As Election Day creeps ever closer, it’s time for CityBeat to start publishing election endorsements and help those remaining undecided voters get their act together. Given our niche in Greater Cincinnati as a voice for progressive causes, we’ve recommended candidates and ballot issue positions since our founding in 1994 and take that role seriously.
Let’s begin with the big enchilada this fall, the presidential race. It should come as no shock that CityBeat endorses Sen. Barack Obama to be the next President of the United States.
There’s no shock in our choice because Obama is truly the only candidate on the presidential ballot who can turn this country around. And the country needs turned around in a big way and in a hurry.
The litany of Bush administration failures and scandals is too long to list here, but we can boil down the past eight years to these truths: Bush and his cronies have abused the power of the federal government (torture of accused terrorists and others, domestic spying of U.S. citizens, politicization of U.S. Attorneys, etc.) while failing to make the government effective where it should be (poor Iraq War planning and reconstruction, poor oversight of the financial markets, poor management of disaster aid, etc.).
In short, they’ve overstepped government boundaries when restraint was required and blew off responsibilities when they felt like it. An Obama presidency will move 180 degrees from Bush’s cynical, disinterested, manipulative approach.
Obama has run a serious, focused, organized and inspirational campaign for president and at every step of the long, long process has emerged both victorious and humble. His management of the big picture atop a two-year-long 50-state campaign organization bodes very well for his ability to lead the Democratic Party, Congress and the country over the next four to eight years.
Much of the excitement around Obama flows from his compelling personal story, starting (and in some cases ending) with his standing as the first African-American major party presidential nominee and soon to be the country’s first black president. It’s difficult to overstate the significance of this accomplishment, as his election would impact the country and world in so many ways, but it would also be wrong to reduce Obama simply to a symbol.
As with anyone, who Obama is and how he behaves tie directly back to how he was raised and the decisions he made along the way as an adult. Brought up by a single white mother, white grandparents and an Asian stepfather in exotic Hawaii and Indonesia, dealing with abandonment by his own father, trying to find a path in both the black and white worlds while assimilating with the establishment at Ivy League universities, Obama faced and overcame challenges before age 30 that few of us can relate to.
He learned his politics fighting against and later collaborating with the Daley Machine in Chicago, and he caught some breaks along the way.
Would Obama have been elected to the U.S. Senate in Illinois if his better-known Republican rival hadn’t flamed out in a sex scandal? Would he have beaten Hillary Clinton if she hadn’t made so many tactical mistakes throughout the early Democratic primary season? Would he be on the verge of becoming president if John McCain were running even a halfway decent campaign? Who knows?
Ultimately, the most impressive thing about Obama’s run for the presidency is that his campaign has come across as planned out, strategic and thoughtful. Imagine a president who plans, strategizes and thinks. A crazy concept, we know, but that sort of leader is desperately needed right now.
Obama will enjoy about a two-year honeymoon as president. Both houses of Congress will have more Democrats, and the Senate might even feature a filibuster-proof 60-40 Democratic advantage.
Obama will have the necessary support in Congress to enact his reform plans for health care, financial markets, taxes, the wars in the Middle East and just about everything else. Given how the polls look these days, he should beat McCain so decisively that he’ll be able to claim a “mandate” from voters for fundamental change.
He’ll also inherit two of the most daunting problems of modern times: the threat of Middle Easternbred terrorism against the West and the global financial meltdown. Both situations continue to drain attention and money that could be used to improve everyday life for most of us via better schools, fairer health care, better retirement plans, cleaner environment, better transportation and better planning.
If Obama isn’t able to get his team focused on accomplishing his stated goals and if world events interfere with his plans, the public will be ready to punish him and the Democrats in the mid-term Congressional elections in two years — much like they punished President Clinton in 1994. So he has two years to get something done.
Obama reminds us of the two most popular Democratic presidents since World War II, John Kennedy and Bill Clinton. Like them, he’s youthful, optimistic and oozes personal charm and warmth. He represents the “best and brightest” of his generation.
The warning for Obama, of course, is that both Kennedy and Clinton are often remembered more for their personal foibles than for their breakthroughs and accomplishments. Still, they remain revered presidents in many American households.
Will Obama be able to join the ranks of the revered? Will he fulfill his promises? Will he really be different?
One thing is for sure: When Barack Obama takes the oath of office at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009, the world changes and everything becomes possible. That sounds like a future we can all believe in.