Here is the reason I supported Barack Obama
More on that in a second. I've been in conversation with a couple lefty friends over Obama's early steps as President-elect. I get why people were pissed that Obama would save Joe Lieberman. He truly didn't deserve it. Man, when Joe Leiberman says "bipartisan" I feel like someone is cursing at me. I also think Chris Hayes has a good point:
Not a single, solitary, actual dyed-in-the-wool progressive has, as far as I can tell, even been mentioned for a position in the new administration. Not one.
Of course this was before Melody Barnes, but I think the point still stands, and it also illustrates, again, why the whole "Team of Rivals" bit is such hokum. What you really have is a "Team of Moderates." Obama's a moderate himself, so I'm not sure how much he is going to be disagreeing with these folks. I think calling them "the center right of the Democratic Party" is a bit much. I'd go with centrists, moderates or even "progressive moderates," if that makes any sense.
I say all that, because I want to be clear that what I'm writing isn't any sort of rebuke to cats like Hayes who are disappointed. It's more me airing out my own thinking. In doing that thinking I've come to something kind of shocking--I didn't support Obama because of policy positions or who he'd likely appoint. That needs some explanation. I obviously supported the Democratic candidate because of policy--because I'm pro-choice, because I'm pro-gay marriage, because I oppose McCain's ardent belief in military force, because I don't believe tax-cuts, alone, make an economic policy, because I oppose the war on drugs etc. On all of those issues, I thought any Democrat would be closer to me than any Republican. [MORE]
Here is the thing--I was a college kid during much of the Clinton administration. I know the web is filled with college kids who kept up with every detail of policy throughout their tenure. But that wasn't me. The Bush presidency was the first presidency of my mature life, and it really had a profound effect on my thinking. Consider everything that's happened--wrong on WMDs, attempting to convince the public that Saddam had a role in 9/11, opposing stem-cell research, backing creationist quackery, a naked embrace of torture, abstinence-only education, waving off global warming, an occupation that looked like amateur hour, all orchestrated by a president who uses faith as shield against his shocking, shocking lack of curiosity.
I don't know if George Bush is the worst president ever, but his legacy is appalling. What I saw, from my vantage point, was a government of suited thugs who squelched dissent and were intolerant of debate. Virtually everything about the last eight years, stands in direct contrast to everything I learned growing up in my parents house--work hard, be self-reflective, be intelligent, read until your eyes fall out, be honest etc. I supported Obama because, and this is weird to say, I thought he reflected my family values--I thought he represented in the world, the way I'd want my son to represent. I thought he was thick-skinned, deliberative, self-reflective, confident and an avid consumer of information.
When Hillary and Obama were debating, I talked to quite a few people about their respective health-care plans. I never got a firm conclusion on who had the better one, though I think it was Hillary's. I thought she was smart as anyone I'd seen on the public stage, and I didn't think she was to the right of Barack. I didn't think Barack was any "nicer" than she was. But I distrusted her propensity for the liberal defensive crouch, as Andrew puts it. I distrusted the fractious nature of her campaign. And though it wasn't her fault, I distrusted her ability to win. I was confident Obama would never pull a Sista Souljah, not just because it was wrong (maybe, not even because it was wrong) but because it was hamfisted, and overt. I wasn't so sure about Hillary. But more than anything I distrusted her inability to say "I was wrong about the War."
Look, it all comes down to this. I believed Obama was the candidate least likely to fly over an American city in the midst of destruction, and appear days later only to tell his point-man he'd done a great job. The most important thing for me is for the leadership of this country to throw off anti-intellectualism and get down to business. I won't ever know the most intricate details of government policy, and smite me should I ever write like I do. But as a voter, and I guess as a blogger, I knew I wanted someone in the White House who would be able to process all of those details--I wanted someone who was an intellectual, who had a supple mind, and saw no contrast between being a thinking man, and loving Monday Night Football. It's small, but it's what I wanted. And it's why, so far, I'm not terribly disappointed. When it comes down to it, man, I just wanted shit to work again.