28 October 2008

Exercising my civic muscles

I voted today. Early. I went to the Jackson County courthouse. Had to wait in line if you can believe that. I purposely chose the courthouse because I knew they didn't have electronic voting machines. I am still a bit suspicious. I feel better now because I had a paper ballot. Paper ballots leave....a paper trail. In case of any recount, there will be no question about for whom I intended to vote.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden. Damn. =)

Ok, I was reading Samhita's post on the role of race in this election over at Feministing and I think I have a last few things to say about this before I await the big count.

First. I did not vote FOR Obama because he is black. Just because: A) I find black men attractive, B) have spoken out on the importance of electing a black American president, and C) have been droning on and on here like a schoolgirl with a crush on the captain of the football team does not mean I voted for him because he is black.

I will tell you exactly what it is that led me, on February 11, 2007, to join the movement to elect Barack Obama. I didn't know about Barack in the Illinois State Senate. I wasn't in his district so he eluded my radar. By 1996, I lived in the western suburbs and never returned to live in the City. My first exposure to Obama came, like almost everyone else, when he gave the keynote speech at the Democratic Convention in 2004. Wow is all I can tell you.

I remember the first time I ever saw Bill Clinton. I was watching C-Span. A freak occurrence back in those days, and they were doing a live feed from the national governors association meeting (I think). Bill was on a panel discussing education reform in Arkansas. I was captivated. I didn't think anything about it for a long time until he announced his candidacy for president and I knew I was voting for him immediately. I knew, from that first little snippet I heard that this man had the right stuff. That night at the 2004 Democratic Convention, I felt that same electricity about Obama. I was all in.

He ran for US Senate against Jack Ryan, a longtime Chicago name in politics. However, a sex scandal which saw Ryan's apparent *cough* sexual fetishes *cough* to come to light as the result of a bitter divorce battle, led him to withdraw from the race. The Republicans brought forward none other than Alan Keyes to challenge Obama, which is to say that there was no challenge mounted at all. Illinois may be an odd place and racial influences have a heavy hand in Chicago politics, but in the city that revered Harold Washington, Alan Keyes was a laughable puppet. It made me feel good to be able to vote for Obama. I was proud of our junior senator if not a little perplexed by all the attention he was receiving. Before he was even sworn into the Senate, reporters were asking about his presidential ambitions.

In any event, as the 2008 election season approached, there seemed to be renewed talk of his candidacy. I couldn't imagine that he would throw his hat in. When he did, I knew that his greatest competition was going to be Hillary. I have read Hillary's autobiography. I was not impressed. In fact, I was incredibly underwhelmed. Let's just say, she's no Madelein Albright. Despite having roots in Illinois, she never really impressed me. I know. I know. I'm a hard one. I'm trying like hell to think of a woman that HAS impressed me. Albright does. Ok. I promise to write a post on women who impress me. Back to the task at hand. February 11, 2007. He announced. That was it for me. I was in. All in.

But I never answered my own question. Why was I all in? Why did I have every confidence in this candidate who, admittedly, lacked the experience that the rest of the field possessed?

1. Intelligence. I have no doubt of Obama's intellectual prowess. I am someone who wants someone infinitely smarter than me in the Oval Office. Bush didn't make the grade. Cheney? Smart but in an evil genius sort of way. McCain doesn't make the grade. Hillary does. But of all these people, Obama is heads and shoulders above the competition.

2. World Vision. By this, I mean, he has a firm grasp on how others receive and perceive the United States. I think too many politicians are blinded by their own "patriotism" and love of country to ever put themselves in the other guy's shoes. And this is one area in which I think race plays a role. In the same way that black people understand that whites fail to grasp their own privilege, Obama's background and yes, his heritage, give him perspective that the rest of the field lacked. They flat out lack it. They can't buy it. They can't see past the tip of their noses.

3. Diplomacy. Diplomacy first. Diplomacy last. Diplomacy always. I am sick to freakin' death of this cowboy mentality that we ride in with our guns blazing and spread democracy by making the other guy stare down the barrel of a gun. See point 2.

4. Economic policy. In fact, virtually any Democratic candidate's economic policy is preferable to me to trickle-down economics.

5. Communication. Read any of Obama's books. Both will impress you with the clarity of his thinking, the soundness of his reasoning, and the sincerity of his emotions. I came away from reading Dreams of My Father with the sense that this is a brilliant man who struggled through a difficult childhood and was smart enough to see that a new world awaited. He is smart, rational and emotionally healthy. He thinks and communicates in ways that most of us wish we could on our best days. He's the real deal.

6. An inspiring leader. Hillary fell flat here. Flat. Prostrate. I'm talking steam roller. Who in recent memory has been a more inspiring speaker than Obama? He inspires not only Americans. He is inspiring the world.

So while I believe that this election offers an unparalleled opportunity for America to grow as a nation--to begin to seriously address our racist past--and to look forward to a post-racial future, I'm not naive enough to think we are there already, despite the campaign that Obama has run. I have discussed many times before why I think it is more appropriate for America to elect a black president at this time than a woman president. I have spoken about why I think that McCain is not the man for this time, while Obama is. I have spoken about my party, my prejudices, and my aspirations.

I want Obama to win. I voted today. Please, please, please. Vote.

Together, we can. Oh yes we can.

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