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February 05, 2008

Ten Reasons Why I Support Barack Obama for President

Today's "super Tuesday" is almost a nationwide primary, and is a very important day in America's presidential race. In the small, idealistic hope that I might help sway some of my readers to vote for Barack Obama, here are ten of my personal reasons for supporting Barack Obama as our next president.

Big thanks to Dave H. for recommending that I do this (no I didn't forget) and apologies in advance to overseas readers, some of whom are undoubtedly sick of the election coverage already (like Dr. Nic!)

1. Style and Integrity

Barack Obama presents a view of governing that is inclusive and relies on Americans to work with their government. Throughout his speeches and debates, Obama is the one candidate that consistently, naturally, talks in terms of we. His rallying cry is "Yes We Can!"

Barack is also a good role model, personifying the concept of a servant leader — someone that lets us hide the cynic inside, that inner cynic that has been created in all of us by years of listening to politicians and their lies — despite years of disappointment, you just know that Obama is really a good guy, that he is going to serve America honorably during the many trials and tribulations that are surely in store for us in the next four years.

2. Timing

It feels like the right time for America to elect Barack Obama as our president. Andrew Sullivan in the Atlantic considers an Obama presidency transformational:

At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war — not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a momentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade, but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war — and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama — and Obama alone — offers the possibility of a truce.

3. Religious Stance

Barack Obama's religion (or lack thereof) is appealing, knowing that we won't have an atheist in the White House anytime soon. He's the kind of religious that I can tolerate, which is spiritual without being evangelizing or judgmental.

Obama is cagey, in a lawyerly way, about the supernatural claims of religion. Recounting a conversation about death that he had with one of his two young daughters, he wrote, "I wondered whether I should have told her the truth, that I wasn't sure what happens when we die, any more than I was sure of where the soul resides or what existed before the big bang." So I think we can take it that he doesn't believe - or doesn't exactly believe - in the afterlife or the creation.

His conversion to Wright's brand of Christianity was "a choice and not an epiphany", born of his admiration for "communities of faith" and the shape and purpose they give to the lives of their congregants. "Americans want a narrative arc to their lives. They are looking to relieve a chronic loneliness"; "They are not just destined to travel down that long highway towards nothingness". As for himself, and his enlistment at Trinity United: "Without a vessel for my beliefs, without a commitment to a particular community of faith, at some level I would always remain apart, and alone." It's typical of Obama that such a cautiously footnoted profession of faith rings sympathetically to both atheists and true believers.

4. Political Talent and Ability (and yes, Experience)

This article by Charles Peters in the Washington Times sums it up pretty nicely:

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced — by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics."

The police proved to be Obamas toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, "This means we won't be able to protect your children." The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought -- successfully -- to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama didn't stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state's first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois "one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure"). Obama's commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who "bundle" contributions for them.

Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a "unique" ability "to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people." In other words, Obama's campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric.

5. Talent to Inspire

If you've seen Barack Obama speak and have been moved to tears the way that I have, and that so many others have as well, then this moment in the N.H. Dem debate rang true loud and clear:

“Words are not action and as beautifully presented and as passionately felt as they are, they are not action,” Mrs. Clinton said. “What we’ve got to do is translate talk into action, and feeling into reality; I have a long record of doing that.”

But Mr. Obama came back at her.

“The truth is, actually, words do inspire,” Mr. Obama said. “Words do help people get involved.”

Despite how busy we are, today my friends and I at Hashrocket will spend at least an hour, probably more, making phone calls to fellow Americans, encouraging them to go out and exercise their freedom to vote — freedom to help choose the leadership of this great country of ours, and infuse life into our democracy. I really wonder if there will be any other politician in my lifetime that will inspire us so strongly. I wonder if this is how our parents felt about JFK.

6. Not a Clinton

In trying to keep things positive, the only negative thing I'm going to say about Hillary Clinton is that she represents the past. Now is not the time to go back to the past and alienate this new generation of voters and citizens feeling empowered by democracy for the first time in our lives. Please Hillary, get out of the way of the future. I know it's a tough pill to swallow, but please, live up to your rhetoric and put the good of the nation ahead of your own quest for power.

Clintons: You are not change agents, you are royalty of the status quo, standing before us in despicable ugliness of corruption, starting with your chief campaign advisor Mark Penn.

7. Bi-Partisanship

I've voted Republican in the past, although lately that party is so repugnant that I can't even consider having anything to do with them. Despite that, I do think that cooperation with the other side will yield better results for the country, because it will be on Democratic terms. Obama's talking about allowing moderate republicans to join him at the table, but the table is going to implement Obama's plans not the GOP's.

Obama coming out early and strong to say "I'm not going to take that 'my way or the highway' attitude" speaks great volumes about the content of his character.  It's not a weakness.  Saying with confidence "If I have power, I will not abuse it" is a true testament of strength.

"I think the American people are hungry for something different and can be mobilized around big changes, not incremental changes, not small changes," Obama said Saturday night. "I think that there are a whole host of Republicans, and certainly independents, who have lost trust in their government, who don't believe anybody is listening to them, who are staggering under rising costs of health care, college education, don't believe what politicians say. And we can draw those independents and some Republicans into a working coalition, a working majority for change." Quoted in the Washington Times.

8. Understanding and Views About Technology

As a technologist, Obama's views on technology and how it can improve all of our lives is of a lot of importance to me:

Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let's set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let's recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let's make college more affordable, and let's invest in scientific research, and let's lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.

Of particular interest is Obama's goals towards opening up government via the internet to achieve greater transparency and spur citizen participation. The Bush Administration has been one of the most secretive, closed administrations in American history. If we're going to keep any semblance of freedom going forward, strong medicine is needed.

Among other things, Barack Obama has promised to appoint the nation’s first Chief Technology Officer (CTO) to ensure that our government and all its agencies have the right infrastructure, policies and services for the 21st century. The CTO will ensure the safety of our networks and will lead an interagency effort, working with chief technology and chief information officers of each of the federal agencies, to ensure that they use best-in-class technologies and share best practices.

9. A Strong, Black Role Model

As an American of hispanic origin, I understand some of the problems inherent in being a minority in this country. I won't say that I've experience overt racism, not anytime recently anyway — elementary school was a different story — but I know that there are additional obstacles for people of color to get ahead.

There's also the matter of Barack Obama as the ultimate positive role model for young blacks. I moved out of my urban neighborhood in Atlanta in no small part due to being robbed and assaulted at gunpoint by four young black men, right in front of my residence, in the middle of the afternoon on an otherwise pleasant day in November. Desi still carries a scar on her face from being pistol-whipped by one of them, and my poor sister, who had the bad luck of being out to lunch with us that day, suffered a miscarriage shortly thereafter.

Everytime I see a thug, or wannabe gangsta, with his pants hanging down under his ass, and talking shit about "popping a cap in someone", that's when I hope and wish hardest for someone, anyone, to rise up and give young blacks a completely different, more positive sort of inspiration. Call me idealistic, call me an idiot for saying it in public, but I think Barack Obama could really make a difference in that regard.

10. Intelligence

Finally, we can't take it for granted anymore that our political leaders are actually intelligent. George 'Dubya' Bush, our first monkey president, established that new reality, for now and for the ages. Barack Obama, in stark contrast, is an actual scholar and extremely intelligent man. He can think and verbalize those thoughts on the fly, in a coherent fashion — yet not resort to highly-polished, well-pollling sound bites.

In conclusion, get out there and vote tomorrow or whenever your election date is. Get involved. Donate! And especially, make your voice heard. Make history. Make this the time that we finally stand up and said "Enough already!"

Make hope a reality.

There's plenty of places online to debate politics ad nauseum, and I really don't want to introduce  yet another, so comments disabled on this post.

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