This is a long time coming. I wasn't exactly sure I wanted to put thoughts down to a written response, to take the time to lay it all out, but I haven't felt this passionate about something since the Saturday morning cartoons of 85'. So I've decided to write what I think, feel, and hope about the decision I've made. I'm writing this on a whim, a wholeheartedly necessary whim. To do this though, I need to paint the background a bit, highlight the vast lower half of the iceberg of my decision for the upcoming election so you all can see where I'm coming from. Yeah, I'm sending this to everyone I have the lazy convenience to reach; email, social networks, you name it, it's going out like a bat outta hell. So please, bare with me, this might be a little long, but I swear it'll be remotely entertaining, informative and/or absolutely genius.
About two years ago I began to think about where I fit in the political world. It never held my attention, politicians seemed fake, the whole spectrum of political affiliation and their philosophies seemed foreign. I'd never delved into knowing the main tenets of the major American political parties, none of them seemed to apply to me in any real way. At 20, I was in Oregon on my mission, and catching little tidbits about the 2000 election, how it came down to a bitter stand off in Florida. I remember feeling detached, oblivious to the whole thing, looking through the lenses of my calling then. When 2004 rolled around, I had a chance to vote for a President for the first time in my life. I was a little more politically charged by then, 9/11/01 hit like lightening, and pushed me to vote for the guy not in charge at the time, simply because I was worried about the way the world viewed our current President and how the ball rolling would continue to build if we kept on the same path. It was then that I remember taking a political party quiz my brother showed me to discover what party I should align myself with, cooked up with a pinch of jest and a touch of serious intention. I came out as a libertarian. But these days I prefer Independent, and that's the way I'll remain in the foreseeable future. I came to understand I liked some of what the Donkeys believe, and some of what the Elephants feel important, and vice verse, didn't like some of what both went for as well. I've also come to think voting just for one party at face value is at best lazy, and at its worst, bigoted. I once read something during some of my best years (99-01 Oregon) and it went a little something like this, "A lover of truth will immediately drop everything, every belief, every thought, every action at the mere prospect of something truer." And that's why I will always vote based on the candidate and point in history we face as a nation, not the political party, even if I tend to agree a little more with a one over the other. I will always raise my hand and say I AM SPARTACUS for the guy that deserves the Presidency through character, honor, intelligence, forbearance and by the way he/she runs his/her campaign, which by virtue of those virtues, should usually win him/her the presidency. That's what I hope happens, and will continue to happen, that the American people will always prioritize that.
This brings me to late 2006. I'm trying to think about the first time I heard Barack Obama's name, (whoa whoa, sit tight and hear me out if you've already decided and dismissed him, gimmie a chance, this'll be worth it, promise) the first time I caught wind of him. It was roughly 6 months before he announced his presidency. I had caught a news link on google news about a politician energizing young crowds. There was a quick blurb about how unusual it was for a politician to be appealing to the college set, and thought it was cool to see. I kept hearing his strange name occasionally in the news, on the radio, finally googled him and came across his speech from the 2004 Democratic convention. I couldn't help but feel a little moved by the sentiment that shot out of that podium, especially after watching the country divide and get labeled by the media as a red state or a blue state in '04, and how ideologies suddenly seemed like wedges between people/states ect. He had my attention and my skepticism at that point. But it was enough to look up his book, The Audacity of Hope on Amazon to see what people were saying about it on the user reviews. Still skeptical enough to be not be willing to plunk down $15 to read a book written by a politician of all things, I pirated the audio book, and listened to him on the way to school in the morning, narrate his thoughts on the changes he feels we need to make as a country. It was part educational, like learning how politicians have to make compromises to lobbyists and special interest PECs to get funding to get elected, leaving them with so much political debt from day one that they rarely manage to get anything done they had hoped to, and often times, promised, and part syncing with thoughts I'd had for a long time, like going beyond the partisan politics and focusing on the American people, focusing on the positive in campaigning, making health care better and more available, and finally getting on the ball with education as a country. Suffice to say, that book found me, and found me well. Upon finishing it, I caught myself begrudgingly saying, if only someone like this would run for President. Well, as fate would have it, on a cold morning in Springfield Illinois, 6 months later, standing on the grounds of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln (his and my favorite president) delivered his famous "House Divided" speech against slavery in 1858, the Democratic first-term senator began a bid for the White House. I've learned a lot about the man since then. And if there's one thing I've come to understand about coming to believe in him, to trust him, especially being so new to the political world, is that the more you get to know about him, the easier it is to have his back, and stand up for him. Remarkable and self disciplined, I am confident in saying for once, we have the real deal on our hands. And I'd like to tell you why, in my own way, I'll be voting for him on November 4th. I dare you to visit every link provided here and not come away with the conclusion that he deserves your vote. Double dog dare you.
First off, I'd like to say a thing or two about his heritage. Born of a white anthropologist mother and black father, well traveled around the world and raised to understand many cultures, beliefs, and people. Obama was raised by a single mother for most of his young life, but lost her to cancer during his teenage years, and was subsequently raised by his white grandparents. All three were stalwarts and produced an amazing individual, easily recognized for what he's been able to accomplish, whether he wins on the 4th or not. To me, Obama's upbringing and mixed heritage represents much of what makes America great. We are so diverse, representing a smorgasbord of cultures, races, colors, philosophies, religions, all swirling in a melting pot of freedom. Obama bridges two parts of that melting pot, black and white, and somehow appeals to both sides, with arms stretched out as someone who truly has a chance to lead both, and all. One of my favorite things about him is that ability, to unite. He appeals to both sides, in so many avenues and divisions, from political parties, to race, to the world.
The second thing I like about him is the way he's run his campaign. Shortly before he made public his intention to run for the highest office in the land, he spoke with Marc Andreesen, the guy who founded Netscape. Obama met with many of his trusted friends and family, many of them very skeptical of the very idea that he could actually win. Mr. Andreesen recounted the discussion he'd had with Obama saying, "We asked him directly, how concerned should we be that you haven't had meaningful experience as an executive -- as a manager and leader of people?" To that Obama responded, "watch how I run my campaign -- you'll see my leadership skills in action." After seeing the campaign Obama built and perpetuated, he finally wrote the following, "Well, as any political expert will tell you, it turns out that the Obama campaign has been one of the best organized and executed presidential campaigns in memory. Even Obama's opponents concede that his campaign has been disciplined, methodical, and effective across the full spectrum of activities required to win -- and with a minimum of the negative campaigning and attack ads that normally characterize a race like this, and with almost no staff turnover. By almost any measure, the Obama campaign has simply out-executed both the Clinton and McCain campaigns." To put it bluntly, he's actually changed the way politics and running campaigns work in this country. I knew based on his book the problems with running for office, the compromises he'd have to make to receive funding, to forgo the political debt and be able to actually make the change he wanted to made. He was confident if he represented true positive change, he could instigate it from the bottom up. It was a game changer, and it's carried him all the way to being favored to win. It wasn't lobbyist's that have carried him, it wasn't political ties, it wasn't special interest PECs, it wasn't the mega rich dropping huge amounts of expendable income, it wasn't large corporations. It has been everyday American people who have largely funded his campaign, giving small donations of $10-$20. That tells me two things: 1, when/if he makes it to office, his political debt will be next to nothing, and 2, he'll be well positions to bring out the change he's been promising since he announced his bid for presidency. Getting to office, without being politically weighed down is a huge hurdle to make it over, he knew it, and he's somehow managed to do it. That's huge.
Third, his policies on the economy. What is happening with the economy is very concerning to me + everyone else and I think the big difference between McCain and Obama here are significant. For too long, the nation has become top heavy, and the gap between the middle class and upper class has been widening. The idea is that wealth trickles down, that corporations pass the savings on to the consumers. It hasn't been happening, the gap and average American income is lower than when Reagan introduced trickle-down economics, and it's high time we changed course. Obama, just like he has transformed the method a politician could be supported from the bottom up, seeks to build our economy back up in the same way, from the roots upward. Instead of cutting taxes on the upper tiers of the mega corporations, perpetuating the widening gap, and trouncing down the same road that has gotten us at the cliff of this financial disaster we're facing, he wants to shift course, and turn the tables back toward the middle class, the bulk of America. Everyone making under $250,000 receives a tax cut. That's about 95% of working Americans. It seems like such an obvious thing, growth begins at the roots. And if we want to build our economy again, it's time we brought it back down to build the fundamentals once more, and improve the source of the money flow. And yet Obama is called a socialist for this? Even socialists deny Obama that identity. He wants to close the wealth gap, something I'd doubt most Americans would have a problem with at all. Do you? The only people who truly have a problem with that represent the upper 2% of the population. It's ridiculous, and more pointedly put, it's perpetuated to instill fear, rather than confidence. It's a desperate last ditch ploy to tap into fears of voters who haven't forgotten their Cold War rhetoric. The same thing with accusations that Obama is buddies with domestic terrorists, ACORN associations, and that he's a Muslim, all are centered on avoiding the core issues that all Americans are facing and will continue to face over the next 4 years and beyond.
Fourth, is Obama's education plan. As an education major, and teacher, education is a big deal to me. I've debated the ins and outs of No Child Left Behind ever since it was introduced. Obama's plan starts at the beginning, extending support for early childhood education, and moves to K-12, by reforming NCLB's accountability system so that we are supporting schools that need improvement, rather than punishing them. I've always felt that was NCLB's biggest downfall, it reinforced negativity, rather than positive reinforcement. It then moves on to supporting teachers by increasing pay, all the while upping accountability along with it, as well as training and recruiting more teachers to meet demand. And finally his plan makes it possible for any young individual who wants it, to be able to afford college with a American Opportunity Tax Credit. Essentially providing a universal and fully refundable credit that will ensure that the first $4,000 of a college education is completely free for most Americans, and will cover two-thirds the cost of tuition at the average public college or university and make community college tuition completely free for most students. Recipients of the credit will be required to conduct 100 hours of community service. It reminds me of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saint's Perpetual Education Fund, which funds education for service in impoverished countries. It seeks to enrich both the country and the students who work to obtain it, gaining valuable experience as well as becoming educated. Obama would not be the person he is today without the education he received (Harvard Law) and taught (constitutional law at University of Chicago Law School for twelve years) and I believe because of his experience as student and teacher, he has a rock solid plan to get us back on track with the rest of the world.
Fifth, is his Health care plan, which is another policy he often gets docked as socialism by those that haven't done their homework. He's not seeking to bring universal health care to Americans, he wants to make it universally acessible and affordable for anyone that wants it, meaning there won't be any turned away who have the money to pay for it due to preexisting conditions like we have now, leaving over 47 million Americans without health care. That's not cool. Obama's plan builds on the existing health care system, and uses existing providers, doctors and plans to implement it. On health care reform, Americans are too often offered two extremes - government-run health care with higher taxes or letting the insurance companies operate without rules. Both choices are inefficient, and ineffectual, leaving millions without lifesaving health care, or decreasing the quality of it as a whole. Obama proposes a plan that strengthens employer coverage, makes insurance companies accountable and ensures patient choice of doctor and care without government interference. Under the plan, if you like your current health insurance, nothing changes, except your costs will go down by as much as $2,500 per year. If you don’t have health insurance, you will have a choice of new, affordable health insurance options. Barack Obama will pay for his $50 - $65 billion health care reform effort by rolling back the Bush tax cuts for Americans earning more than $250,000 per year and retaining the estate tax at its 2009 level as well as help health care centers move into the 21st century by moving paper records to electronic versions, increasing efficiency and reliability.
Last thing I'll want to highlight is his stance on the Iraq war. Put bluntly, we never should have invaded without knowing fully there were weapons of mass destruction. It was fought on false pretense, becoming clear today that it was more prominently to secure a hold in the middle east to lock in our stake in energy allowance versus the world. That middle eastern energy dependence will lead to further conflicts as the needs rise for oil across the world, which is why he supports funding a huge initiative to help break us free of oil dependence. Part of that initiative involves:
- Helping create five million new jobs by strategically investing $150 billion over the next ten years to catalyze private efforts to build a clean energy future.
- Within 10 years save more oil than we currently import from the Middle East and Venezuela combined.
- Put 1 million Plug-In Hybrid cars -- cars that can get up to 150 miles per gallon -- on the road by 2015, cars that we will work to make sure are built here in America.
- Ensure 10 percent of our electricity comes from renewable sources by 2012, and 25 percent by2025.
- Implement an economy-wide cap-and-trade program to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent by 2050
we can put to far better use to improve our lives back home, money that has been desperately needed here to produce change for the past 8 years.
This brings me back to the what brought me to discover him in the first place, coming full circle. There is something to be said about the man's ability to ignite and inspire so many people, from the young, to the old, black, white, Democrats, Republicans, Jews, economists, to everyday Americans who donated to his campaign, and turned the tide of the battle for the White House. He's made the right choice in Iraq, a wiser and longer reaching choice in Vice President, and he's proven he's cool under pressure when the financial crisis hit. He is a unifier, born of humble beginnings, a senator, lawyer, professor and father, Christian and skeptic, and above all a student of history and human nature, poised to bring about positive change in this country and the world. I'll end with Obama's own words, given a few days ago, in Virginia, "Now I understand times are hard, this won't be easy. And the storm hasn't quite passed yet. Sometimes the skies look cloudy. And it's dark. And you think, the rains will never pass. But here's what I understand, that as long as all of us are together, as long as we are all committed, that there's nothing we can't do. That's why we started off this campaign saying, "Yes we can." That's why we understood, that black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Native American, young, old, rich, poor, it doesn't matter, we're all Americans. And our destiny, will be shaped by us. And this young generation that's out here, the young people of America, understand that the clouds, these too will pass. That a brighter day will come. That, if you are willing to work for it. If you're willing to roll up your sleeves. If you're willing to lock arms, and march, and talk to your friends, and talk to your neighbors, make a phone call, do some organizing, yes do some community organizing, then I promise ya, Fredricksberg, we will win Virginia, we will win this general election. And you and I together, we will change the country and change the world. God Bless ya, and God bless the United States of America."
2nd Timothy, 1:7