||[Feb. 11th, 2008|02:44 pm]
So, this last Saturday I went to the Washington state Democratic party caucuses held up at Western's campus and cast my vote for the delegates who will elect other delegates who will elect other delegates still, who will finally, eventually elect the Democratic Party nominee for President of the United States. It was a confusing process, frought with madness and rules lawyering. Ultimately, it was a rather interesting and gratifying process, even if it did take a very long time.|
And yet, I feel nervous and introspective, and as I reflect on the events of last Saturday (and the preceding year and a half, or for that matter, the last three years, since I and many others started thinking about the 2008 presidential election as soon as the 2004 election was over)... as I reflect on the events of the foregoing period, I wonder if I cast my vote wisely.
This kind of introspection and second-guessing is nothing new for me, really. It's pretty much standard procedure in everything I do, whether it's taking a trip to Seattle or doing something extremely important. In this case, though, I think a little introspection would not be a bad idea, given that voting is one of the few times people in this country can make their opinions known directly and relatively accurately. Certainly this presidential election is at least as if not more important than the last two.
In a nutshell, my dilemma is, which Democratic candidate do I want to be president? It is not such a clear question as it seems. Both candidates have some degree of merit to them, and both of them have traits that make me want to never have anything to do with them. Barack Obama, as my friend Justin pointed out, hsa been rather vague on specifics, arguably in the same way that Woodrow Wilson was in 1912. He is probably the only person in the Senate who has appeared on a stage with both Bernie Sanders (an independent socialist) and Joe Lieberman (an I-can't-believe-he's-not-Republican Democrat). Whether this is a good thing or a bad thing I am not sure. One of Obama's greatest traits is that, more than anyone else in politics today, he seems to be a conciliator, the type of man who can get a bunch of people who don't like him to actually listen to him, and the type of man who can get a bunch of people who disagree to come up with something they can agree on. As much as people say he is inexperienced, he really isn't, no more than anyone else. Hillary Clinton, by contrast, has served eight years in the US Senate (you can argue that her years as Bill Clinton's wife count, but her role was entirely informal then). John Edwards served only one term in the Senate. Obama, by contrast, has served four years in the US Senate and eight years prior in the Illinois State Legislature. In any event, it matters little; all of them have spent less time in public office than John McCain, the presumed Republican nominee.
Then we have Hillary Clinton. My impressions of Clinton have not been favorable, for someone who grew up in the 90s. My perception of her is that she is an equivocator, something of a coward, and someone who is willing to renegotiate everything she supposedly stands for. The clincher, for me, was the fact that she not only voted to invade Iraq (which even at the time was a sketchy premise) but has never apologized for making that mistake. And a mistake it was. Clinton can talk all she likes about establishing a universal health care system (ha ha), but that system could have been built and funded many times over with the money the US has pissed away in Iraq. Personally, I would rather be $9 trillion in debt and have socialized medicine than be $9 trillion in debt, stuck occupying a distant country, with the consequence of everybody hating your guts. And yet, somehow, in spite of all this, Hillary Clinton is perceived in some quarters as more reliable than Obama. For some reason which I do not entirely understand, she is getting the blue collar vote and the Hispanic vote and the women's vote in droves.
And then there is the matter of the process of the nomination. Paul Krugman, a man whose opinion I generally respect, wrote today in the New York Times op-ed page that he preferred Clinton to Obama, but that he nonetheless thought both would be fine candidates. However, what he was disturbed by was the tendency of supporters of one candidate to not wish to support the other should the other be nominated. He observes this mostly among Obama supporters. I must admit this is true to some extent in my case. While I would probably vote for Clinton were she nominated, it would feel like swallowing medicine, and I do not particularly trust her. Krugman also feels that the Obama "movement" is becoming a cult of personality. He is not the first person to make this charge, and I wonder at times if there is some truth to it. For myself, I will say that I am hungry for a hero, a person who will rule justly and wisely. I feel that this country has not had such a person in a very long time, and that it needs such people, not only in the presidency, but in as many positions in the government as possible.
And yet, a part of me also feels that politicians shouldn't have to be heroes. The age of heroes, for good or ill, seems to be over. They're the kind of people you read about in novels and history books or play as in videogames and tabletop RPGs. They're not the kind of people that get elected to public office, or if they are, it seems to be very rare.
I will probably be going through this back-and-forth with myself for the next several months. I will say that Mr. Krugman is right on one point: the Clinton hating should drop down. Obama, if he wins, should win on his own merits. He should win he was truly better, not because Clinton was worse.
Treat others as you would wish to be treated... it's an old adage, but I'd say it's still true.
For the record, I have been and for the foreseeable future will be supporting Obama, on the grounds that he actually seems to think instead of following prepackaged policy scripts, and on the related note that he seems far more genuine. This is not to say I still do not have my doubts, but for now, he's my candidate. And, if push comes to shove, I would almost certainly vote for Clinton in the general election.