I’m a registered Independent, which means I can’t vote in today’s primary in California. Other states allow Independents to vote in party primaries, but alas, not my state.*
For what it’s worth, I’ve mostly been a none-of-the-above voter for a long time. I’ve voted for Green, Libertarian and other third party candidates in various contests. Mostly that’s because, after being raised Republican and voting mostly Democratic in the 60s and 70s, I got fed up with politics-as-sports (with just two teams) by the 1980s.
I don’t think I ever voted for Bill Clinton, or for his Republican opponents. My votes for Gore and Kerry were not for either of those men, but against George W. Bush, for what are now obvious reasons. Though I’ve always been attracted to outsiders, rebels and underdogs, I never would have voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, and not just because he was a spoiler (and a huge one, it turned out). While I loved Ralph’s early work as a consumer advocate, his ceaselessly one-sided rap got on my nerves by the time he ran for president.
And it’s still one-sidedness that gets to me. That’s why I like Barack Obama. I believe him when he says he wants to get past the politics of division and destruction. He is, by all accounts, a good and smart man who wants to return politics to dialog rather than the partisan yelling that comprises too much of TV commentary and talk radio.
And there’s something more. To many in my generation, Obama reminds us of what we liked best about John and Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King. They gave us hope. (And got themselves killed for it, which raises the same worries about Mr. Obama.)
He is, significantly, the first Democrat running for president that I hear some Republicans actually liking. Maybe that’s because he’s the first candidate of either party whose politics transcends the partisan hatred that’s been with us ever since the Vietnam war.
|I support Obama — proudly — because he has that difficult to describe, but not difficult to discern, quality of character. He showed it when he persistently pushed through legislation requiring videotaped confessions in Illinois — his graceful, non-triumphalist response to legislative success has then allowed Illinois cops to be evangelists for the process elsewhere. He showed it when, as the guest of the Kenyan government two years ago, he publicly urged his hosts to grapple with corruption and ethnic division.|
|Flowing from this strength, his demands on us, as citizens, are genuine demands, not genuflections. When Clinton says that its “all about you,” she means that she will work tirelessly to take care of us (which I believe she would, or pursue what she believed was the best path). When Obama says its “all about you,” he means that unless we find that 5% of citizen leadership in our own communities, unless we organize to oppose kleptocratic and ogopolistic and environmentally ruinous behavior, we cannot transform this country, and, moreover, we cannot hold our heads high as true, self-governing, citizens.|
|…the fundamental point of his candidacy is that it is happening now. In politics, timing matters. And the most persuasive case for Obama has less to do with him than with the moment he is meeting. The moment has been a long time coming, and it is the result of a confluence of events, from one traumatizing war in Southeast Asia to another in the most fractious country in the Middle East. The legacy is a cultural climate that stultifies our politics and corrupts our discourse.|
|Obama’s candidacy in this sense is a potentially transformational one. Unlike any of the other candidates, he could take America finally past the debilitating, self-perpetuating family quarrel of the Baby Boom generation that has long engulfed all of us…|
|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.…|
|At a time when America’s estrangement from the world risks tipping into dangerous imbalance, when a country at war with lethal enemies is also increasingly at war with itself, when humankind’s spiritual yearnings veer between an excess of certainty and an inability to believe anything at all, and when sectarian and racial divides seem as intractable as ever, a man who is a bridge between these worlds may be indispensable.|
|We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama.|
Bonus link from Steve Lewis, who also likes Louis Jordan.
* Apparently, there are workarounds. I didn’t find out about these until it was too late. I have to vote by absentee ballot from Massachusetts, and my form here doesn’t give me that option. But if you’re an independent voter going to a polling place in California, you just have to request a party ballot when you go in.
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