In order to explain why I support Brarak Obama, I must give some background on my personal political philosophy. In the last two presidential elections I voted for Ralph Nader. Why “throw away” your vote, you ask? Well, I believe that the United States is held hostage by the two party system. In a word of far ranging possibilities, we are given only those possible solutions to political problems that fit within the narrow spectrum of what the Republicans and Democrats will consider. I liken American politics to a football field. The entire range of possible political action would be the full 100 yards of the field. However, the entrenched powers of the Democratic and Republican parties will only ever play between, because American is a right-leaning country, the conservative 20 yard line to the liberal 40 yard line. On either side of these political positions are a range of possible solutions that will not be considered because there is no apparatus in the two party system to bring these ideas into the public discourse. It has been my position that the only vote that actually counted was a vote to oppose the current Republican/Democrat hegemony that controls power in this country. Consider, for example, that neither party is ever “out of power,” they only shift footings regarding which party has slightly more power than the other. We are lead to believe that the presumably hard fought battles between democrats and republicans prove that they are bitter rivals, and on some level perhaps they are. But one thing they absolutely agree on is that the two party system must remain intact. They have a lock on power, they know it, and they will do anything they can to keep it that way (i.e. in 2004, the Democratic party paid the Green party not to nominate Ralph Nader again, thereby marginalizing both the party and the candidate).
I have argued, while supporting my votes for Nader, that the two major US political parties are so similar that any difference between them is insignificant. Over the last eight years, President Bush has worked hard to disabuse me of this notion. Think what you will of Al Gore, but no one could reasonably suggest that we would be mired in Iraq right now if Gore had won in 2000. Bush I and Clinton were essentially the same presidency (Clinton passed NAFTA of all things), but Bush II is so radically conservative and hawkish that I must acknowledge that there is a difference between the parties. The real problem, however, is that there was no one to stand up to Bush when he went into Iraq. There was no one, as one might see in the British Parliament, to shout down the notion of war and force the country to really consider the implications of a “preemptive war” (how evangelical Christians reconcile their beliefs and the Bush doctrine of preemptive war is beyond me). In a nation that was perhaps a little too eager to punch someone in the mouth to prove just how tough it still was, the democrats rolled over and, despite revisionist histories by both Bill and Hillary Clinton, gave Bush the power to go to war.
So what does this all have to do with Obama? Well, the Bush II presidency has been so disastrous for the US that the democrats are basically assured of winning the presidency. An unpopular and costly war, a burgeoning deficit, the mortgage crisis, spiraling healthcare costs even for those lucky enough to have insurance—the country is not in good shape, and one needn’t be a partisan to see it. The catastrophe of the Bush presidency allows the Democratic party to nominate someone that is not a centrist in the stripe of Clinton, but instead nominate a candidate with truly progressive ideas (maybe even getting to the liberal 30 yard line?). But who would this nominee be? John Edwards was one of the most unabashedly liberal of the major democratic candidates, but he’s dropped out. Hillary Clinton, until her recent conversion to the true liberal cause, has been a staunch moderate. Despite popular opinion of her she has long been a centrist democrat. In fact, she is a member of the Democratic Leadership Conference, a centrist group within the democratic party (Joe Liberman is also a member of the DLC). That leaves us with Barak Obama, a unashamedly progressive candidate who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning. And while others were off making money by cutting back labor costs, he was using his law degree to help community activists in Chicago try to improve their city. The choice for anyone leaning left, is clear: Barak Obama represents a chance to shift the powerbase in Washington in a way similar to how a third party might. In a political landscape covered with presumptive nominees, 96% incumbent reelections, and political dynasties, Obama is the proverbial monkey wrench that might just get us out of, not the mythological Washington gridlock, but the status quo where both major parties shrug off lost elections because they know, without a doubt, that they’ll be back in 4 to 8 years. But would I advocate electing someone to such a critical office just to be a token of discontent? No, of course not. In my next post I’ll detail why I believe Obama isn’t only the best choice to challenged entrenched Washington politics, but is in fact the best candidate for the office of President of the United States.