I moved to the United States from Iran on my own when I was sixteen. Despite enormous difficulties, I traded the limited comfort of present for the promise of a brighter future because I truly believed in the core principles of the Democratic Republic and freedoms and opportunities it promised. My memories from Iran included the images of my all-boys elementary school officials rounding up kids whose hair was longer than an inch and shaving a "+" sign on their head as punishment for having been influenced by western culture before sending them to classroom. Other images include the religious police banging a young man's head against the wall for wearing clothes with a pro-western message, boys and girls getting arrested in the streets of Tehran every weekend for the crime of being on a date out of marriage, the religious enforcement police telling women to wipe off their make-up or cover their hair and rounding up those who did not comply, and my parents regularly reminding me not to criticize the Islamic regime in school to avoid arrest.
I didn't know much about the American political system; neither did I know about the Democratic or Republican parties or their philosophical differences. I simply looked at everyone as an American, bound by certain common values, at the core of which lied the ideas of democracy, liberty and opportunity. I had thought that I would get an education and pursue a quiet career in the private sector.
I was very upset when the Supreme Court intervened to make George Bush the president in 2000 despite losing the popular vote because it fundamentally shook my unconditional trust in the American democracy. I tried to make my peace with it and try to believe the flawed election was an exception and democracy would be preserved. But following 9/11, this country began to radically depart from the ideals for which I had undertaken this turbulent journey. Bush significantly rolled back citizens' civil liberties, ignored UN's efforts to investigate Iraqi WMD allegations, outed Valerie Plame because of her husband's efforts to stop the administration, took the country into a preemptive war on false pretenses and authored the Patriot Act, all of which significantly damaged America's image on the world stage. Bush also pursued economic policies that lacked compassion and greatly limited the capacity of the other two branches of government to maintain checks and balances. For these reasons, I was drawn to American politics and joined the College Democrats as a member and subsequently its president because I saw the Democratic Party as the party that better defended the principles for which I had moved here.
Until about one year ago, I believed the best candidate to bring change to Washington DC following Bush's second term was Hillary Clinton. I also believed she was a candidate with the highest chance to win. I didn't know her well, but I think I looked at her favorably because I liked Bill Clinton. But after a few years of closely listening to her ideas, reading her thoughts and observing her votes in the Senate, I have concluded that Senator Clinton is the wrong choice for this country. While Hillary Clinton has contributed to the Democratic Party in many ways, there are several elements that make her a part of the problem in American politics. Despite her claims of having experience, she has served in public office shorter than anyone else on the Democratic side, along with John Edwards. Her inability to fulfill her task of implementing universal healthcare during President Clinton's first half of first term when Democrats were in control of the White House and both the House and the Senate is not only a proof of her inability to reach compromise but also an indication of the kind of melodramatic politics that America is likely to go through again if she is elected to the Oval Office because of her baggage from the 90s.
Throughout the presidential debates, she has repeatedly refused to give straight answers to straight questions (and has blamed her failure on "the boys" and moderator Tim Russert for "piling on.") She has run a dishonest campaign as the news media recently reported that her staff planted people in the audience in Iowa events at least twice to throw softball questions. This fact, combined with the way in which she staged a highly scripted back-and-forth "turn up the heat" shouting exchange during her speech at the Jefferson-Jackson dinner demonstrates what she considers a presidential campaign to be: theatre.
On policy matters, she takes significant amounts of money from lobbyists, to whom she can be nothing but loyal if elected. She voted for the war and then said it was a vote for diplomacy instead of taking responsibility. The true vote for diplomacy was the Levin Amendment, which she rejected around the same time. And she recently voted for the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment with other Senate hawks on Iran. This decision guaranteed that she will never have any credibility in garnering good will and doing diplomacy with Iran. Her decision is also likely to cut the legs from under the pro-western pro-democracy activists and help save the hardliners in Tehran the way George Bush's labeling Iran part of an "Axis of Evil" did.
In Stark contrast, Senator Obama is the agent of competence and change, and he should be our party's candidate. His commitment to bring change goes beyond words in his speeches. Throughout his public and private life, he has showed an impressive level of understanding and sound judgment. Following his graduation from Columbia University, he could have pursued a lucrative career. But instead, he chose to spend five years doing community organizing in the struggling neighborhoods in Southside Chicago. As a state senator, he united democrats and republicans to pass the biggest lobbying reform for the first time in twenty-five years. On foreign policy, he has consistently opposed the disastrous war in Iraq since the beginning, even when it was not the popular thing to do.
But perhaps the most important reason why I support him is that he is the only candidate whose philosophy rejects the false choices that are often given to us by mainstream politicians, such as having to choose between economic growth and protecting the American worker, national security and civil liberties or idealism (supporting democracies abroad) and realism (protecting America's interest) as if these concepts are opposing values. Obama's policy of diplomacy with Iran, in my judgment, is the soundest policy option offered by any candidate on either side. And his charisma, progressive message, candor and rejection of old politics not only makes him the best candidate to bring the country together, but he is also the only candidate who can bring a whole new generation of young people into the Democratic Party with his unmatched appeal to the youth.
As Obama's message reaches more people, more voters join his movement for change. According to the newest Washington Post/ABC News poll in Iowa, 30% of likely caucus voters intend to vote for Obama while that number is 26% for Clinton, and according to a new SurveyUSA Election Poll of Iowans, Barack Obama will fare significantly better than Hillary Clinton in the general election. Both surveys indicate that he is the most electable candidate in the Democratic Party.
Obama's message is attractive because he gets past the politics of loyalties to parties and special interests and appeals to the American people's faith in the core of the American identity. That is why I consider Barack Obama the best candidate who will lead this country to live up to its promise and once again earn the respect of the world.