I respect both of these individuals a great deal. I believe they are fundamentally decent patriots who want the absolute best for our country. They are both thoughtful and willing to listen to the other side. They are respectful of their opponents and driven to develop a consensus to solve tough problems.
I am much closer to Senator McCain than Obama on many issues, and would likely vote that way if the two were to face each other in the general action. That would truly be a once-in-a-lifetime election as both men believe in appealing to the best in each us.
I've had two hesitations about McCain since the beginning of the campaign. The first was his age (he would be older than President Reagan was on inauguration day) and the second was his attempt to transform himself into a Republican standard bearer instead of the maverick that he is.
His tireless campaigning has convinced me that his age is not an issue, particularly with the right VP candidate and perhaps a decision to seek a single term. Though his position on the war has severely hurt his appeal to moderates and independents, the recent success of the surge, his personality, and his renewed focus on issues and/or positions Republicans normally avoid, means he still has the best chance to broaden the party. I wish he had won eight years ago, but he remains the Republican Party's best candidate.
Senator Obama is the first candidate that I have ever felt a personal connection with, and the first Democrat I have ever seriously considered voting for. Though we are worlds apart in many obvious and not-so-obvious ways, I identify with him as a husband, father, and writer. I relate to the fact that just a couple of years ago, he was part of a fairly typical two-income household, struggling to balance family, ambition, and financial demands. He does not come from wealth, nor is he part of a political dynasty. He is thoughtful, curious, and eloquent. The following paragraph from his convention speech is one of the most powerful things I've heard in the past 10 years. Few people note how much these words go against the typical identity-based politics of the Democratic Party.
Yet even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us, the spin masters and negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of anything goes. Well, I say to them tonight, there's not a liberal America and a conservative America — there's the United States of America. There's not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there's the United States of America. The pundits like to slice-and-dice our country into Red States and Blue States; Red States for Republicans, Blue States for Democrats. But I've got news for them, too. We worship an awesome God in the Blue States, and we don't like federal agents poking around our libraries in the Red States. We coach Little League in the Blue States and have gay friends in the Red States. There are patriots who opposed the war in Iraq and patriots who supported it. We are one people, all of us pledging allegiance to the stars and stripes, all of us defending the United States of America.
Obama comes to many different conclusions than I would, but the fact that he truly thinks through each position, gathers a lot of input, and then makes his case in a way that respects the voters and those on the other side, makes a significant difference. He has moved further left during the campaign than I would like, and I would never be able to truly embrace his party or the Democratic Congress, but I still believe that the day the senator, along with his terrific wife and daughters, moved into the White House would be one of our country's greatest moments.
Next up: A Third Way and Thursday Night Predictions