Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States.
And I'm going to vote for him.
My decision to choose Senator Obama could fairly be described as more bandwagon than profile in courage at this point, with the election just two weeks away and Obama's victory almost assured. I remember how strange it was for Al Gore to endorse Obama after the Democratic primary was over. Though some polls show the race tightening as it often does in the last weeks, Obama has a firm lead in the electoral college and more than enough money to keep the pressure on all the way to election day. I expect his get-out-the-vote effort will also dwarf what the Republican Party can deliver, so without a major mistake, revelation, or foreign policy crisis, the presidency is his.
So, why write anything at all? For two reasons, really. First, because I believe I owe it to you. To write as much about politics as I have over the past two years and then take a pass on the ultimate political question would be disingenuous. Second, I owe it to my family, especially Ben. We've shared so many political conversations over the past two years and watched an inordinate amount of Road to the White House episodes featuring obscure candidates in the homes of Iowans, not to mention a truly endless number of debates. It's important for kids to see politics as more than just an entertaining game. Besides, he keeps asking me, "So, have you decided who you're going to vote for yet?"
This has been a difficult decision to make. Though the campaign has been a disappointment, it has featured my two favorite candidates from the primaries. I thought both deserved a full hearing, including the debates. I respect each of them enormously and have been a supporter of John McCain's since he ran in 2000. Perhaps Obama supporters could at least concede that we would be much better off if he had beaten George Bush 8 years ago.
I have always been a conservative, but have generally considered myself an independent since the Reagan years. I have never voted for a Democrat for president (and please don't ask about my vote for Perot in 1992). The current candidates have regularly frustrated and disappointed me during the campaign, but there are no perfect candidates and I don't personally believe in staying home on election day or casting a protest vote for a third party candidate. I've come to this decision like most everyone else, by reading about the candidates, watching them perform, evaluating their decisions and how they make them, and discussing the election with fair-minded people.
Do I have hesitations? More than I can count. There are many different directions an Obama presidency might take. His inexperience could cause significant problems, particularly in foreign affairs. I do not have anything positive to say about the current Democratic congress, and the possibility that they will push endless bad legislation past a young president is an uncomfortable prospect. He may raise taxes, regulate the economy and restrict trade to such a degree that the economy is made far worse. His judicial appointments may be aggressively liberal instead of sensible centrists.
Here's what it comes down to though. First, the reality is that John McCain is far from a principled conservative. On many of these issues, he's adopted positions (or at least arguments) similar to Obama's. On many others, it's clear that there is no guiding philosophy behind where he stands on a particular issue.
Second, you make your choice for president based on the man. We have no idea what the future will hold or what issues a president will have to face. We can only choose who we want to sit in the Oval Office and make decisions on behalf of the country. Who has the necessary character, temperament, and wisdom? Who can be trusted to listen to others and respect the opposition?
I think John McCain is a very good man who would make a good president and be a significant improvement over President Bush. However, I believe that Barack Obama is the best candidate at this moment in our history.
In the next post, I'll share why.