Monday, November 3, 2008

A Manifesto: Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama and Why You Should Too

Over the past six weeks, I have brought you stories from people on everything from stem cell research, to race and beyond. We've talked about Hillary and Michelle, John and Sarah. We've discussed local matters and national ones. We've talked foreign policy and hot topics. But tomorrow, it all comes down to your ballot.

Though I'm usually a big believer that local politics are far more influential on our daily lives than national ones, I can't help but feel a little more tilted in the other direction this time around. You see, after living through eight years of absolute idiocy, I am beginning to appreciate the power of the presidency again. Unfortunately, until now, it's not been a good thing.

Four years ago this summer, I watched a young, charismatic and unknown man take the stage at the Democratic National Convention. While he spoke, something in me stirred that had not been awakened for years. For the first time in a decade, I began to feel my love for politics grow with each word he spoke. And from that moment on, I've guaranteed friends and family alike that when they saw Barack Obama, they were looking at the next president of the United States of America.

Campaigns change a lot. Though this one has not changed my mind about Obama's future, it has hardened me to a lot of truths--gender and race inequity are more prevalent than ever, the economy is not a one-fix-cures-all-problem, and people who were hurt worst by the GWB politics still believe in so-called "conservative values."

So for those still interested, and hell even for those who aren't, here are the reasons I'm voting for Barack Obama.

1. Obama's message of hope is the right message at the right time.
The first thing that made me pause in 2004, is the most important thing I think the nation needs today--a message of hope. We've invested the past eight years in two failed wars, a broken-down economy that has little chance of bouncing back on its own, and a general distrust for government. That message of fear has done nothing but seperate people and engender hate. Hell, even Yoda would tell you that. The thing is that America is so receptive to Obama's message because America is thirsty as hell for a new way of doing things. It's as if the past eight years have been a cash-only bar where very few get a drink and we have the promise of an open bar with unlimited top-shelf liquor staring us in the face.

Hope is what America needs right now because we have so much to work on. Without hope, we're likely to give up when times are hard. With hope, we're likely to work harder. We need a leader with hope to help us through these trials and errors. I'm not saying that Obama won't screw up at anything--because he will--but I'm saying that his underlying message is what America needs, gaffes and all, at this point in our history.

2. Obama's energy policy is by far the most thorough and thought-through policy.

One large thing that is keeping this country from realizing its potential is its dependence on the energy of the past. Think of this--for a hundred years cars have run primarily on gasoline. The gas mileage that cars were getting in the 1960s is on par with what many cars are getting today. People are using more, not less. And yet we are confused as to why we are so dependent on foreign oil.

The answer isn't to drill here, drill now or drill ever. That's a band aid on the biggest gaping wound that mankind has ever self-inflicted. The answer is to invest in new technologies, the way we did a hundred years ago, to further ourselves. The answer is to harness the Earth's less destructive powers for our own needs. Drilling isn't the answer. Clean coal isn't the answer.

In addition, one thing that Obama stands head and shoulders above McCain on is the idea of conservation. McCain's idea of conservation cannot be bigger than the head of a pin, considering he heats and cools 9 houses and fuels 14 cars.

3. Obama's foreign policy stance is sorely needed.

Anyone who thinks that America hasn't taken a beating in the PR sense of the term over the past eight years needs a serious head examination. The fact is that America is more vulnerable today than it was eight years ago specifically because of the ridiculous choices made by those in power. Instead of using diplomacy, we've found stupid reasons to wage war. Instead of standing firm on finding Al Qaeda, we've stood shaky on everything. America is being looked at like the boy who cried wolf.

Obama stands for rebuilding the relationships we've broken, building ones we've never had and making America stand behind its word. Foreign policy isn't about whether you'd negotiate with terrorists or bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-bomb-Iran, it's about what standards you set for going to war, discussing terms of settlement and moving forward as a united world. Preconditions to sitting down with other foreign leaders aside, do you really think that McCain the self-made war hero, if elected, won't try and start his own war?

I'm sick of hearing from the world how America has failed. I'm ready to stand with Obama to make America right again, by leaning left.

4. Obama's economic policy is the right policy for the U.S. right now.
The facts on this are clear--McCain just doesn't get it. From a young age, McCain was the son of a naval officer's family. He never had to struggle hard to get ahead, get an education, get a job, or get his bills paid. And while it's nice to have ideas about money, if you've never been where the bulk of America is or is heading right now, you have no idea what is needed to get things right.

Spreading the wealth isn't a socialist tactic--it's a way in which to deamonize fair taxes and services for all. Over the past eight years, we've watched the Enrons, the AIGs, the Haliburtons et al come to power with our tax dollars cushioning the way. Not once has the GOP or McCain questioned this as socialism or "spreading the wealth." In fact, that notion of spreading the wealth has only been questioned when individual citizens were the ones benefitting from any reallocation.

Cutting taxes might have been the answer when Ronald Regan came to power decades ago, but for America in the 21st century, it just doesn't hold water. Cutting taxes will not help those who cannot afford to eat. Cutting taxes won't pay for outrageous energy bills because we have nothing other than oil and coal on which to rely. Cutting taxes will not help a sick mom live to see her son graduate high school. Cutting taxes, in other words, just doesn't cut it. Running on a platform of lower taxes does nothing to help the country.

Obama has a solid financial economic plan based on cutting government spending where necessary and increasing it with those new-found dollars where needed. He believes in affording people not only the right to unionize, but the right to go to college, the right to believe in the American dream again, and the right to have a home and credit without the terms changing at big business's whim.

5. Obama makes us invest in our own futures.

Obama doesn't just turn the page on the old political rule, he opens a new book entirely. Instead of telling us what he can do to make our lives better, he has decided to run a campaign based on that old JFK slogan "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." Over the weekend I was at various volunteer offices and saw people of every different race, creed, color, belief, age, background, etc. manning the phones and knocking on doors. I saw people in West Bloomfield with Obama signs on their lawns--lawns that very well have never seen a political lawn sign before.

What scares the McCain people about Obama's following isn't that Obama will have power in an Obama administration--it's that people that have been disenfranchised for so long will have power in creating their own destinies. Obama has made his campaign a campaign for change based on the idea that we all have a stake in our political futures--not just the future of one man or woman, but the future of our society. Obama has made us break down walls and talk about race and age and gender and personal freedom. Obama has made us invest in our own political cache and together, we have made a difference.

In other words, ask not what Obama can do for you, but what you can do for you.

People are already turning out in droves for early voting in unprecedented numbers
. People are volunteering for campaigns that they never took interest in before. People are getting involved, and the part of the people, the Dems, looks to make a comeback.

Tomorrow night I pray that I go to bed exhausted but happy in the knowledge that for the first time as an adult, I can hope to be happy and proud to be an American again. I pray that I go to bed knowing that hope is not only an idea, but hope is on the way. But more importantly, I pray that I wake up the next morning knowing, more than ever, that a group of Americans can do something truly magical together and change the paradigm of politics-as-usual that has plagued our nation for too long, helping only those who can help themselves and leaving behind those who can't. There's a reason why McCain is lagging in the polls--it's because the old playbook doesn't play to Americans anymore. A historic day is on the horizon and hope is on the march. The final play is set and I'm sure there will be an audible here or there...but the time has come.

In other words, I can't wait to hear the talking heads say that Obama is our next president. Upwards and onwards, America. Upwards and onwards.



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