Saturday, August 30, 2008

Why I'm Voting for Obama

I have tried to maintain my objectivity when it comes to the upcoming election. I had at least succeeded in fooling myself into believing that I was being objective, that I wasn't letting myself get carried away by my emotions but was rather making logical calculated, well-researched, well-reasoned decisions based on all available data on all of the candidates. I watched CNBC, Fox News, CNN, Hannity & Colmes, Anderson Cooper. I listened to NPR every day, all day. I had emersed myself completely in this election. I wanted to make certain that I was not basing my opinions and my choices on things like race and gender alone. In my mind, voting for a candidate simply because he or she shares physical and cultural similarities with you was just plain stupid. That's what got us George Bush, because gun-totting rednecks could imagine sitting down for a beer with him. He looked, sounded, and acted just like them, a good-old boy from the Good Old Party. But he wasn't. He may have sounded working-class when he spoke but he was a child of privilege as disconnected from the average working-class American as Micheal Jackson and Paris Hilton.

So when Obama threw his hat into the race I resisted the urge to go with my emotions and vote for him because he would be the first African American president in US history. I even went back and read one of my earlier blogs, Only The Best for Our Country, in which I laid out what I thought the qualities of a leader ought to be based on Plato's revolutionary idea that "Only the best and the brightest should rule". I was surprised to find that Obama met almost all of my criterion, generally if not specifically. A high I.Q., highly educated, has performed works of humanitarianism in low-income areas, and has held a high political office. When I compared him to all the other candidates he stood out above all except Hillary Clinton. So why wasn't I voting for her?

When it came down to it, I had to admit that the only thing differentiating the two candidates was my emotional response to them. I found Hillary's voice annoying. It literally grated on my nerves, more and more as the campaign progressed. Obama's voice was energizing and inspiring. I know, that shouldn't have mattered, but it did. the idea of listening to her voice for four to eight years was just plain depressing. That and Obama was Black like me. His race was the trump card. The good that the symbolism of an African American president would do both here and abroad made all the difference and, despite the sense that it made for me as an African American, I felt guilty about it. I felt like race shouldn't have had anything to do with it. But it did.

When the campaign narrowed down to McCaine and Obama I felt relieved. McCain doesn't stand for any of the things I stand for. He is my ideological antithesis. He has no head for economics in a time when we are in dire need of economic relief. He is a return to the borrow and spend, cut taxes on the rich, cut social programs for the old and the under-privileged, deny rights to homosexuals, teach myths as facts in school, force women to give birth to babies they don't want, spend billions on faith-based programs while cutting school budgets for the arts and physical education, and continue a costly war that nobody wants or believes in, idiotic policies of George Bush. He doesn't have Obama's education or intelligence. He doesn't have Obama's hands-on humanitarian experience. It was an easy choice. I had the devil I was looking for to make Obama look like an angel. I was off the hook. I didn't have to claim that I wasn't voting for McCaine because Obama was Black. In McCaine, I had an entire litany of reasons not to vote for him, to fear and detest the very idea of him as a leader of our country.

Then, Obama began going back on some of his earlier statements and my resolve began to waver. He said that he would continue most of Bush's costly and assinine faith-based initiatives. He wavered on his opposition to off-shore drilling. He appeared to waver on his commitment to bringing home the troops and ending the Iraq war. I felt like once again we were going to be stuck with the lesser of two evils. I began to get deppressed and to lose interest in the entire procees. Then the Democratic National Convention began and the reality of the first Black presidential candidate for a major political party set in.

I made my son watch Obama's speech. We all sat in the livingroom, my son who is Black, Hawaiin, and Fillipino, my two lovely daughters who are Black and Irish, and I got it. It was okay if one of the reasons I was voting for Obama was because of the color of his skin. As long as that wasn't the only reason there was nothing to be ashamed of. This was a historic moment, one my son would always remember and one that I could tell my daughters that they were a part of. An African-American of mixed race was a hair's breath from the White House. The concept of a Black man leading the country no longer seemed as remote as that of a White man leading the Nation of Islam. This was something to celebrate!

The more I listened to Obama speak, the more I began to reclaim my lost enthusiasm for his candidacy. I let go of my dissapointment at his move to the center and his recent pandering to Evangelicals, Catholics, and other religious voters. I understand that he has to broaden his appeal and that means that he can only appear so liberal without scaring away half the country. And as little as I could give a fuck about those Americans, the president of this country would have to care about them, particularly while running for election. The important thing is that he win or nothing will change. I understand. I also understand what his inauguration would mean to all African Americans, all bi-racial children, my own included, all single mothers who are worried that they won't be able to give their sons what they need to be successful, all people who are currently on welfare struggling to make a better life for them and their children, everyone who has lost a job because the companies they worked for have moved overseas or gone bankrupt as the economy has faltered, every kid approaching graduation wondering how they will ever afford college, every senior approaching retirement wondering how they will ever afford to live, every woman carying a baby born of rape, incest, or simple ignorance, every gay couple wondering what will happen if their life-partner is hospitalized or dies and they have no marital rights. I am voting for Obama because he is Black and because he is the right candidate for this country,