Thursday, March 20, 2008

Obama, Hey Bama, Bama Bama Bama Obama, Hey Bama, Obama

By the way, Mom, that's a reference to Jesus Christ Superstar.

Maybe Austin is starting to rub off on me. If you throw a dodge ball in the streets of Austin, you're far more likely to to clonk the noggin of an Obama or Clinton supporter than a McCain supporter. In all my years at my last job, all political conversations had that "nudge nudge, wink wink, we all know what an idiot Bush is" tone to them that left me feeling far right of center. So maybe the pressure is finally getting to me: I think I might vote for Obama if he wins his party's nomination.

Yesterday, suttonhoo linked to Obama's Philadelphia speech. I watched 31 minutes of it before Thumper decided I'd had enough time to myself. That 31 minutes was extraordinary, not only because I never watch that much undiluted political speech in a single sitting, but also because the speech itself affected me in ways I didn't at all expect.

Now, maybe a guy who spends his days folding and re-folding the same 24 diapers, crawling around on the floor and playing with brightly colored bits of plastic, and saying "Rowr!" as he chews on a baby's belly isn't the most qualified political commentator in the world. But what the hell, I get tired of talking about the baby all the time, anyway.

The driving principle of my political thought since perhaps 1995 or 1996 has been: a large, centralized Federal government that is looked to to provide all solutions to all problems can only do one thing effectively, and that's grow. So I have never voted for a Democrat since I voted for Bill Clinton in 1992 because the central message of all Democrat rhetoric is that the Federal government should be providing more solutions to more problems and should be spending more money on the problems it is already failing to solve.

The problem is that the Republicans don't really believe the opposite. Oh, they pretend to occasionally, when it suits their political purposes. But they're really only buying a different variety of political support with our tax dollars than their Democrat counterparts are. And in many cases, both sides are buying exactly the same political support.

That's the real turn-off to the political process: there is no honesty, there is no conviction. Every word uttered is calculated based on its political effect. Some, like Bill Clinton, may be better than others, like George Bush, but virtually no political office holder or seeker, at least on the national stage, speaks the truth simply because it's true. Certainly not Hillary Clinton. Her gameplan changes weekly, daily, based on what pollsters and pundits and political consultants determine what worked or did not last week, or yesterday. Nor McCain, or as Mrs. Rodius like to call him, Fire Marshall Bill.

But then I saw Obama's speech, and it seemed fundamentally different. I mean, yes, he's a poised speaker. His natural manner of speaking adds to the perception that he's speaking extemporaneously and from the heart. I'm sure that's at least partly from his skillful use of the teleprompter technology that's available to him, but still, he's not lecturing from on high with grand gestures and calculated pauses for applause. He's just speaking.

The content of the speech, though, was its most striking aspect. He spoke calmly and directly about subjects that it's common knowledge cannot be spoken of calmly and directly. Especially not directly. Political Calculus 101 teaches that Talking About Race = Risk of Offense. Risk of Offense = Risk of Political Fallout. Risk of Political Fallout = Potential Damage to Political Career. Damage to Political Career = Worst-Case Scenario. Therefore, Do Not Talk About Race.

Any other politician that I can think of would have tripped over his own feet racing to distance himself from the person who uttered the phrase, "God Bless America? God Damn America!" But Obama had the nerve to trust us to understand the complicated tangle of history out of which that phrase was shouted, and he talked to us, calmly and directly, about the complicated tangle itself. He knows, like any other public figure, that "complicated" doesn't fit into the kind of news reporting that carries his message to the broadest set of Americans, but he had the courage and the honesty to do it anyway.

So if Limiting the Scope of the Federal Government is a horse, and that horse left the barn a long, long time ago, maybe it's time for me to stop pretending that the Republican Party even remotely represents the kind of conservatism that I would prefer. Maybe it's time to stop pretending, too, that the President can or will accomplish all of the miracles that all of the candidates promise us when they're interviewing for the job. Maybe it's time to simply do the only thing I can do: vote for the candidate who succeeds in convincing me that he has integrity.


Anonymous said...

I love it when I get that little explanatory shout-out on your blog!

And I like the way you're thinking, son, or maybe I just like the fact that you ARE thinking. It's clear that all that diaper-folding hasn't caused your excellent brain to fail (yet?!) LOL


suttonhoo said...

you nailed it.

I had a chance to see Obama speak while he was running for Senate. The forum was unusual: A two part panel discussion re the candidates' faith. Curiously, the candidates each had a separate night to themselves: they were peppered by the panel but they didn't have to speak to one another. We showed up for Obama but, sorry to say, didn't bother showing up later for Keyes -- Obama's opponent in that race.

Obama's facility in that venue was so solid and so strong he won me over immediately. He spoke with conviction, but never with platitudes, about his faith. He didn't do that little dance that politicians do when they're trying not to offend -- he simply spoke with *integrity* (as you nailed it) -- a man certain of what he knew to be true for himself, but not arrogant about his beliefs.

I so want to believe he's for real. There's a small part of me that's still afraid it's all too good to be true.

Jennie said...

My honey is fiscally conservative and socially liberal, but since the Libertarians never make it past the initial stages, he tends to go to the fiscal side. But it stinks that he can't vote the way he wants to (pardon the preposition). I DESPERATELY hope Obama is our next president - the diff between him and Hillary is best viewed on the Issues pages of their respective websites. Obama explains things clearly and in relative detail; Hillary spits big words and vague mental pictures and feels MORE condescending than if she just spoke (wrote) simply and succinctly. I didn't know what to make of him at first, but I think he's the closest a politician can get to still being a real person. Thanks for the great post!

I, Rodius said...

Oh, I hope it's not too good to be true. SOMEBODY's got to be real, right? But maybe real people aren't driven to run for the senate, or the presidency. Maybe. Hope not.

anniemcq said...

Does this mean that you're going steady with him too?

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