As you know if you read my frequent political rants and shpeals, I am a firm supporter of Barack Obama, and have vociferously petitioned for him to become the next President of the United States. I have also donated, for the first time in any election, a number of times to his campaign.
Now that the election is looming, I want to again remind all of you to get out there and vote. But I also want to begin looking beyond the current election, and shed some of the starry eyed endorsement that I have portrayed here on my blog for Obama. I’m assuming that Obama is going to become elected, which might seem conceited of me, but it simply is due to the fact that I found out that my Dad, of all people, is voting for Obama. Listen: if my Dad is voting for a non-Republican, than you know that times have a-changed. He’s about the most stolid conservative I can imagine. When he told me over the phone that Obama was the best candidate, I knew that there was hope.
(A caveat: I also don’t want to be sticking my foot in my mouth here, either. His election is neither certain nor definite at this time, and like all other supporters at this moment, I am still slightly frightened. In a post Al Gore-Florida-2000 world, nothing in an election is ever certain.)
Obama, as defined by Colin Powell in his eloquent and intelligently framed endorsement, is indeed a “transformational figure”. He is transformational not because he represents, as so many conservatives seem to be petrified of, a radical shift from right to left, but rather because he represents a bridge between right and left. He is a center-left politician, but it would be a stretch to try to hoist any radical ideologies onto his shoulders. He is unique at this particular moment in American politics because he can appeal not only to left wing progressives, but furthermore to fundamentalist Christians and neo-conservatives (except for the blatantly racist ones). Such a politician has been hitherto unimaginable.
In recognizing his centrism, however, it is important to note, for a radical tending left winger such as myself, that he represents for progressives simply the potential for change, not the guarantee. McCain represents a step back, the step back that W. Bush so horrifically embodied. A step back in the sense of a bureacratic rejection of scientific and intellectual advancement, a continuing division between a tiny populace of rich and a large and ever increasingly larger populace of the poor, and a similar boorishness in foreign policy that guarantees that the United States as a society and civilization is destined to collapse in the face of environmental and economic changes.
Obama represents a step forward in that at least we know that with the right kind of applied pressure, he will make decisions that are based more heavily on pragmatism rather than ideology, and on populist necessities as opposed to super-rich welfare. But what I want to emphasize is that we cannot afford to sit back on our laurels after Obama is elected and expect him to make all the right decisions for us. He is an able and intelligent leader, and he requires the right information and feedback to respond effectively to our needs. And as progressive as he may seem in the light of the past 8 years, he is also simply a politician and he must respond to all constituencies, and he is severely limited by the controlling majorities in the House and Senate. The most we can hope is that he can start the ground work for the herculean struggle of righting the United States from its spiralling path to the precipice and begin paddling back upstream, bit by bit.
So while I may have seemed to be that uncritical starry eyed supporter of Obama, in fact my support is due in large to political pragmatism. He is the only candidate who can become elected that will potentially respond correctly to the challenges that our nation and our globe currently face. We need a leader who recognizes the intrinsic value in diplomacy, compromise, and bridging partisan divides. We need a leader who recognizes global interdependence and will respect and strengthen global institutions such as the UN and global drives for aid to the poor, collaborative environmental objectives, and international law and regulation.
I would prefer a candidate whose platform was built entirely on sustainable environmental policy reform and more solidly and specifically on building a regenerative green economy, with foreign aid to developing nations. I would prefer a candidate who was more proactive and radical on pushing through environmental legislation, with the aim of achieving oil independence within a shorter time frame, such as Sweden has already done. In an ideal world, I would be voting for the Green Party. But the time, unfortunately, has not yet come for a third party candidate in US electoral politics. In being pragmatic, I recognize that the candidate who is realistically electable and will potentially respond to environmental challenges effectively can only be Barack Obama at this moment in time.
I don’t expect the man to change the world. I expect that the world can only be changed if we apply appropriate and effective pressures onto his administration in order to affect necessary changes, regulations, and policy reform. But at least with Obama’s administration, we know that these changes are possible. With Bush, no change, other than regressive, has been possible, and the only hope has been in getting rid of the bastard.
It is indeed a brighter day. But the challenges remain ever more difficult. And it’s only potentially another 4 years that we have to move forward. In looking forward, we must bear in mind that we have to be active in politics constantly and consistently, not only on election day.