Today, my husband and I will go to the polls and place votes for different candidates in the California primary. While we will be voting for different parties, the candidates we chose have inspired our vote for essentially the same reasons: we want to pick a candidate whom we believe can save this country from self-destruction.
Yes, we believe the stakes are that high. They are high because our country is in big trouble financially and emotionally.
The financial crisis has been well publicized. While some argue about whether we are in a recession or just on the brink of one, few outside the Bush Administration will suggest that we are doing well financially. The last two presidential elections brought up deep divisions of class and culture, making at least half of us feel like we had been cheated. I am highly skeptical that we can withstand a third round without descending into chaos. This is catastrophic language, but it is honestly what I feel is at stake his time.
Our emotions are further hampered by this self-perpetuating war an ideal to which there can never be declared an end, until a new leader admits that war can never and should never be declared on a construct. We cannot continue to fight until we are no longer afraid, because he more we fight the more fearful we become. The War on Terror is a lie and so is the war in Iraq. A government that authorizes secret prisons, and plays around with the definition of torture means that we now rely on documentary filmmakers, artists, and people on the fringes to present us with truth. the fringe is not the whole truth, either, but we trust the small voices more because the big voice we used to trust has been so dishonest.
And while I was once content to simply argue in coffee shops, online forums, or from the comfort of a classroom desk, things are different now: I am a parent.
Pessimistic dismissiveness about our country no longer works because she will inherit this mess. She will pay for this mess. She didn’t ask to be born in this time and in this country. Now that she is here, I owe it to her to give her a the best life possible not just by what I do my home, but by the decisions I make, and how I choose to affect the world.
I am voting for Barack Obama.
While I feel that Hillary Clinton would be a flawed, but capable president, she is a polarizing figure. If watching the movie, So Goes the Nation (for which this post is named) has taught me anything, it’s that social conservatives are masters at mobilizing their people to go vote. This group feels a particular venom toward Mrs. Clinton and they will be inspired in drives to vote for AnyoneButHer. Though I believe that she is dedicated to public service, I also see some of the decisions she has made as a first lady, senator and presidential campaigner as being more in the service of satisfying a lifelong ambition, rather than serving the public good. I also believe that political dynasties degenerates democracy rather than uplifts it. It doesn’t matter that the “other side” has had one. If we believe in democratic representation of the people, we cannot believe that our cause it advanced by members of the same household (not to mention the same bed) taking turns at running our government.
I don’t believe that Barack Obama is perfect. I worry that he is green and may be ripe fruit for the corporate interests and special interests to pick and puppet as they see fit. I hope not, but on my most pessimistic days, I see this as a real possibility. I worry that even in 2008 there are people who are so bothered by caramel-color of his skin, that they will do anything to silence him, and we will feel all the more hopeless. I also worry that his message of inspiration is a calculated political decision and that after he takes office his speech in New Hampshire will feel like a distant memory.
In spite of all of this, I am voting for Barack Obama because at the end of the day, our government has three branches, not just one. Many people make the decisions that affect our lives for better or worse, not just one. But our president is our voice, our representative, the symbol of what is America to the rest of the world. Why shouldn’t the person who delivers that message speak of hope, and determination? Why shouldn’t he be a son of an immigrant, as so many Americans are? Why shouldn’t he look like the physical manifestation of the melting pot we celebrate in speech, but so few of us actually live in? And why shouldn’t our president inspire cheering, stage rushing, and unbridled enthusiasm in his citizens, rather than polite applause (or worse, outright boos and disdain)?
I am voting for the person whom I believe can unite this nation under a common cause. It’s really that simple.
Certainly, I wish he were a woman. I’d love a woman president. I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton simply because she is a woman and am I. I am not voting for Barack Obama simply because he is black and so am I. As a biracial male child of the 60’s Obama and I have few common experiences. As an affluent white woman of the 50’s, Mrs. Clinton and I have even fewer. I have rarely been the only woman in a business meeting, classroom, or any public space. The best students in every class I’ve ever been in–including math, science, and all of my courses at AIS–have been women, most of them white. My experience as a black person in America is quite different. In the classroom, at work, and elsewhere I have frequently been the only non-white face in the room.
In other words, there are still many places outside the White House where black faces are non-existent, including the Senate floor (of which, it should be noted, there are 16 women serving currently of 35 who have served since its inception; there has been only one black in that Senator and he is now running for president). If either Clinton or Obama are elected, it will represent a sea change in the face of American political leadership. Obama being elected simply feels more so.
So yes, by now it is cliche. I’m voting for change. I’m voting for hope. I’m voting for the candidate that I think will be our next president, not only the one that makes proud to be a member of my party. I’m not positive that Barack Obama can win the general election, but I’m pretty convinced that Hillary cannot. And another Republican administration would be disastrous to this country. I want to be a part of electing someone great, someone inspiring, someone who can rise above the novelty of being the first _____ to be elected president of the United States I believe that Barack Obama can do this. I don’t believe that Hillary Clinton can. So I’m voting for the person whom I believe in, and I’m hoping that for the first time in this millennium the person who wind the election is someone we can all believe in, and not less-than half of us who happen to live in the states that count.