09/29/2007 05:29 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama the "Hope-Mongerer"

I'm leaving the Obama rally, thinking, feeling, and exhausted from the struggle between my brain and my heart, my certainties and my dreams. I rush off the muggy platform, enter the uptown-bound A train. The AC's going, but it's crowded. I'm seated, squished between men who type on laptops, read book reviews, fall asleep, and the women who stand before me, holding onto poles. One has a bored, downtown look on her face. Another wears tight jeans, with an ass as upturned as her nose. We're all stuck here together. This is why I love the subway. You get humanness and God up-close.

But I'm sinking into myself. I'm trying to understand why I love this guy. My brain says he can't deliver. But my heart won't stop opening. He speaks, and I dream. My heart should have a forefinger for all the pointing she does in his direction.

Barack, what have you done to me? Things used to be so easy. I was a Clinton girl. Then you walk in...

At the rally, I made my way to an area behind the press risers. A few journalists, cameramen and photogs trolled the bike-rack barriers, taking crowd shots, talking to people. I realized I might get asked to comment. I've had lots of long and involved thoughts about Obama, but I've yet to sum up my support for him in two sentences.

I decide I'll say this: I support Obama because he is the candidate most like President Clinton. He is the new man from Hope. He has a big brain, but he has an even bigger heart.

Why does this matter? Because love makes you do things you normally would not do. Reason makes you cautious. Love makes you bold. Given the entrenched nature of our worst problems, we need boldness, a boldness fueled by good faith and shaped by strong ideas.

The other guys know how to appeal to the heart. They do so with fear. Fear that locks up the shutters and turns off the lights. Fear that tells you life is zero-sum. Fear that tells you to care about you and yours alone, without thought that "yours" can be more than those you count as family and friends, folks who affect you and your livelihood whether you like it or not.

But they don't ask me. They take more crowd shots. Waves and waves of people who came to hear this man speak. These pictures speak volumes as well...

Then Obama drops the H-bomb. He mimics his critics: "Oh, there he goes, talking about hope again. He's naïve. He's a hope peddler. He's a hope-mongerer." The crowd laughs out loud. A hope-mongerer. "You liked that," Obama says. We're still laughing, shaking our heads. It was funny when he said it. As if that's all he is: a store-front preacher with nothing but love for the hustle. As if they'd called him the worst word in the world....

But Obama is making his case. "I do not accept that there's a contradiction between keeping Americans safe and upholding our moral standing in the world." That indeed: "power doesn't always have to trump principle." He talks about experience, how: "a long resume says nothing about your character." He acknowledges that we have easier choices in this election. That we can vote for those who know the game better. But we must remember that "the game is rigged." Do we want a "competent person who can run the system as is, tinkering at the edges?" Or do we want someone who is committed to changing the system? Are we willing to take that risk?

My view is blocked. I have to push past people to see him, so I only do so on occasion. Instead, I listen. It's better to listen. To not just stare at him, but to hear the message. A message other politicians try to push. But without energy and intent like his, feels like boilerplate. Or worse.

That's what they don't get. We feel his intent. We feel the love behind his words. The concerted desire to deliver. That's why he's not a "hope-mongerer." He has never been an empty suit. He has never been like so many Republicans who mouth principle when all they care about is power. They wish they could write him away like that...

Nice try.


Can he really deliver?

I love that he's making his case. Going issue to issue, stating what he'd do differently. I know that he's working my brain, that pushy gatekeeper to my heart. Some people's brains are so large and looming that the heart withers in the shadow. Which is sad because the heart is the portal to grace, the door to all that's bigger-than-us in this life. Obama is the one candidate that has the mojo to waltz right into mine. He's won me already. If he asked me to sacrifice, to change my life for the benefit of the greater good, I would.

But here's the deal: when Obama says "change" no one here dreams in increments. The Clintons are the masters of meaningful increments. Obama supporters want more. They want commitment, they want the change of New Deals and Marshall Plans and Manhattan Projects. Change in terms of policies that respect the humanity and dignity of our fellow human beings at home and abroad. They want to see mandates maximized. They want to see visions realized.


I sit here on this train, struggling. I am surrounded by walking miracles, but my brain wants certainty. My brain wants a safe bet. (As if HRC is a safe bet in the US of A). All I know is if I asked my heart, she'd say bet the house. That progress requires boldness. That an Obama presidency may not be certain, but is possible. And given his direct line to human hearts, so is meaningful change.