One More in the Box for Obama

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Kathleen and I visited city hall in Menomonie last week and took advantage of Wisconsin’s early voter option. I was happy to cast a vote for Barack Obama, who I think is the best candidate for president in this campaign, and possibly in my lifetime.

He’s an eloquent speaker at a time when this country desperately needs one. It’s always frustrated me that the American people don’t seem to see that as a base qualification for President. What does any politician do but talk? Could we not agree that the very top politician in this country should be a fluent speaker, of at least one language? When our leader sits down with other world leaders behind closed doors, I want to know that he’s representing us well - not floundering with language like a high-school English drop-out. And that leads me to what I think is Obama’s other great strength - he’s an intellectual. For the last 8 years the folks in charge in this country have mocked intelligence and learning. That attitude has clearly brought us to a great place. So it’s time for a person of curiosity to step into the office. I want someone who believes in science, someone who chooses to learn all he can about issues. I think the Democratic ticket in this election represents those values. I appreciate that Obama is willing to speak to voters as if they’re intelligent. The rabid right seized on the Joe the Plumber conversation because of one phrase in the whole conversation. What I saw was a candidate that took 5 minutes to speak intelligently about the details of his policy to a voter who didn’t agree with him. I saw him be respectful, and not say “Well, this probably bores you”.

Second, I agree with the bulk of Obama’s policy positions. In particular I think his tech policies make a lot of sense. I’d like to see him stretch further on healthcare reform, but I think his plan is a good first step. I believe his tax policies are sane and sensible. Again, can we actually have a discussion about the details of policy decisions, instead of trying to stick a simplistic (and let’s face it, idiotic) label on it like “socialist”? Obama is clearly capable of having those discussions.

Regarding foreign policy, I think Obama not only has better policies, but the man believes that the U.S. should be engaged with the rest of the world, and not primarily in a military manner. He’s stated that it will be his policy to sit down and talk with any other nation in the world, without preconditions. This is a position for which he’s been roundly mocked and castigated by his opponent. I have yet to find anyone who can explain to me why talking is a bad thing. The only response I’ve ever heard is “Well, that will give them legitimacy.” Huh? As if actually BEING a nation isn’t legitimate? We may not like them, but simply refusing to even talk with another nation is lunacy. Conversation has to be the beginning. It’s absurd to say “We’ll never take military options off the table” and at the same time say “We’ll take many diplomatic options off the table.” That attitude, I believe, is one of the reasons so many people around the world despise our government.

I believe Barack Obama will be a better manager of the operation of the executive branch. I believe this because I think Barack Obama has been a better manager of his campaign organization than his opponent. The Obama campaign has run like a well-oiled machine. They have been incredibly innovative in their use of the internet and information technology. They have reached out and raised funds from more contributors than any campaign in history. (I believe the number of people wanting to get involved is a good thing, but at the same time I wish it didn’t require so much money to run modern campaigns - that system needs to change.) Reaching back to Obama’s roots as a community organizer, the campaign has pushed a lot of decisions and power down to the local people working on the campaign. The campaign has provided an unprecedented level of leadership development and support to people, helping them to become more involved not only in the campaign but in their community as well. I’ve been in the position of someone I admire saying to me, “I believe you can be a good leader.” It seems a simple thing, but that kind of statement to a person can literally transform their life.

And finally, but by no means least importantly, I see Obama as a believer in hope. I’m sick to death of the leader of our country constantly spewing “The bogey man is coming to get you, the evil doers will kill us, we need to be afraid.” That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice and cynicism of the worst kind. You can call it corny, but Obama’s message is largely one of hope, belief that things can change for the better. He doesn’t use fear to convince people to follow him. That speaks to me, and I fervently wish that it spoke to a larger majority of my fellow citizens. Without that basic hope, things will NOT change. The President of our nation has a bully pulpit. He can, if he chooses, set the tone of public discourse. President Bush’s speech from the World Trade Center just after 911 is an example of that - he brought the country together. His further response to the crisis, “go shopping” and “they’re coming to get us”, are both good examples of that as well, in the negative sense. We now have a chance to change the public discourse in this country. The first step is electing a good leader. The second is believing things can change, and then pitching in to help. If we make the wrong choices or the right choices, we will deserve the results we get.

Go vote. And remember, that’s the start of the process, not the end of it.

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