Tuesday, January 29, 2008


My endorsement

By Elf Sternberg

A couple of months ago, I wrote (but did not post) a blog entry in which I metaphorically wrung my hands and quoted Jim Hightower to the wilderness, "If the Gods had meant for us to vote, they would have given us candidates!" I went through the list of candidates and decided ah, to Hell with 'em all.

[My wife] and I have often joked that we should have a weekly weblog, "The Bad Republican and the Bad Democrat," because that's pretty much what we are. I can't toe the party line anymore, not when it's so bloody fucking insane, and she's damnably unhappy with the Democratic kowtowing to unions and the Democratic Party of Washington's latest internal convulsions about opposing the blantantly false House Resolution 888 (which contains a metric arseload of Christian Nationalist deceits) because doing so would give the Christian Nationalists yet another data point in the idea that the Democrats are not a "pro-Christian" party.

But I really can't vote for a Republican this year for the President. The brand is so badly damaged, too tragically so, for me to take any of them seriously. Romney's a power-hungry empty suit, Huckabee's just scary, Paul's got more issues than The Stranger, Guiliani's a thug and goin' down for it, and judging McCain on his principles rather than his service leads me to conclude that he, like the rest of his field, lacks the moral stature and intellectual maturity needed to lead this country.

Of all the candidates on the other side, Hillary Clinton has all the chops needed to be president. She's truly a wonk; she does have all the facts at her disposal. She knows what she would do with each and every department as it came to her. She knows what she would do with the military, but she also knows what she'd do with the Department of Labor (seriously, when was the last time you even heard the Department of Labor mentioned in a news article?), the Department of Energy, Housing and Urban Development, and Transportation. (Have you looked at the President's Cabinet recently? Michael Chertoff looks like he got into Jeff Goldblum's teleportation device and threw the switch just as a hawk flew into the room.)

On the other hand, Barack Obama isn't a wonk. He's more in the mold of Ronald Reagan: an ideas man, a guy who has things to do and understands that as president he needs to point people at them and have them done. And he's right: under Reagan, the Republicans had all the ideas and the Democrats were exhausted. They may not have been all good ideas, but they at least had the force of presence and the top of mind to propel the country forward.

Now, I like wonkery. I admire it. Which is why I'm going to go ahead and vote for Obama, if my country will let me.

Not because I think he'll make a better executive. Clinton is by far and away more competent to be the executive. Obama will do okay in that regard, just as Reagan did okay.

But Reagan was something more than the executive. Because the presidency is more than "The Executive." He's more than just "the decider guy for the country." The President of the United States is also the Head of State of the Nation.

Andrew Sullivan voiced my conviction for me a couple of weeks ago. I want a child in Africa, or India, or Pakistan, to be able to look at the President of the United States and understand, for the first time, that America is not under the thumb of the same ol' regime. That anyone in America really can grow up to be President, and that we really believe in the premise that "all men are created equal"

Would a woman have the same impact? I don't think so. There have been women leaders of countries far less forgiving of women than the United States: Pakistan, India, Indonesia, the Philippines. People understand that a woman of the dominant regime can rise to power. A Black man is definitenly not of the "dominant regime" in the United States.

So, my endorsement is for Barack Obama. It's not an unreserved endorsement. As an executive, he's "good enough"; as a head of state, he's without peer. As an executive, Hillary's unreservedly competent, but as a head of state, she'd be unremarkable. We've learned that a "good enough" executive will support and maintain the agencies tasked with maintaining the national infrastructure and restoring order in times of crisis (by this measure, George Bush was not "good enough") but he can do no more than that.

It is as Head of State that a president truly stands out on his own, and Barack Obama would do that with greater stature than anyone else currently running, on either side of the aisle.

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