Today is "Super Tuesday". As most of you know, it's a big day for the Presidential Primaries here in the U.S. and as an active citizen, I'm certainly going to be exercising my right to vote. I hope that the rest of you who have the opportunity do the same. In coming to a decision over who I was going to vote for, I've listened to and watched some of the debates, read a ton of articles and done some investigation of the candidates' websites. For those who are interested, I thought I'd share some of my rationale in deciding to check the box next to Hillary Clinton's name.
- I love substance: I've taken time to look at the meaningful issues that the candidates are discussing. I've thought them over and I've come to some conclusions. Number 1, no one is talking about education enough. This bothers me. Number 2, Obama doesn't like to get specific. It's proving to be a very successful tactic but it doesn't resonate with me. Consider this quote from an excellent piece in the New Yorker:
"Obama spoke for only twenty-five minutes and took no questions; he had figured out how to leave an audience at the peak of its emotion, craving more. As he was ending, I walked outside and found five hundred people standing on the sidewalk and the front steps of the opera house, listening to his last words in silence, as if news of victory in the Pacific were coming over the loudspeakers. Within minutes, I couldn’t recall a single thing that he had said, and the speech dissolved into pure feeling, which stayed with me for days."
I'm a fan of Bill Clinton's because he was a natural orator, capable of inspiring and leaving people with that emotional feeling, while addressing substance as well. I watch the debates, I review the speeches, I shake my head. I'm not getting that from Obama. To those of you who believe what we need is style over substance in the Democratic Party because Kerry and Gore were "boring" I tell you that if you want style, Bill's going to be campaigning, don't you worry your pretty little head.
When it comes to questions of policy, I agree with Hillary over and over. For example, take a look at the debate over Health Care. Obama says, "affordable for all" and elaborates by saying that yes, some people won't be covered, but it'll be their choice, so it's not an issue. Hillary says, "coverage for all" and elaborates by drawing on her 20+ years of working on this issue, telling us that if you start with a compromised goal in mind (coverage for most, not all) the lobbyists and opponents will nibble you to death. She says you have to bite the bullet on this issue, it's just that important. I agree.
Moreover, I fail to understand why this approach isn't inspiring? We have a candidate pushing for Universal Health Care coverage in the U.S. and it's the other guy who is more inspiring? Really?
- I'm a Democrat, but I'm a Democrat with a real problem with the party: I remember the 1988 election, when I decided that I was a Democrat. Largely influenced by my parents, I became a fan of Michael Dukakis and when my 5th grade class had a debate over the election, I was the only one (aside from the two friends I convinced to sit on my side) who took the Dukakis side of the debate. Those of you who know me probably aren't surprised to know that I enjoyed fighting for my positions and the majority being in opposition provided more fuel for the fire. Over time, I've chosen more logical and defensible reasons as to why I'm a Dem, but it's also brought with it a better understanding of the Democratic Party's major weakness. The largest, in my mind, is that the "Politics of Inclusion" does not mean that your party must be the Party of Confusion. Let me explain:
- One of the core ideals that I hold to be true is that everyone should have equal rights and opportunities. This is VERY challenging, to be sure, but it's the right ideal. However, furthering this ideal requires discipline, tenacity and a commitment to championing the cause in a winning and clear way. The Democratic Party isn't focused on clarity and defining what it means to be the party of equality. The interpretation I see most often out of my party is that "every cause and point of view is important and attainable." As a result, each candidate has a different message with a new area of focus. Often, one Democrat and another sound completely different to voters. It's no wonder that voters have a hard time understanding the Democratic Campaign Platform - there often isn't one coherent view of it among the party leadership to begin with.
- In contrast, the Republicans are DISCIPLINED. The party understands that its best chance to resonate with voters comes from taking a stance and then hammering their positions into the ground with the press and the public. For a populace that is already overwhelmed by media, decisions and information, this strategy is increasingly powerful. Think about the menu at your local Cheesecake Factory and then think about the one at your higher end bistro. Which one is easier to order from?
- I believe that you have to fight for what you believe in: I have great respect for Obama. As an individual, he clearly is an articulate, thoughtful, open-minded person. I believe that he sticks to his guns on principles and that's refreshing. I think that this helps to explain a large part of why he's being touted as the inspirational candidate, the one who can lead revolutionary change. My opinion is that if you look at the landscape of American politics, there's a sad reality that us Democrats must accept: the Republicans fight dirty and we mostly just complain about it, rather than fighting back. We saw it in 1988 (the mocking of Dukakis ranged from his riding in a tank to the freeing of Willie Horton), we saw it in 2000 ("the environment's not a real issue", "Lockbox" and "Gore is a bore" are easy to recall) and it amazes me, but many people have already forgotten 2004 (Swift Boat Veterans anyone?). The Clintons stand out in their willingness to fight back.. HARD. I believe that this is some of the reason for the heartburn that many Dems feel in looking at this election - they loved the Clinton era but don't have great feelings about the Clintons themselves. While I understand the heartburn, I challenge every Dem to ask themselves a very important question: would you rather have the candidates who sit on the sidelines, "fighting the good fight" but not leading, or would you rather have the candidates who win and lead? Bill Clinton did that for the party. No one else has, since 1980. Fight back, goddamnit! If Obama wins the nomination, I'll be voting for him but I'm worried that in the General Election, he won't fight back with the tenacity required. His glib responses to questions about how he'll handle the Republican attacks make for good soundbites but by most accounts that I've read (see the NYT piece above, which talks quite a bit about his behavior and choices), it appears that he's unwiling to fight fire with fire. I applaud that kind of resolve, it just doesn't make me want him fighting for the Presidency come November. I don't think it works.
- I really dislike the disparity in media treatment: I'll just say it outright - Hillary's been ridiculed and attacked for her ambition because she's a woman ever since she campaigned with Bill in Arkansas. It's not fair, it's not right and it's not in enough voters' minds. This bothers me a lot. I look around and see a country where it's totally ok to have a Hillary Clinton "Nutcracker" doll or to call her overly ambitious because she stayed with Bill throughout extramarital affairs and that it must have been purely motivated by the desire to be a politician. While race is an issue that can't be touched, but sex is implicit in the very ways in which the media treats her as a candidate - the language, the specific critiques (do you remember the blow up of the "baking cookies" comment??) and the portrayals (the tough, icy personality). The treatment of Hillary exemplifies WHY women still have a long way to go in achieving equal treatment in American society and I don't believe that fact is lost on a large number of the women who will be voting this year. I hope not.
While these are the main points, there's more here. However, given that polls are starting to close on the East Coast, it's probably time to wrap this up and get to the polls in SF myself. I suspect that by the time most of you read this, many of these points will seem somewhat obsolete, but feel free to comment or contact me to discuss this more. I don't think the nomination's going to be wrapped up for a few more months, given that the Michigan and Florida primaries are in some limbo at the moment.