Barack Obama has made me realize that, for the first time, I believe in a presidential candidate. Sure, I was an avid supporter of Bill Clinton in both his runs, and actively supported Gore and Kerry as well. But I can’t say I necessarily believed any of those candidates were going to transform our country, or politics, or the future. I viewed them primarily as good Democrats who would make good Presidents, and just as important, the mechanism to keep Republicans out of power. Hillary Clinton would fit that same mold, for the most part. I view her as a good Democrat (mostly), whose victory would keep the Republicans from power.
But for whatever reason, I’ve guzzled the Obama Kool-Aid, and in him I see someone who not only would (for the most part) pursue what I consider progressive/Democratic policies, but who can transform this political morass that has existed at least since 1994. I know skeptics say he is short on substance and experience, and perhaps he is. But he has demonstrated to date that he has the ability to bring new people into the Democratic tent, and he has unquestionably demonstrated that he’s willing to engage issues with an honesty and intellectual perspective that has been sorely lacking in recent discourse. Given my already-stated view that the POTUS is more about leadership and tone than specific policy positions, I find this to be a potent combination.
All of which makes this a very scary election cycle for me, because the stakes are so much higher. On the one hand, a McCain/GOP victory would be absolutely crushing to me emotionally, even moreso than Bush’s 2004 victory, which I would not have thought possible at the time. So much so that I fear the depths my cynicism might reach in such a case; it could turn me off of politics forever, or at least till the next election cycle. It would certainly sap me of any remaining confidence in the way our elections are covered and conducted.
If Hillary wins, I can live with that, but it will leave me with a feeling of “what if”, and generally make me feel like we’ve merely extended the politics of the last 20 years. I would just feel like it was “our turn” to take the reigns of power after another lamentable election cycle that polarized the electorate.
But if Obama wins…well, I suppose he could certainly disappoint me, perhaps by not being progressive enough, or by not being able to find the phone at 3:00 AM, or by being a mysterious Muslim stranger from the East. But I don’t expect any of those outcomes. I expect a leader that can restore some of what we’ve lost, and demonstrate a new kind of political discourse that doesn’t talk down to people.
Sometimes I think it’s really going to happen. Other times I shake my head and wonder how I ever thought we were ready for or deserved that kind of leadership. I suppose I’m setting myself up for a big fall, though, because when it’s all said and done I think it’s going to happen.
Stakes are high.