I was skeptical of Obama at first. I thought his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention was great, but even then people were ready to crown him as the next Democratic nominee. I didn’t think we knew enough about him, that he had a track record to back up his admitted charm and eloquence, even after a couple of years in the Senate.
I think I was wrong.
I’m ambivalent about Hillary Clinton; she did seem to have her heart in the right place regarding health care and several other civic matters; but she’s gotten rather conservative in the intervening years, and yet is still divisive (whether that’s her fault, or her detractors, it doesn’t matter). And I really don’t like the idea of a 24-28 year Bush-Clinton dynastic monarchy; I think we should amend the Constitution to limit not only the number of terms a President can hold office, but extend that to their immediate family, to guard against oligarchies in powerful families. I dreaded her getting the nomination, since I think it would mean 4 more years of a Republican. So I felt a little schadenfreude when Obama defeated her in Iowa.
But then it really struck me… the implications for America, and the power of his victory speech. Over the course of the next day or so, it really sunk in. I still don’t know if the guy means what says, or if he could pull it off in practice… but I believe him, and believe in him. He really does seem to be a unifier, across parties and races and ages. Everybody promises change when that’s what the public seems to want to hear, but I think he really means it.
But still, there is that lack of experience, right? Well, I really thought about what that means, and I realized that nobody has experience being President in the current climate (George W. Bush included, since a component of experience is learning from past mistakes). Hillary helped run the White house in a very different time, with a very different economy and geopolitical stage. Obama can draw on precisely the same body of expert cabinet members she could. So, it comes down to will and to vision, to relying on the best of resources you have at hand, and approaching problems the right way, and from what I’ve seen of Obama, he has just as much of that as Hillary. And he has something else, an indefinable leadership quality. He just kinda rocks.
There’s other stuff, too… he’s not yet in the pocket of special interests, he preaches a doctrine of governmental reform, he has all the same policies, more or less, as the other Democratic hopefuls… but offers a lot more hope. (No offense to Edwards, who seems like a good guy, and who would make a great Attorney General.)
So M and I got more excited about him, and donated money to his campaign, and then decided to join a couple friends to canvass for him in South Carolina (since NC pretty much has no say in the primaries, happening well after Super Tuesday). We drove down today (yesterday now, I guess) at 6:00 to help get the word and the voters out in Florence, SC. That experience was less than inspiring, to be frank. We were shuffled around to different canvassing centers before we actually got to work, and by the time we hit the streets, it was already 11:00; the canvassing lists were really poorly designed and hard to read, and many of the houses and people (all registered voters, supposedly) simply didn’t exist. After 3 hours of driving and walking around the sprawling rural district, we had arranged for all of 3 or 4 people to get out to vote for Obama. I know every little bit helps, but it seemed like an awful little bit.
We did meet 2 cool people, a couple that just moved to Raleigh from California, both programmers, and we drove them around, and had great conversation. They planned to drive on to Columbia to see Obama’s victory or concession speech after canvassing, and we decided to join them.
We had to wait in line for a while, and hadn’t gotten tickets from our canvass station, so we weren’t sure we’d get in. As it turned out, we got right up front, about 20 feet from the podium. We saw Obama speak, and it felt like history. Astounding. Invigorating. Inspiring. A feeling of camaraderie, and yes, hope for a better America. Shouting and cheering and chanting.
I hope Obama is our next President.