Note: this is the follow-up to an earlier post. You may want to start here.
10. The historical moment
When Barack Obama spoke at the Democratic Convention in 2004, I said it was one of the best speeches I had ever heard. I also knew that I was hearing the first Democrat who I would ever consider voting for. When he decided to run for President 21 months ago, I was excited by the possibility, but knew like most that it was highly unlikely that an African-American with just two years experience as a senator could defeat the Clinton machine and be elected in a time of war. What he has accomplished already is historic, but it is nothing compared to what is to come. When my grandchildren ask me how I voted at this historic moment, I know what I want my answer to be.
9. What it says about America
I want to live in a country where Barack Obama can be elected president. The entire world will look at the United States differently if he wins, yes partly due to his name and race, but also because of the clear contrast he presents to President Bush. We'd like to pretend that our popularity is not important, and obviously our national interest should always come first, but we as a nation are better off when the rest of the world sees us in a positive light and is willing to hear what we have to say.
8. The Republican Party
Political parties regularly rise and fall. Sometimes the best thing that can happen to a party is for it to be truly humbled, to be sent into the wilderness where it can rethink what it stands for and develop a new message for new times (see the Republican Party after Watergate or the current Conservative Party in Britain). The Republican Party deserves to be in the position it is in and could only benefit from starting over again. A quick aside: I don't think any Republican could have won this year and it is a testament to McCain's broad appeal that the race is as close as it is.
7. Personal identification
All of us like to identify with our leaders, but it is rare that average Americans can relate to a president. However, Obama's age, smart, beautiful, professional wife, adorable children, family finances (until recently), and love of writing are all things that make Obama the first candidate I have actually felt a connection with (as funny as that sounds).
The ability to write an eloquent speech and deliver it is a critical skill for a leader. Do speeches make a candidate? Certainly not. As a president, though, the ability to make the case to the country and the world, to inspire, challenge and convince us, is profoundly important. When Obama delivers a State of the Union address, or speaks to the nation from the Oval Office, his skill and eloquence will demand our attention. Speeches are a huge part of who we are, and they are worth doing exceptionally well.
5. Being smart is a good thing
How strange that it's left to the Democratic Party to make the case for exceptionalism (see The Incredibles). Obama is a very smart man who has surrounded himself with accomplished advisors. He is open to ideas from different sources and has proven himself to be thoughtful and careful in his thinking, almost to a fault. His primary debate flaw was been his insistence on being careful in his word choices and exploring every nuance of an issue.
Intelligence is not the same as wisdom or good judgment, but nor is it the character flaw that the Republican Party seems to think it is. David Brooks wrote an, um, incredible piece on this exact subject.
4. One America
From his initial speech in Boston four years ago to this endless race, Obama has reached out to all parts of the country. I believe he has great respect for our nation as a whole and all political persuasions within it (more so than many of his supporters actually). He has spoken about the role of faith in politics better than most Republicans and attended a Rick Warren forum long before he was a candidate for president. I believe he truly wants to unite us a country and has resisted endless opportunities in the campaign to exploit our differences. I'm not so naive to think a new political era is coming, but I believe we can and will do better.
3. The campaign
Obama has run a phenomenal campaign and proven to be a truly impressive candidate. A campaign is no substitute for substantial political experience, but it reveals a lot about a person and his or her management style. Bill Clinton's chaotic campaign filled with emotional highs and lows, hints of scandal, and the relentless pursuit of every vote hinted at the early years of his presidency. Bush's campaign showed his tunnel focus and lack of openness. Hillary's campaign problems were traced back to her lack of decisiveness and tolerance of infighting. McCain's campaign has also been chaotic, constantly reaching for a new message or line of attack and lacking a consistent theme or underlying philosophy. His White House would likely be similar.
Obama's campaign, on the other hand, has been more impressive than any I've seen, especially during the primaries. It has been incredibly consistent, largely mistake free, and innovative in its fundraising and use of the web. Its success is one of the most remarkable achievements of modern politics and it speaks to what kind of leader Obama will be.
The campaign has also shown Obama to be a steady force, driven and consistent. He speaks often of never getting too high or low based on polls or the state of the campaign and the past two years have proven that to be the case. He has generally avoided pandering to one group or another (except for a leftward turn during the primaries). Instead of Bill Clinton's somewhat desperate need for approval, Obama seems remarkably self-assured and comfortable with who he is. These are the characteristics I want in a president.
1. When I turn on the television on January 20, 2009 to watch the inauguration, who do I want to see?
Even when I was closest to voting for Senator McCain, this question made me think twice because I knew in my heart what the answer was.
I want Senator Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States.