When I decided in earnest that I was going to blog about as many democratic presidential candidates as I could, I had intended to refrain from endorsing anyone. After all, this was December, and there were still nine democrats in the race. With so many people running, I felt arrogant saying that one candidate's programs are comprehensive enough that in every arena they are superior enough to grab all the votes that can be swayed by me. Instead, I intended to have a rundown of how voting for a given candidate would influence the final candidate's positions. Primary votes for Mike Gravel would have meant that legalization of marijuana might be something for the final candidate to consider, if they thought the risk was worth it. Primary votes for Kucinich would signal to the democrats that a move to to the left would be good, and with enough of them, the party might generally inch in that direction for good. Primary votes for Richardson (which I had intended to do) would mean that foreign policy, and his foreign policy, would be adopted in part by the final candidate. Having been hesitant in reviewing Dodd, Biden, and Edwards, I cannot say what votes for them would have meant. At this point, however, it is mostly irrelevant. The democrats are in a two candidate race, and I've made my endorsement.
If you didn't catch it, which is perfectly fair given as how it is on the end of the longest post I have ever blogged, I have endorsed Barack Obama.
Why Not Hillary Clinton?
The endorsement comes, as it must, as a preference for him over Hillary Clinton, so I will start by saying that Hillary Clinton is not all bad. She is a tremendously experience politician, and one who
has been working within the system and achieving change for a surprisingly long time. She is also the most serious chance a woman has ever had for the presidency so far. I do not mean to discredit either the idea of a woman president or the positive good Hillary Rodham Clinton has produced. I do, however, believe that Hillary's relative complacency, silence, and ineffectiveness against the policies of the past seven years by the current administration hurt her, and are a disservice to those who believe her to be an independent mind. She has not resisted enough, or made enough of a name decrying the practices of the worst presidential administration since at least Reagan, if not ever. She has been in power and in prominence and remained relatively quiet, refusing to stall or halt or make dissent known in the face of issues as important and vital as the civil rights and constitutional protections voided by the USA PATRIOT ACT. She did not oppose the War in Iraq, a war that has served to alienate vital allies and the spirit of both international cooperation and the rights of sovereignty, and has instead produced a mess of which there is no good way out. Her past inaction or silent consent offends me, and it makes her in my mind that status quo candidate; given the status quo, this is not something I will support.
When I set out to do this, I intended to focus on the candidates plans for positive good, and attack flaws in their plans and not petty assessments. With that said, a few words on gender before I look at her plan versus Obama's. Hillary Clinton is a woman who could win the presidency, and stands a decent chance at it. This is the first chance a woman has really had, and it it tempting, very tempting, to vote for her as an affirmative action towards the centuries where a majority of people in this nation have not had a descriptive candidate in the White House. I think that voting this way ignores many of the important tasks of a concerned and informed electorate, and I think that it is based on a fear of this being a one-shot option and then lost forever. Hillary is the first women to have a real shot at the presidency, but she will in no way be the last, and I can only imagine that by the time I can legally run (2024), we will have seen many more serious female contenders for the office, and an election seems almost inevitable by the time my generation is predominant in national government (2030-2050 or so). This is, to be perfectly honest, a really long way off, but Hillary has shown that a woman can be a serious contender, and others will come, even if she isn't elected.
The reasons one such as myself wouldn't want her elected, of course, have nothing to do with gender, or her religion, or her husband. My reasons, instead, have to do with stated policy aims, and how I tend to disagree with her about most of them. The sum of her domestic policy, "pro-business policy, with no serious changes in education and no real plan addressing immigration", doesn't speak to me, and doesn't really seem like it is addressed at fixing any problems that exist today. Her foreign policy is limp, and I am bothered that she doesn't care enough to make it more meaningful; her "Foreign Affairs" article is more a justification of simple aims than an elaboration of critical thought and policy directives. Her emphasis on a social welfare (universal health care, immigration reform, veterans policy) for those who are ready to be employed and keep the American economy functioning is nothing bad, but it makes welfare her game to play - a person gets the benefits provided they play along, and not from any notions of inherent worth and dignity. Her selling points do not move me.
Hillary Clinton believes in a stronger and more controlling federal government, and while she is slightly on the left in terms of how to use that pattern, the real spectrum that defines her is "Governmental Power <---> Individual Freedom", and she is willing to go towards nanny state policies to a greater degree than I would like.
She does, however, have strong points in a specific piece of education reform and with her proposal for the United States Public Service Academy. These are good things, but these are thing should can accomplish in the Senate, and things she should accomplish in the Senate, in the many years I see her remaining there.
Why Barack Obama
It troubles me that this issue can be debated in terms of white woman/black man, and everything I said about future serious women candidates holds true for African Americans as well (excepting the majority of the population part). The debate over experience versus inexperience/idealism is a marginally better debate, but it simplifies things, and it assumes that sufficient knowledge required for the presidency comes from multiple terms in the legislature. I can point out Abraham Lincoln (one term, representative) or Dwight Eisenhower (no terms; general) as examples of success, but the real problem has to do with the framing of the race in this way by national media, which is irresponsible and over-simplifies.
Justifications for inexperience must still be made, and this shows itself in the language Barack Obama uses on his website, which is full of technocratic jargon and legal notions that I can only just comprehend. He talks as though he is eminently qualified, and I will trust that he is. I have read nothing to disprove me of this notion.
Moving on to policy, I must say that there are serious flaws in some of what Barack Obama proposes. His foreign policy contrasts overly-firm statements to Hillary's inaction. I do not want militancy, but it is preferable to have an opinion, to make a stab at strength, than to pay lip service to a vast segment of presidential policy. I don't like his mentions of the PATRIOT ACT, especially when they concern making it more legal, rather than doing away with it as unconstitutional. Neither candidate speaks out strongly against torture, and that is also frustrating.
Obama's economic reforms are of a different veins than Clintons'. He aims at tax rebates and low income consumers as well as small business; Hillary Clinton aims at tax cuts and targets business and the middle class. Rebates are to me more sensible, and Obama's plans seem to fit in more with protecting consumers and competition than with strengthening American business abroad. His faith in a gently guided free market is reassuring, and his universal healthcare proposal seems to me to be better for both business and consumers, as it offers more than a consolidation of plans, a menu, and a buy-in to a national system.
Likewise, in education Obama hits upon the better points of Clinton's plan and offers more meaningful solution.
A complete blow-by-blow will be terribly redundant, so that last issue worth commenting upon is technology. Hillary Clinton "talks about the internet on her website like she's explaining it to an octogenarian on the campaign trail". Barack Obama incorporates the internet into many of his other plans, has a tremendous and well-written section on technology, and "he gets technology, and he gets the internet, and he would make sane and sensible polices regarding the internet and technology while protecting freedom of speech and the consumer". He incorporates brilliant uses on the internet into his ethics reform, fixes problems others have had (searchable date versus pdfs), and just feels like an appropriate candidate for the year 2008. This section, more than anything else, cements my trust in Barack Obama.
He is not an ideal candidate, and he is not an ideal candidate in my foremost area of concern, but he is a genuinely good candidate, and it is exciting to have the possibility to support and maybe even elect a candidate, backed by a major party, who I want more for his own strengths than for fear of the other guy. It is incredible to have a candidate like this, and to have one who understands the internet, and who trusts the American voter with making government more responsible, provided the information they need is made accessible. He will put up bills on the white house website for 5 days before signing them, giving time for feedback and reaction (and in this internet age, that is an entirely reasonable amount of time). I would trust a government with Barack Obama at its head.
If my opinion means anything to you in determining how you vote, I urge you to support Barack Obama as well.