Yesterday I was undecided, and frankly to some extent I remain so. I've read with interest the endorsements of Meteor Blades and DHinMI (both writing elsewhere for some godforsaken reason) on behalf of Barack Obama. Personally, I am not above buying my political opinions wholesale from either of them (and from the latter I've done it repeatedly before). In each post, they sound similar notes, essentially: (1) Obama is a skilled politician, and no more (or less) than that; (2) ultimately change will not come from the White House but from Congress or the populace; and so what matters is that (3) Obama is best suited to evoke the strongest efforts and loftiest dreams from the real change-makers around him and among us.
I agree with (1) whole-heartedly. As for (2) and (3), I may be misrepresenting or oversimplifying their arguments. To be accurate, DHinMI wrote "What mattered in 1932, however, was the mandate from the voters, the 13 Senate seats and the 97 House seats that came along with Roosevelt's landslide. ...[T]his is maybe the most important difference between a ticket led by Barack Obama and one headed up by Hillary Clinton." Meteor Blades wrote "If Obama wins come November, it will be up to that grassroots, that congregation, not only to hold his feet to the fire, but also, and more importantly, to press forward the extra-electoral politics [that brought] real hope and real change to America nearly half a century ago." What I read in each of those arguments is that Clinton and Obama are (mostly) equally suited to the policy work of the presidency, but Obama is exceptionally suited to the figurehead, or symbolic, work of that office.
I can't disagree. And I certainly don't begrudge either of those two -- or any other Obama voter -- their choice. But, of the 4,727 words in their two posts, the ones that most resonated for me were these 22:
"I know for the political cognoscenti like many of us here at Daily Kos, Obama appears to be running a content-free campaign."
DHinMI flatters me (and other readers) by including us as political cognoscenti (or possibly denigrates the "real" cognoscenti; it's hard to tell with him sometimes). But while my knowledge of political history is poor and my sense of sound policy falters, I am by profession and temperament an empiricist, and I find in myself a deep and abiding love for the specific, the concrete, the quantifiable. When I hear Clinton speak, I hear those things. When I hear Obama speak, I am moved and impressed -- but when he's done, I'm left with nothing. He may, in the end, be a better leader. But I can only vote my conscience. Clinton has done her homework. I don't agree with her on many policy issues, but I know where she stands, I can recognize it as an informed and reasonable viewpoint although on some issues I happen to differ -- and I can respect her for holding to it.
I was listening to some music the other day, and a corny old Johnny Cash piece came on. It's a rambling story of him walking through a small town and talking about the worn-out old flag flying over the county courthouse square, and how every hole and tatter is the mark of a battle braved. The second-to-last verse goes like this:
She waved from our ships upon the briny foam and now they've about quit wavin' back here at home. In her own good land here she's been abused, She's been burned, dishonored, denied an' refused, And the government for which she stands Has been scandalized throughout the land. And she's getting threadbare, and she's wearin' thin, But she's in good shape, for the shape she's in. Cause she's been through the fire before and I believe she can take a whole lot more.
And it may be corny, and it may be trite, but it was released in 1974 and reads to me like it could have come out today. I see Obama as a spiritual leader and reformer, the candidate of "the fire next time," but I can't help but see Clinton as the candidate who has passed through the fire already, and remains "in good shape for the shape she's in." While I hope for great gains in Congress, and a rising up of the American people, I am not ready to count on them. And I am more confident in Clinton's clear purpose and skill being able to move the country forward in the case of a die-hard obstructionist right-wing minority, which I have little doubt we will face. But, oh my goodness. I never thought I'd be voting for Clinton.