered new solutions representing a radical departure from the policies of the current administration, rather than compromises with positions that were ill-informed from the beginning.

The vitriol spouted by many Obama-supporters against Sen. Clinton is completely at odds with Sen. Obama's message of hope and inspiration. It alienates potential supporters who otherwise view Sens. Obama and Clinton as relatively equal in experience. Sen. Obama himself nobly proclaimed, "I will create a working majority because I won't demonize my opponents." His supporters should heed these words, embrace his idealism, and trust in the power of his message.

1 comment:

Schna said...

**non-religious version of "amen"**