Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Why Obama?

The last eight years have been a dark time in the United States. George W. Bush used protecting heterosexual marriage and abortion as rallying cries to prove his “values” while giving tax cuts to the rich at the expense of the poor and middle class. Basically, he used rhetoric of discrimination to gain support from a minority of politically active conservative Christians. After the 9-11 attacks, he extended his divisive policies to a global level. His administration used faulty information to win domestic support for poorly planned invasions with unrealistic proposed goals. Furthermore, it did this undiplomatically against the United Nations, with only a handful of supporters in the world community.

Now, life is economically harder for most Americans while we waste tax dollars on military engagements that do nothing but increase resentment for the United States and further threaten our security. For a moment in 2004, it seemed like Americans might get excited about John Kerry. For many people, it was enough that he was not Bush. Other’s needed something more. Bush’s greatest legacy may be causing so much disappointment that he opens the door to fundamental leap in progress in the history of the nation.

If we want to restore the middle class, we need a Democrat in the White House. Americans already began to realize the failure of Republican leadership when they elected a Democratic congress in 2006. We need to take it further to see the full fruition of that process. Only the Democrats propose a tax plan that respects the poor and the middle class. Only the Democrats propose health care reform that could improve the quality of life of millions. Only the Democrats recognize the contribution that immigrants make to the United States.

The Democrats did better on the economy and on foreign policy before Bush and there is reason to believe that Hillary could usher a return to previous success. The Clintons have been hardened by years of fighting for things that have benefited many Americans. Nonetheless, getting that far in politics comes at a price. Politicians in the system owe their status to powerful moneyed interests. Furthermore, on foreign policy, Hillary does not represent a strong enough break with Bush. She supported the invasion in Iraq. She supported the drive to label the Revolutionary Guard of Iran a terrorist organization and she called Barak Obama naïve for suggesting that he would just talk with our enemies. Yes Hillary has experience, but what is the value of experience in a flawed system? What is the value of experience if she hasn’t fully used it to break from the past?

Obama’s charismatic speech at the 2004 Democratic convention catapulted him to notoriety and made his candidacy possible without the dirtying process of a slow rise through the American political system. The movement arising in his support represents a real opportunity for positive change. One thing that conservatives are right about is that government cannot fix everything and the vitality of society is measured by the voluntary, active participation of citizens in public life. Obama got his start working on the streets of Chicago and his message continues to be one not only of presidential promises, but of a call to action. Reminding us of historical leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy, he is succeeding. Early in the campaign, Democrats raised more than Republicans for the first time and Obama raised more than Hillary. Furthermore, he did so piecing together small contributions that rivaled Hillary’s weathered machine. He is also partially responsible for record turnout at Democratic primaries in which he has received the support of both Democrats and independents. He is inspiring people to get involved who never before believed that they had a voice.

Finally, Obama offers a vision of America’s role in the world that best promotes national and global security. With Bush’s overly simplistic ‘us vs. them’ rhetoric, flagrant unilateralism and two invasions that have destabilized dangerous regions in the world, he fed into the hands of U.S. critics like Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Not only was Bush unwilling to practice diplomacy, he was not capable of seeing the world from another perspective. He led our government and people down a disastrous path of myopia. When Bush proposed creating a Palestinian state, nobody could believe that Bush would do anything but harm another nation for our own perceived benefit. Barack Obama lived in a foreign nation. Like many Americans, he has family from other nations. His love of this country is based on direct knowledge of alternatives and of this nation’s unique opportunities. He is someone who could realistically find common ground with foreign leaders and find workable cooperative solutions to problems like terrorism, global warming and globalization.

We are at a unique point in our history. America’s actions have fostered dangerous resentment around the world. We cannot continue to favor special interests at the expense of most Americans. We cannot continue a short-sighted policy of paranoia, arrogance and aggression. We need to have the moral courage to take responsibility for our actions, return to the inclusive ideals of our nation and take action for change. Barack Obama is the best candidate to lead that process.