Thursday, November 6, 2008

Thoughts from the Campaign Trail

When this election began two years ago (!) I was not in Obama's camp. Of course I would vote democratic, but I was a part of the "anyone but Hilary" camp. This may alarm some readers, since Hilary Clinton is a smart, determined, and extremely well-educated individual who might very well have been an excellent President. My basis for ruling her out as our nominee was based not on her talents, but on her last name. I don't believe our country should be run by political dynasties. I thought Bill Clinton was a pretty damn good President, but when our nation was founded it was not the intent that we should pass executive power from one member of a family to another. And yes, that goes for Bushes and Addamses and Kennedys. If Hilary had not been a Clinton, I might very well have backed her. 

Instead, I settled on Edwards. This was, of course, before we found out that Edwards had an affair in his background which would have associated our party -- yet again! -- with adultery and deception. But it soon became clear that this was a race between two superstar candidates, Clinton and Obama, and no one else really had much of a chance. When Edwards dropped out, I moved to the Obama camp with initial uncertainty. The more I learned about him, the happier I became. His Pennsylvania speech on race was, I thought, extraordinarily convincing. I didn't much care about Reverend Wright; what persuaded me was that we had a Presidential candidate who was talking to me like I was an adult and not a moron.

Of course Republican pundits continued to push Clinton as the candidate because (they thought) nothing else would fire up the Republican base as well as another Clinton on the ticket. And as much as I disapproved of her candidacy the fact is that we owe Hilary a huge debt. Not for putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling, but for running a tough campaign over many months. That refusal to surrender led Obama and Howard Dean to build an incredible GOTV machine that could pivot seamlessly from the nomination process to the Presidential campaign. Hilary Clinton does not read this blog, but I thank her anyway. Without that primary season, we would have gone into the election without one of our most potent weapons.

There are two lines from this campaign that I especially remember, and Barack Obama didn't say either of them. The first was from Bill Clinton at the Democratic Convention; there, he noted that the world has always been more impressed "by the power of our example than by the example of our power." I'm not sure whether that line is Shakespearean in its perfection, or Sphinx-like in its obscurity, but I'm inclined to go with the former mostly because it embodies a notion of America's influence on the world stage which I firmly agree with. Let us live by example. Let us not torture, let us encourage civil rights, let us woo the world through our good behavior.

The other line came soon after, and restored much of my confidence in Obama's victory. The selection of Sarah Palin energized the Republican base and there was, for a few days, a notion that she would also bring around smart and successful women who had been Hilary supporters. This belief was shattered when we all discovered that Governor Palin is an under-educated buffoon. When Saturday Night Live became funny again, Palin was transformed into an albatross around John McCain's neck. If Bill Clinton was this year's Henry V, Tina Fey was our Falstaff.

"And I can see Russia from my house!"

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