Monday, March 03, 2008

Switching from Clinton to Obama

Evan Handler explains his switch from Clinton to Obama in a very thoughtful article that should be 'must reading'.

My conclusion is based on several components, but coheres around one theme. Besides what I have experienced as his superior demonstrations of strength, composure, restraint, and reasoning during their last two one-on-one debates, Senator Obama has structured his campaign around what I feel is an irrefutable truth: the United States government will never again function efficiently unless United States citizens force it to do so. His insistence that the U.S. government must serve its citizenry, and his acknowledgment that it will do so only if the citizenry once again holds its government accountable is a statement so simplistic that it is, for some, dismissible. It also happens to be a truism so profound that it might, I have come to hope, be unstoppable.


The crucial difference is she continues to insist she knows what's best for those people even as they reject her insistence, while Senator Obama states over and over that what he wants is to assist the American people in doing well for themselves. The most crucial way they can help themselves, he stresses, is to create a government that works for them in the ways they want it to, and to exercise oversight to ensure it achieves its missions. There must be accountability in order to have success, he says. To have accountability, there must be transparency. He encourages us to insist upon both, and once the view has been cleared, to keep our eyes peeled.

Some insist that's all he's saying, though I don't see that to be the case. What he is doing that might make it appear that way is repeatedly relating every idea and policy position back to that central theme. But he doesn't seem to be doing that solely out of a desire to stay "on message." He seems to be doing it as a result of his understanding that without those conditions of transparency and accountability being met, nothing else is possible. At least nothing other than what we've seen for the past seven, fifteen, twenty-three, or forty-odd years.

A government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It's not a revolutionary thought -- at least not like it was when the notion was first conceived. It is, however, a stunningly unusual platform for a contemporary presidential candidate. With increasing consistency, each of our more recent candidates has stressed what he is going to provide to the populace, either as an entitlement program, or as a tax break. Concurrently, we've recently endured a nearly decade-long period of previously unthinkable power grabbing and consolidation by the executive branch of our government. Of even greater concern than the power grabbing has been the purposeful erosion of the divisions between the executive, the judicial, and the legislative braches. Attorneys General refusing not only to indict, but even to testify truthfully; Justice Department employees enforcing executive branch vendettas, then refusing to appear in answer to subpoenas; Supreme Court justices ordering an end to the counting of votes. Senator Obama is not raising his flagship position out of the ether, or, as far as I can see, out of excessive opportunism or ambition. He's speaking out about a very real crisis -- one of existential proportions -- in the history, health, and wellbeing of our republic. And he's doing so without histrionics, with tremendous grace and understatement. He seems increasingly to me to be a man of vast insight, both in terms of what he's trying to accomplish, and in terms of his methods of attempting to accomplish it.

Contrast that with Senator Clinton's more recent methods. I took a great deal from the moment during their last debate when Senator Obama questioned Senator Clinton's belief that the best way to accomplish things was to be willing to fight for them. A combative stance, he suggested, is not necessarily the strongest position from which to maneuver. His point is absolutely correct. And the increasing emergence recently of her anger toward him, toward the press, and toward those who've voted against her -- and the ways it has backfired on her -- seems to bear Senator Obama's truth out.

Do read the whole post. I appreciate his skepticism and his honesty.


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