Mom, Dad... I'm sorry. I'm voting for a Democrat.
The election is now less than two weeks away. I've had months to examine all sides. I've swayed like a reed in the wind, encouraged by one side and then the other, only to be disheartened again.
Many people, including my grandmother, have told me, "I don't like either of 'em!" I can't say that, really. I don't dislike either candidate. In fact, I've always held John McCain in pretty high esteem, at least up until the past year, when he stopped being a senator and started being a contender. And I didn't know enough about Barack Obama to care, nor did I make it a point to busy myself with learning about the guy. When I heard about his campaign, I figured he would be the Token Black Candidate who would inspire lots of earnest dreaming, but who would fall under the grinding wheels of the Clinton Machine.
How ironic, then, that his failure to fail was the first thing that caught my attention. Not only did he survive Hillary, he bested her. To be honest, he humiliated her -- not by anything he did, but by remaining cool and collected while her histrionics and desperation played out before a national audience. And now she's all but irrelevant; how long has it been since you've heard or read a story about all those disenfranchised Clinton supporters who vowed they'd vote for John McCain out of spite?
The GOP nomination, despite some early craziness, was never in question. It was John McCain, flag-draped war hero and nearly-household-name, versus The Rich Mormon and The Southern Evangelical. The Republicans' campaign was as rich and satisfying as Jell-O. It took the introduction of a moose-eatin' beauty queen to dose the ticket with some political Viagra. At the very least, Sarah Palin has given Tina Fey her own personal economic stimulus package.
Unfortunately for McCain-Palin, that's the second thing that pushed me toward the Obama camp. I'm sure Sarah Palin's no dim bulb, and she's probably an okay governor for Alaska. But until two months ago, no one below the 49th parallel knew who this woman was. Not you, not me, probably not Vladimir Putin or Nicolas Sarkozy or Raul Castro, either. And that matters. Because while I'm all for politicians being "just plain folks," they need to possess the qualities of statesmen as well. And the Vice President has to be ready to BE President -- in composure, in rhetoric, in command -- from Day One. I haven't seen that from Sarah Palin, and I'm not convinced we ever will.
These two instances may not seem like much to base a decision on. They may even appear a bit shallow; neither takes into account either candidate's platform or agenda. But there's something to be said for the candidate who approaches challenges and threats with a level head. And there's something disquieting about a usually savvy politician making decisions which seem to defy all logic.
And just this past weekend, a Republican for whom I have a great deal of respect agreed with me on these very issues. Former Secretary of State (and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Colin Powell gave Sen. Obama his endorsement while on "Meet the Press." Powell knows a little about being the "first Black man who...." But Obama's potential to be the first African-American President of the United States isn't why Powell is voting for him.
Instead, he's unsettled by McCain's choice of running mate, and McCain's judgment in that instance: "[W]e have had a chance to watch her for some seven weeks... I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States, which is the job of the vice president. And so that raised some question in my mind as to the judgment that Senator McCain made."
He is concerned by the negativity unleashed by the McCain campaign: "[T]hat kind of negativity troubled me, And the constant shifting of the argument. I was troubled a couple of weeks ago when in the middle of the crisis, the [McCain] campaign said, 'We're going to go negative,' and they announced it, 'We're going to go negative and attack [Obama's] character through Bill Ayers.' Now I guess the message this week is, 'We're going to call him a socialist, Mr. Obama is now a socialist, because he dares to suggest that maybe we ought to look at the tax structure that we have.'
And he recognizes Obama's competency in his ability to face crises with a level head and responsible action: "[W]atching the responses of the two individuals on the economic crisis...gave me an opportunity to evaluate their judgment, to evaluate their way of approaching a problem, to evaluate the steadiness of their actions. And it was at that point that I realized that, to my mind, anyway, that Sen. Obama has demonstrated the kind of calm, patient, intellectual, steady approach to problem-solving that I think we need in this country."
In other words, we don't need a maverick, let alone two.
To my knowledge, my cousins (all of whom are younger than me) who are of age to vote are all backing Obama. There's definitely a generational pull at work. I'm certainly not old enough to invoke John F. Kennedy's galvanizing impact on the youth of America back in the 1960 campaign from any perspective beyond that of a scholar of history. But what I've seen over the past year is undoubtedly similar. I think the pollsters and pundits haven't been figuring those new voters, those once-apathetic voters, into their calculations. I will not be so bold as to predict a landslide, but I do think that the outpouring of support for Obama will come as a surprise to news analysts determined to hedge their bets.
McCain "is essentially going to execute the Republican agenda, the orthodoxy of the Republican agenda with a new face and a maverick approach to it, and he'd be quite good at it, but I think we need more than that," said Gen. Powell. "I think we need a generational change. I think Senator Obama has captured the feelings of the young people of America and is reaching out in a more diverse, inclusive way across our society.
"He has both style and substance. I think he is a transformational figure."
No one can know the future, to see what kind of challenges will confront our nation and our president over the next few years. But like Colin Powell, I'm willing to step outside party preconceptions and give "that one" a chance.
I'm voting for Senator Barack Obama. Make sure you vote on Nov. 4 as well.
If the media is the eye on the world, Russ Carr is the finger in that eye. Tune in each month to see him dispersing the smoke and smashing the mirrors of modern mass communication. The world lost Russ on 2/7/12, but he lives on.
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IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
10.22.08 @ 8:12a
After attending the Iowa Caucus for the first time, I realized that I had pretty much made my mind up to vote for Obama. I liked what I saw displayed as a true segment of America: people of all ages, all races, all levels of economic status, sitting quietly, waiting to be counted, and resolute in their decision to support Obama. The makeup and attitude of the other candidates' supporters didn't show this diversity combined with unity.
For me, it has nothing to do with Democrat vs. Republican, and everything to do with selecting a representative who can guide the government through the brambles of the new world's issues. I believe Obama will choose a Cabinet, staff, and advisers to do this well.
10.22.08 @ 8:23a
Here's what I have to say to anybody who is not planning to vote for Barack: Everybody loves him, baby, what's the matter with you?
(Apologies to Don McLean.)
10.22.08 @ 9:07a
sandra -- i love that song - and now have it playing on the CD player.
russ -- welcome aboard. eloquently put. i hope this will help others make the decision to vote for sen. obama. we need everyone who supports him to vote!
10.22.08 @ 9:12a
It was John McCain, flag-draped war hero and nearly-household-name, versus The Rich Mormon and The Southern Evangelical.
You forgot Transvestite Mayor!
I, too, have always liked John McCain - and I would have voted for him in the last election he was in, had he been chosen as the candidate. But somehow, this time around it's all wrong. On top of that, I find Obama incredibly inspiring - more inspiring than any other political candidate in my lifetime. I actually find myself excited to see what the next 4 (to 8?) years will look like. I've never felt like that for an election before.
And, sorry, Sandra, but I have to respond to you, here.
It's little statements like that, even tongue-in-cheek, that always make me ashamed and afraid to tell people that I'm a liberal.
10.22.08 @ 9:33a
Well, exactly. I'm not en fuego for the guy. No yard signs, no t-shirts, no bumper stickers. He's the preferred candidate. There's considerable potential in him. But didn't they say the same thing about Anakin Skywalker?
I'm not tearing up my voter's registration card. I'm not giving away my library of George Will columns. I asked for (and warmly received) The Reagan Diaries for Christmas last year. And you'd better believe I'll have two critical eyes on the policies of the Obama Administration, should he win. I'm willing to give him a chance; I'm NOT willing to give him blind adulation.
Drink-the-Kool-Aid politics is abhorrent to me, no matter which party you identify with.
10.22.08 @ 10:13a
To be fair, Anakin did eventually kill the Emperor.
And I think a lot of us agree that before McCain sold out to get the nomination, he commanded a lot more respect than he does now.
I think the reason the Republicans often win these national elections is because their focus is often on winning, not on governing. I think McCain made every single decision in this campaign based on what he thought would get him the most votes, not on what would be best for the country. And this time it backfired.
I would never say "I won't vote for a Republican," because I would, but only when they can lower my taxes without cutting funding for things like the arts, music in schools, etc. Or at least not cutting it more than for anything else. I also can't bring myself to vote for anyone who would more than likely be in a position to appoint a pro-life justice to the Supreme Court.
I'm not a raving liberal; and if the Republican party ever climbs out of bed with the Evangelicals (again, useful for winning elections, not great for governing), I think I could proudly elect a small-government, lower taxes, pro-death penalty guy. Maybe.
10.22.08 @ 10:20a
For the first time since I started voting, I feel like I'm voting for the person rather than for the lesser of two evils. It's a wonderful feeling. I also have given serious consideration to getting a sign to post in my window (no yard, unfortunately)--and I detest political yard signs.
I want a president who thinks before he acts, who listens to the best and brightest before, rather than after, looking at their party affiliation...and most importantly, treats people closest to him with respect. McCain, for all his blustering reassurances to the contrary, does not do these things.
The other thing, and perhaps the most troubling for me of all, is what McCain's choice of campaign staff and running mate say about his general feelings about the electorate. It smacks of a basic contempt for the American voter, and it is a contempt that does not lurk far below the surface. Most people would probably say that the contempt is just for his opponent and the voters that won't buy into his blatherings---but I think it goes deeper. I think it demonstrates a general contempt for his own supporters as well.
10.22.08 @ 12:47p
Many of us who were young adults in the Kennedy era see Obama as a figure who will bring change at a time when it is desperately needed. I hope can stay his own man and fulfill our expectations for him.
10.22.08 @ 4:25p
I'll be honest, my favorite thing about the McCain campaign right now is how John Stewart pronounces "Nancy Pfotenhauer."
10.22.08 @ 11:30p
Every four years I participate in the Democratic primaries, voting for my favorite candidate. Then I watch the rest of the nomination process waiting to see who will end up getting my vote in November (it's usually not my choice in the primaries).
I've never voted Republican in a presidential race, and probably never will. Not unless they become the pro-green, pro-gay, pro-choice, pro-arts party that supports programs for the homeless and hungry, the unemployed, the mentally ill, and others who need a leg up. Like I said, I probably never will.
I should add that, like Lisa, this year I'm pleased to be voting for someone I'm enthusiastic about, and not just the lesser of the two.
10.23.08 @ 7:59p
Hi Russ, it's me your long lost high school buddy metaphorically 'passing the fuzz ball' in Mr. Prahlow's class. Am I surprised that you're voting for Obama? Yes. Wow.
My mother's fridge used to be hallowed ground for "Dun-dun-dun-dun-dunnnnnnn" Fred Thompson, but now every flat surface in her house has some glossy machine-autographed photo of some grouping of McCain, Palin, the McCains or the Palins, or all of the above. They garanimally match her Bush/RNC 2007 Christmas card(one of her most prized possessions), calendars, and other equally glossy machine-autographed photos of various Bushes and/or their pets.
I have to say you almost lost me when you said that Hillary's "histrionics and desperation played out before a national audience...." I'm not sure where you observed that, and netiher do I want to know, but you got me back when you mentioned folks streaking across campus at UF.
I actually witnessed an episode of that in 1992 or so, they were fully masked, greased, and had sneakers on, nothing else. Their run garnered my vote.
I was tuned in to Meet the Press, despite Tom Brokaw's lackluster performance in comparison to the late Tim Russert.
General Powell's words directly paralleled my thoughts, and I was so impressed with his articulation, my reluctance to vote for Obama was soon diminished.
I won't even begin to voice my displeasure with his choice of Palin as his VP, except to say: it stinks so bad, I can smell it from my front yard.
He's not the John McCain from his previous run for President. If he were he might have some chance with me, not that my vote is any great shakes.
In any event, whomever is elected President is who will be listed in my child's baby book as President when they are born in April, at least that's the ETA. Right now sometimes I'm not sure which is giving me more nausea: pregnancy or politcs. With either, you live with your choice.
For now: so long, and thanks for all the fish.
11.3.08 @ 9:09a
Late to the party, again...
Even though I (and you) enjoyed the Reagan years, neither of us can claim to have put him in office. No, my first presidential election was a vote for Bush, Sr. (yes, and Quayle). My second was for Perot, so I guess you could say I helped put Clinton in office. Being a life-long non-conformist I am big on third party candidates. I was (and still am) a supporter of Ron Paul. I believe we need to be back on the gold standard, that the Fed is a violation of the constitution, and that the IRS should be swept away in favor of a flat sales tax. I identify with the creative energy and courage of the founding fathers. But I'm not quite ready to "throw away" my vote on Chuck Baldwin, lest we all return to ponytails and tri-cornered hats.
Yes, I will vote for McCain (most likely, I still have roughly 36 hours you know). Or rather, I should say, I will vote against Obama. Yes he is inspiring in a JFK kind of way. In fact, he's so smooth I sometimes expect to see a cigarette in one hand, a gin glass in the other and to hear him start crooning. But having spent many years in the Assemblies of God, I am by nature highly skeptical of charisma. What is he NOT telling us?
Honestly, McCain and Obama both scare me quite a bit. But I think McCain scares me less. I recently told my wife, if I could have 10 seconds with Obama I would tell him the reason I'm not voting for him is because I think he will take the country in a direction in that it will cease to have any resemblance of anything that it ever was or ever could be. I think that he is very far away from the mind of the framers and that American will probably have to change its name. I have drawn this conclusion not from anything any conservative pundit has said, but honestly from listening to his campaign rallies. And I have heard most of them.
A few days later I heard a replay on C-Span of a panel forum held at Regent University. The discussion was about whether the country needed Republican or Democratic leadership--not specifically which candidate was better, and for the most part they stayed on topic. The two main forum members (at least in my mind) were Arlen Specter and Geraldine Ferraro. It was actually a very telling event, far removed from the mainstream media and their screeching, grabbing, poverty mentality. But my point is, in their closing statements, Senator Specter basically said everything I had told my wife--yet unlike me he actually knows what he's talking about.
I'll have to say, after having the senator affirm my own conclusions, I believe I am no longer undecided. But I'm still looking forward to the day that I can cast my presidential vote and walk away without feeling like I've eaten some bad clams.
Carr/Chase 2016!!! (I'll have my poli-sci degree by then)
11.3.08 @ 12:57p
I live in PA--Specter is not the first person I'd go to as a source of useful or accurate info.
That being said, I'm voting for Obama. Why? Many reasons (in no particular order--I'm on deadline and don't have time to do more here than type quickly):
-The man's character is lightyears beyond McCain's--evidence is his refusal to drag McCain's associations with Keating, his serial adultery while married to his first wife; McCain's associations with ACORN, the money McCain sent to Khalidi, and so forth. Nothing speaks louder about the quality of a man's character than the hiring of the very people who cost him a previous election due to a vicious smear campaign--and one about a defenseless child, no less. These same people stand to gain important positions in his administration if he wins. He wants to win at all costs, not honorably. We've had enough of those types of people running the country, IMO.
-His steadfast calmness when the economic crisis hit, and his willingness to seek guidance from those who are experts---this screams to me that he knows what he doesn't know and isn't afraid to admit it...as an egghead myself I find that to be one of the best measures of a man's understanding of himself around.
-His economic theory on taxes, so-called wealth redistribution (hello, that's what government does every day with our tax money--it's why we have medicare, medicaid, disability income, federal funding for highways and infrastructure, research grants for fruit flies, and so forth), and his realization that the majority of Americans are low- and middle-class workers who bear too much of that tax burden while the upper echelons of our society get copious tax cuts and benefit from egregious loopholes in the tax code that let them send our jobs overseas with a "way to go!" response from D.C.
-THE MAN GETS THE IMPORTANCE OF SCIENCE EDUCATION!!!!! I can't stress this enough. He understands that we can't go green in this country or compete on the world stage technologically or scientifically without shoring up our education system--and if we do, then we won't have any more politicians who disrespect science research that is vital for improving the health of our nation.
cont. in next post
11.3.08 @ 1:09p
-He truly loves and respects his wife. Watch how Obama interacts with Michelle and the girls--he doesn't see them as convenient props. He took time out from his campaign because seeing his grandmother before she died was more important to him than winning. He took time to take his girls to a Halloween party because it was important to him as well as them that he spend quality time with his children. Watching McCain with Cindy is like watching two actors who loathe each other trying to get through a love scene. A man who respects his wife and children will do right by women and children in his administration because he sees them as valuable human beings.
-Sarah Palin. This one is self-explanatory, but I'll explain anyway. The choice of this woman for vice president is indicative of the type of judgment McCain would exercise in the White House. The thought of this woman having the potential to become president frightens me as a woman, a Christian, and as a scientist. Her complete lack of understanding of the Constitution is appalling, given that she would have to swear to uphold and defend it in her oath of office. Her unwillingness to learn (it's not just a lack of intellectual curiosity--she clearly deliberately avoids learning anything that might go against her rigid beliefs) indicates that she does not consider education worthwhile.
-Hope vs fear. Any candidate that must instill fear in his constituents to obtain their votes is doing something drastically wrong, and is the wrong person to be the leader of a free country.
Final thought: No matter what you believe or who you prefer as the next leader of this country, do this tomorrow (if you haven't been able to already): GO VOTE. It's not just a right, it's a moral obligation. The ability for a citizen to vote freely regardless of creed, color, gender, or ethnic background should not be taken for granted.