HERE ARE 10! Nope 11!
1. Obama is post-identity politics. You will never hear him say, and he has never said - vote for me because I'm a black man. He doesn't say he represents change because he is black. Or even because he's young. When he says race and gender should not be an issue in this campaign, he doesn't contradict that view with assertions that his immutable qualities represent change. (As Hillary did in the New Hampshire debate. She said, "But I think I am an agent of change. I embody change. I think having the first woman president is a huge change -- (applause) -- with consequences across our country and the world." She reiterated this sentiment in the California debate.)
2. Lawrence Tribe, whom I greatly respect, said Obama was one of the two smartest students he ever taught at Harvard Law School.
Lawrence Tribe - who would argue Al Gore's case against George W. Bush before the Supreme Court during the disputed election of 2000 - chose him as his research assistant and later called Obama "one of the two most talented students I've had in thirty-seven years in teaching."3. Obama's appeal among Independents and even Republicans means that he has a better shot at getter a working majority (veto-proof and filibuster-proof) in Congress. He does this in a several ways: a. with McCain as the nominee, many in the Republican base will stay home (listen to Limbaugh) - only Hillary as the nominee could motivate the base to the polls. b. Obama appeals to moderates and independents. See polls and endorsements, especially these from purple states - This assessment is born out by the endorsements of many Senators from purple or red states such as Sen. McCaskill (Missouri) and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas).
p. 77-79 Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama by Steve Dougherty
This article from Congressional Quarterly provides a succinct overview of what's at stake in the House and Senate races. In the Senate there are 35 races (usually there's 33, but a few retirements have upped the number). 23 are Republican. 12 are Democrats. All 12 are incumbents. All of the five open races (with no incumbent) are the result of Republicans who have decided not to run for re-election.
The 2006 mid-term election has been a hard lesson in what it means if we don't have the votes in Congress (particularly in the Senate). Obama both brings Independents and Republicans to our side (and down Obama's coattails) and at the same time his candidacy will not rouse the Republican base to unite behind McCain (depressing McCain's coattails). In other words, Hillary will improve McCain's ability to increase voting for Republicans lower down on the ticket because she will motivate the base to get to the polls. Obama not only will not have this effect, he will increase the down draft of the ticket, raising all Democrats at all levels of election up.
This is a unique chance for transformation, not just of the White House but of the Congress as well. And, as is often said, much is at stake. All the determination in the world won't matter if you don't have the votes. Period.
4. Obama's rhetorical skills are immense and not incidental. He understands the need, in a democracy, to use the bully pulpit to move people. He believes words are important. My jaw dropped during the New Hampshire debate on January 5th 2008 as I realized he and Hillary were arguing over the value of words! He argued:
And, you know, so the truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Words do help members of Congress get into power so that they can be part of a coalition to deliver health care reform, to deliver a bold energy policy. Don't discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can't be done, then it doesn't. I'm running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that's why I think they're responding in such large numbers.He also wrote: "Of course, there are limits to the power of the bully pulpit. Sometimes only the law can fully vindicate our values, particularly when the rights and opportunities of the powerless in our society are at stake." p. 62 The Audacity of Hope.
5. Obama approaches the issues in a collective, productive manner - not us against them. He does not use the Rovean mode of politics of divide and conquer. George Lakoff has a terrific essay I highly recommend at The Huffington Post that frames the differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton. (And it's not policy). One example he highlights: "Hillary talks about "I," I," "I" (the crafter of the policy) and Obama talks about "you" and "we" (the people who demand it and who jointly carry it out)."
6. Obama would increase our soft power in the world, which is what the current Sec. of Defense urges we need more. I've written about how our current Secretary of Defense Gates believes soft power is important here. Andrew Sullivan wrote a cover piece for The Atlantic Monthly in December that I highlighted here, called "Goodbye to All That: Is Iraq Vietnam? Who really won in 2000? Which side are you on in the culture wars? These questions have divided the Baby Boomers and distorted our politics. One candidate could transcend them." I recommend Sullivan's piece. Here's an excerpt:
What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.7. Obama does not view facts and truth as relative. For me, this aspect is a generational difference. It encompasses statements from both our baby-boomer presidents ("It depends on what the meaning of is, is" and "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.") It's facile to dismiss one being a lie about sex and another a lie about a war. Regardless of the context, they both betray a casual relationship with objective fact. If one doesn't enable the other, it certainly makes indignation at untruths more difficult to defend.
David Brooks had a great piece that captured another aspect of that generational divide (about how and why Ted Kennedy would be able to speak to young peopletoday :
And he could do it because culture really does have rhythms. The respect for institutions that was prevalent during the early ’60s is prevalent with the young again today. The earnest industriousness that was common then is back today.For me, Obama represent that return to order, industriousness, objective truth and respect - not just for institutions but government. Remember, it was Bill Clintonwho subscribed to the Reagan's government reduction plan when he uttered, "The era of big government is over." I hated that in 1992 - not just because it was a sell out, but because it subscribed to the idea that government is bad, not worthy of respect.
Why does that matter? Well, if you deride a thing or a person, then you get what you expect. The lack of respect of and value for government has borne out in the incompetent governing that afflicts us all. Including in the use of our taxes. Consider this - tax reduction has only enriched private companies doing work formerly done by employees of our government, including enlisted men. And this companies are not accountable to us, the tax payers. Exhibit A: Jeff Prince, CEO of Blackwater. And don't think that it's only private contractors in Iraq that has cost of us more. It's across the board in all government agencies that are supposed to protect us - whether from poisonous spinach or Chinese toys or collapsing bridges or close calls on runways or drug companies selling untested drugs. On so many fronts, government is so broken because we've bought into the notion that it's big and bad and ugly. Well, it's also necessary.
You get what you expect. And if civil servants don't do it, private companies will do it, for more money and for less accountability.
Obama is changing that view.
8. Obama inspires new people to civic involvement and voting. This is the result of his rhetorical skills but also is exactly what makes him a "game changer." His nomination could change the political landscape. There's even talk of running a Democratic Southern strategy for the first time in decades. Check out this analysis from liberal blog The Daily Kos entitled Super Tuesday: Clinton, Obama and the 50 state strategy. Obama's got field offices in every state going to the polls on Tuesday. That tells people in those states they matter.
9. His last name is not Clinton or Bush. I've voted 5 times in a presidential election and I have never voted in a presidential election when a Bush or Clinton wasn't on the ballot.
Nicholas Kristoff had a good column on this factor "The Dynastic Question" this past week.
And the Washington Post today offers an in depth look at Relative Power, the history of political families in Congress and at the state level. One historian is quoted as follows: "The founders were united in their attitude that political office should not be transmitted from one family or passed down through the generations."
10. Obama was a Constitutional Law professor. Given how the Constitution has been perverted over the last 7 years, the skill, knowledge and acuity of Obama, honed over 10 years on his feet in front of cadre of bright students at the University of Chicago Law School, affords him a necessary perception and understanding of what needs to be fixed and how to cut through opposition.
He understands strict construction, judicial activism, original intent, the 14th and 2nd amendment, all the amendments, all of the articles. He knows the phrases ("unreasonable searches," "checks and balances," "separation of powers" "war powers") deep in context - of the document itself and/or in the case law over two centuries. He knows the sides and arguments up and down and side to side.
That's the guy I want to fix the damage done to our Constitution and appoint jurists to the federal courts, including the Supreme.
11. Obama is able to speak in religious terms and is not afraid of the religious right. See this from Marc Ambinder's piece in the Atlantic Monthly called Teacher and Apprentice (a fascinating piece from the December 2007 issue about Clinton and Obama)
Many Obama friends and advisers believe that the realization he actually could be president first hit Obama on December 1, 2006, which happened to be World AIDS Day. Obama appeared at the megachurch in Orange County, California, run by Rick Warren, the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and an emerging force in national politics. Sam Brownback, the Republican senator from Kansas, spoke first. “Welcome to my house,” he said to Obama, as the crowd laughed. When Obama rose to speak, he replied, “There is one thing I’ve got to say, Sam: This is my house, too. This is God’s house.” Before an audience of socially conservative evangelical Christians, Obama then called for “realism” and advocated the use of condoms to control the spread of AIDS. As the next day’s Orange County Register described it, Obama received a “hearty standing ovation.” Could any other Democrat, Obama wondered, talk to evangelicals about condoms in Africa?And then this appeared in the Election Central area of the liberal blog, Talking Points Memo, a posting called Obama Cranks Up Appeal to Religious Voters. After quoting extensively from an email sent by Obama to folks who do religious outreach and charity, Greg Sargent notes
"This sort of stuff does give Obama another argument in the primary -- that as a general election candidate he could conceivably do a lot to counter the right-wing smear that the Dems are the "Godless" party."
As someone long disturbed by the coopting and belittling of religious language by the Republican party, I LOVE that Obama is taking the fight to them and raising the level of dialogue. He not only speaks their language; he's not afraid to take it to them and challenge them directly.
So what are your reasons for supporting Obama? (or not?)