For me this election is about change. Changing our party, changing Washington, changing the nation, and ultimately changing the world. I was only six years old when George Bush Sr. was elected president and ten when Clinton followed. They are the political families that I was always conscious of and are the personification of the gridlocked political system.
We can move beyond that system beginning January 3rd, in Iowa, and then spreading across this country as the people nominate Barack Obama for President.
As much as the names of decades past represent the DC gridlock and in some cases the shamefully-centric Democratic Leadership Council, Obama represents a vital, legitimate step forward. He plans to unite the country to reinvigorate our tired political process. We get the best of both worlds here, jump starting America to move toward progress together while allowing us to be proud to be Democrats again.
This party -- the party of Jefferson and Jackson, of Roosevelt and Kennedy -- has always made the biggest difference in the lives of the American people when we led, not by polls, but by principle; not by calculation, but by conviction; when we summoned the entire nation to a common purpose -- a higher purpose. And I run for the Presidency of the United States of America because that's the party America needs us to be right now. - Barack Obama
In December, Andrew Sullivan wrote a beautiful feature on Obama for The Atlantic Monthly, entitled "Goodbye to All That." In it he argues passionately for the transformational possibilities of an Obama Presidency that will even move to heal our generational scars. "We may in fact have finally found that bridge to the 21st century that Bill Clinton told us about. Its name is Obama," he closes.
What's exciting is you can see what Sullivan is saying everywhere. Obama supporters at rallies don't all "look like Facebook" as some campaigns want you to believe. In fact, the latest Des Moines Register poll shows Obama with huge support from men and woman, all age groups, income levels, rural and city voters, and union members. His spectrum is so large that it includes nearly 40% of independents and 5% of Republicans. This isn't just a campaign, it's a movement.
He has supporters from my mother, Judy, a public school special-ed teacher in Maryland, to Taus, a Danish doctor friend of mine, who wrote me today, "The world needs a man like him." The supporters I'm with each day here in Peterborough, New Hampshire are wonderful, passionate, and creative people - even entire families - who don't fit into any particular mold. One potential voter, that I spoke with today, was a retired police chief from a small town who told me, "Obama is what America needs right now." He was introduced to Obama by his college aged daughter and it's actually strengthening their relationship.
Obama is loved by many daughters and sons, all over the country, who are converting their parents to Obama. (I'm one of those sons.) The Des Moines Register poll shows Obama has an astonishing 56% of voters under age thirty-four. He's woken up my cynical generation and made them believe in being Americans again. It's brought out a patriotism that nearly eight years of Bush had stripped away. When Clinton's campaign mocked Obama's young supporters, I was offended at the message these career politicians were sending to young people who were getting involved for the first time; "Go away, we don't think you even count."
Obama embraced his young supporters and gave them a campaign based on hope and change, not on fear, like Clinton, or on anger, like Edwards. The truly stunning thing about Obama's candidacy is that it's actually positive. When he tells us that, "Your voice can change the world." I think he actually believes it. Hell, he makes me almost believe it.
Other people absolutely believe him too. While Clinton raised a ton of money from the establishment, even leading the Republican candidates in donations from pharmaceutical companies and the defense industry, Obama looked to regular Americans to build his populist campaign. With nearly 500,000 contributers, 90% of his donations have been under $100. He doesn't accept lobbyist money, while Clinton famously said at the YearlyKos Convention, "A lot of those lobbyists, whether you like it or not, represent real Americans, they actually do." Obama's built the grassroots support to win a general election with a real mandate to pursue change, he hasn't catered to Washington for his shot at victory.
Although much has been said about Obama's opposition, from the start, to the war in Iraq, he deserves more credit for showing such foresight. Clinton and Edwards both voted for the war, without even bothering to fully read their intelligence reports. To their credit, both Obama and Edwards opposed the Kyl/Lieberman Amendment, which Bush could use to justify a war with Iran. Clinton incredibly and unbelievably voted for the resolution. It showed, yet again, that her foreign policy votes are either: a) politically motivated or b) super scary. Stephen Elliot correctly noted last week on Clinton's Iraq Vote; "We're not talking about any mistake, we're talking about the great mistake of our time. She might as well have voted to authorize the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand." It's fair to worry over Clinton's foreign policy judgment and to give Obama due credit for his.
Clinton's experience argument has been largely dismissed by the press, The New York Times' Patrick Healy wrote last week that "during those two terms in the White House, Mrs. Clinton did not hold a security clearance. She did not attend National Security Council meetings. She was not given a copy of the president's daily intelligence briefing. She did not assert herself on the crises in Somalia, Haiti and Rwanda." Obama's experience outside of Washington should be seen as positive to voters. His work as a community organizer, civil rights lawyer, constitutional scholar, Illinois State Senator, and US Senator give him a wide and varied pragmatic background.
You may still believe I'm a crazy idealist for believing Washington can change. You may think that my judgment is lacking because I supported McCain in 2000 and Dean in 2004 in the Primaries. But, I came to support them out of my anger toward the establishment. I wanted someone to go down to DC and knock some heads around, even if I didn't think they'd have been able to actually get much done. But my endorsement of Obama isn't a choice made in anger or fear, it's a choice made by my belief that Obama is a candidate who can actually transform Washington, not just push it around during recess. I'm more optimistic than I've been in a long time and totally fired up.
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