Friday, June 06, 2008

Your New Bicycle

I am pretty pleased about Barack Obama.

I don't really have much to say about him or the fascinating forthcoming race just yet, but because this blog started with the disappointing results of the last presidential election I ought to at least track some thoughts.

Firstly, I think the man deserves it. From what friends who have canvassed for him, he runs an excellent campaign, pays people fairly, has strong volunteer support. In public, he's confident without ever being smeary, he's a good and thoughtful speaker, he's got strong policy ideas, and he inspires others. That sounds like just about what we need.

From what I know now, I can very easily imagine Barack Obama beating John McCain. First of all, I think worrying about race/racist voters is silly, because there is not a strong bloc of racist voters who wouldn't have chosen to vote otherwise, but will come out to vote against Obama. On the other hand, there is likely a very strong bloc of African-American voters both young and old, and a decent one of formerly disaffected college students of many races, who would not otherwise have voted but will come out specifically *to* vote for Obama. In spite of the ludicrous
"Hussein" debacle, on the macrocosmic national level I'm pretty sure race can only work in his favor, if it does anything one way or the other.

This isn't to say, of course, that campaigns against him won't contain a lot of subtler racism, the way they, you know, have already. Relatively speaking, Obama really *is* a Washington outsider—not a political outsider, but a Washington one—and we've already seen Clinton use that in combination with his race in a pretty tricky and creepy way. Mr. McCain, however respectful he was regarding all the "Hussein" crap, is not going to stay that way forever; in fact, he's likely to be quite sneakily two-faced about it, given his record on things like torture. (Read the full text of the Military Commissions Act, then talk to me about John McCain.) No form of public, blatant racism is at all accepted in the mainstream media (whereas I would argue that you can still get away with certain forms of blatant, public sexism, several of which we saw used on the Clinton campaign), but I imagine there will be some underhanded manipulations. I just don't think that they'll work very well.

And on the other hand, I generally find both gentlemen quite respectful in their personal interactions, and I've seen no evidence that either has ever been a smear campaigner. Both the Obamabots and the Hillarybots are ridiculously hostile (two notes to this: A1, that my frustration with using the male candidate's last name and the female candidate's first does not apply when I'm talking about "-bots," and B2, that "-bots" does not refer to every supporter of either—I believe I offended a friend with my casual use of the term "Obamabot" a couple of weeks ago), but only in Clinton's campaign did it seem to extend to the candidate herself, and even then not as much as everyone said it did. So it's going to be pretty interesting to see them try to take one another down respectfully, and whether it works.

I can't say I'm *excited* yet about the notion of Barack Obama as president; I wish I could, and probably with some closer engagement with the man and his work I'll be able to. A McCain presidency would be an extension of the Bush presidency with better public speaking and slightly higher-quality diplomacy, but I'd rather not vote against someone again. I don't need Barack Obama to be my new bicycle, and I chafe against people who try to tell me that he should be, with the result that I just plain don't know enough—I've become an observer of style and social trends surrounding the man, rather than the man himself. Fortunately, I have five months to change that. (Anybody have any particularly good sources for learning about him, aside from his own books?)

But I am excited about the campaign. Whether or not a Barack Obama presidency would be a radical change for America, he is unprecedented in my lifetime, both as a black candidate and a genuine political inspiration to a younger generation. We're going to see a lot of polarities at play in this campaign, and I imagine it's going to be, and stay, genuinely exciting. That's pretty bloody awesome, and historical, and I'm happy to be around and awake for it.


At 2:58 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

my mom's friend Marcy approves "From Promise to Power" by David Mendell as an Obama source, i just (re-)found out... hearing her talk about it, what she said seemed like it contained a healthy mix of positive and negative about him, so overall i infer it might possibly be just the kind of thing you're looking for....


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