This is another essay by me in response to a question from dad.
|A Change we can believe in? Why not?
Allow me to begin this essay by stating that I am in no way a pundit or political junkie. If anything, I'm much more like the average American, the uninformed voter, someone who feels the patriotic need to take part in the election process even if he has no idea what exactly he's voting for. I'm sure I'm not the only one who may vote on a piece of legislation based on the last commercial he heard on television (“Yes on 42!” “Say No to 177!”). If it turns out that I just voted to tax war widows or to open the center of town to oil drilling, then so be it. At least I've exercised my right to vote and there's a hell of a lot of Americans who don't even go that far. So what if most of my political knowledge comes from The Daily Show or The Colbert Report? At least I'm getting something, right?
But I digress, today I'm here to talk about the growing movement in the Democratic party that is Barack Obama. So far this year we've seen him give some very stirring speeches and, along with Senator Hillary Clinton, manage to get out record numbers of voters in the primaries. In many states, Obama got more votes than all the Republican candidates combined. Does this mean he'll win by enormous margins this Fall? Of course not, no one can be sure of how many Republicans didn't turn out to vote in primaries because they are the kind of people who will vote their party regardless the nominee in November. I'm sure there are some Democrats out there who will do the same thing. What I find fascinating about this year's election is the fervor that seems to have been ignited in the populace and the strong sense that this Fall, we'll see a black man elected president. But before we all break our arms patting ourselves on the back for being so progressive (both a black and female candidate leading the primaries for the first time ever!), let's all remember that there have been female leaders in many countries before including that bastion of modern thinking Pakistan. So while we may be seeing history in the making, don't forget that it's U.S. History and nothing more.
Again I'm falling away from the point. The big question that has been posed to me is what exactly is Obama going to change? Good question. As the weeks drag on towards the conventions and eventual election, we will probably see him shrink away from a few of the big promises and sweeping gestures in order to play the political game that has been embedded in our national culture for at least the last fifty years. Ever since the media has grown into today's 24 hour monster, it's become more and more important for candidates to toe the line, play by the rules, conform to the status quo. Maybe that's what makes Obama seem so refreshing. He is out there saying he won't do that. Can he? Who knows. But at least he's offering a fresh face, even if at the same time he may spew the occasional political hogwash. Can we really expect him to be completely different when he's trying to ascend to the highest office in the land while surrounded by men who have spent decades adhering and exemplifying the insular and crappy culture that is Washington? I'll get back to that in a minute.
Let's take a look at the opponent, John McCain. He has a longer history, distinguished record, war hero, blah, blah, blah. He's also in his seventies and from my point of view will continue to epitomize the tired rhetoric that the Republicans have been feeding us these past eight years. What's more concerning is the fact that he has to work on distancing himself so much from the current president. It's never a good thing when the candidate for the party in office has to make so many gestures to convince voters that he's not like the guy in office. Ask Al Gore how that worked out for him in 2000. What's incredibly amusing to me is that there has been talk lately about the moral fiber of this current administration and how there's a pervasive need to change said morals. Isn't that exactly what they said in 2000? That Clinton and the Democrats had led to the moral decay of the office of President and a vibrant George W. was going to restore a sense of decency and honor to it. Yeah, it's pretty decent and honorable what we do to prisoners in Guatanamo Bay or to our own good citizens while his good buddies profit from his war for oil. McCain tries to distance himself from all that as best he can but the stark reality is that should he be elected, there's almost nothing that will be different. He's even said that he'd move to permanently enact the tax breaks that were implemented by Bush back in 2001, tax breaks that he initially was against by the way. Just in case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not voting for McCain.
So let's look at who I am voting for. What exactly do I expect Obama to change? To be honest, I'll bet he doesn't change as much as he may claim he will or that many Americans expect him to. There's no magic want to assuage the oil prices, the housing market, the rate of jobs being lost. Even with a Democratic congress, he'll be hard pressed to initiate sweeping reforms or start wildly high aiming programs without more context and information that people can understand and get behind. No, in a lot of ways I figure he'll end up having to table many of his broader ideas in order to at least get done some of the more basic ones. But is that so bad? You know what change I do really anticipate and hope for? A change in the basic image of the American president and thusly America as a whole. The current administration has certainly made us into a more hated entity while not exactly endearing us with the many countries that have been on our side for years and years. I like his talk about engaging foreign leaders, even the president of Iran. Bush would rather bomb his way out of diplomatic situations and McCain has stated somewhat of the same idea. Wow, how progressive. Look at our diplomatic dealings with Cuba for the past fifty years, that really went somewhere. I think that if anything has been proven in the past twenty years is that by opening up to a closed society, by showing its people what the rest of the world has to offer, that most of the time the people have chosen to shun the status quo and embrace a new path. Has not talking to Castro done anything for anyone other than keep him in power for years while his country is mired in poverty and despair? How fitting that we have the “prisoners” of the war on terror kept there. I'm not saying these aren't dangerous men, but even SS officers were released back to Germany once the war was over. To hear our leaders say it, there may never be an “end” to the war on terror. Great. Much like our very successful wars on drugs and poverty, we'll keep repeating the same cycles that can be passed along to the next generation and the next.
Maybe that's why Obama resonates so much with the youth vote. There are a lot of young people who have grown up in the Clinton/Bush years and are finally getting the chance to make their voice heard. Is it any wonder that they are rallying behind a fresh face, someone who is promising sweeping change in the government, even if he may not ultimately deliver it? And even if he doesn't, then he pretty much falls into the same category with almost every other politician as far back as I can remember. If there's any change that is really going to come, I say it's the change in perception of our government and our president. Let's be honest here, the real change comes from us, the American people and if our decisions and actions can be affected by who's in the Oval Office then I think a lot more positives will emerge with Obama leading the country than the tired old face of McCain and the continued rule of Republican ideals. Perception truly is everything, regardless of the cold hard facts, facts that most average Americans barely even understand or bother to find out. So if just the ideas of Obama and his presence can elicit a rebounded sense of patriotism, personal responsibility, and embolden our population to get out the vote, then I'm all for it. If nothing else, that is a change that I can believe in.