Wednesday, March 19, 2008

I'll Vote for Obama

Some while back, I declared here that Obama lost my support when he chose to campaign in South Carolina with an anti-GLBT activist. Since then, Obama has come out publicly as our supporter. In late February, he wrote a public letter to the GLBT community. Its concluding paragraph reads:

Americans are yearning for leadership that can empower us to reach for what we know is possible. I believe that we can achieve the goal of full equality for the millions of LGBT people in this country. To do that, we need leadership that can appeal to the best parts of the human spirit. Join with me, and I will provide that leadership. Together, we will achieve real equality for all Americans, gay and straight alike.
I believe that's an accurate assessment of the frame of mind that will be required to advance us to equal footing in law and in legislated benefits such as those governing Social Security, Medicare/Medicaid, the federal income tax, military spouse survivorship, hospital visitation, etc.

Of course that's not all that will be required, by far. And he knows that. Obama's letter spells out where he stands on specific GLBT issues, and what his White House can be expected to do in our support.

So I've forgiven his foray into South Carolina with Donnie McClurkin.

In the interim, I've also had a great deal of exposure to Obama and to Clinton. As Obama has risen in my esteem, Clinton has fallen. I will spare you a lengthy play-by-play, and instead offer the seven chief reasons that finally persuade me to support Obama.

1. Judgment: I agree with Obama that judgment is the crucial variable in any President. All presidents have expert advisors. The president's judgment, and his or hers alone, is what, in the end, sorts them out and chooses a course to pursue. Not only Obama's stance on the war, but also his decision about how to run and nuance his campaign illustrate good judgment that's also far more in tune with Americans' longterm best interests than any other candidate's. That same judgment informed the content and tone of his speech on race delivered in response to critics of Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Obama's association with him. Obama took this low-life diversion to the level of worthy discourse, and did so in a way that affirmed people--even people with serious issues about race--and summoned us to a better place: "The union will never be perfect, but it can always be perfected." Lincoln, too, was a first-term legislator when he took the presidency in circumstances that could hardly have been direr. I think Obama is cut from that rare cloth.

2. Leadership: That speech also demonstrated courageous leadership. Americans on the whole are not comfortable with a candid discussion of race, and politicians, with rare exceptions, avoid it like the plague. No so Obama. To his credit, even when his campaign is on the line, he stepped up and led. We're not used to that. We're used to hops and dodges and platitudes on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We're not used to a politician who can convert a race-based attack into a national growth opportunity.

While there remain issues about which I disagree with Obama or about which I want more information from him (free trade, privatization, the balance of powers, constitutional safeguards, FISA, etc.), the issues that I have heard him discuss give me reason to believe that he'll come down somewhere that I can live with.

3. Cool under fire: One of the things I like most about Obama is that he is unbelievably calm under fire. If he's going to have his finger on the nuclear trigger and his mouth at this end of the red phone, I want cool, calm, reason, and diplomacy. I've seen him exhibit precisely these characteristics repeatedly.

4. Common Decency: Time and again, Obama has reached out to the enemy, behaved with dignity and courtesy in the face of just the opposite, and comported himself with a nobility that I think will grace the Oval Office. And not a minute too soon. He is modeling for us the demeanor that he expects of us. That's also leadership of a very high order.

5. Change: I agree that we desperately need change in Washington. I must trust that Obama is what he says he is with respect to bought-and-paid-for lawmaking, but I will take that chance. Compared with McCain, Obama is a whole new world. Compared with Clinton, he's a refreshing outsider with enough experience in Washington to know how to get around town. On a more serious note, Obama's appeal to the best in the nation is desperately, desperately needed. We have generations of youngsters to teach about government in the interest of the people. I think Clinton is sullied by some of her own decisions and by the myths energetically generated by the Right about "The Clintons." I think the nation really is weary of both the Bushes and the Clintons, and wants and needs precisely the qualities that Obama uniquely brings to us.

6. Race and Heritage: I don't know of anything that can both mark growth on this nation's part and help this country address its racism than having a man of mixed race who identifies as Black in the White House. I think his multiracial and multinational heritage equip him uniquely as a symbol and as a negotiator on the world stage, and I believe the rest of the world will respond very positively to this President. While I think Clinton would attract global support as well, and know that McCain would be met as the anathema he is, I think Obama has the "face validity" to move us light years ahead in global diplomacy and domestic social accord.

7. Electability: Yes, he'll mobilize white racists and the far Right, at the risk of being redundant. So will Hillary. But Obama will bring whole new cohorts to the polls, and Clinton will not. If the White House and "Justice" Department are not tapping the campaign's phones and rigging the vote, Obama will be the next President of the United States.