Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Obama or Clinton?

I've gone back and forth over who I would vote for. I think that Clinton's gender advantage is cancelled out by Obama's racial status, meaning I wouldn't vote for either of them based on whether I want an African-American or a women in the White House. Another way to assess a vote would be to consider who would be best for beating McCain, who seems to be becoming the Republican's great hope for retaining the White House. I really haven't been able to answer this question. Neither Obama or Clinton are likely to run best with the crowd most likely to support McCain, white men. So it really seems like a toss up to me on this score.

I guess it comes down to who might get the most done, say, with a recalcitrant congress and a politically divided country. Rhetorically, I'll admit that I like Obama better. I think he's crafted a charismatic, uplifting message that tends to attract lots of crowds. A year ago I thought that he sounded a lot like Robert Kennedy (who I only know through tape), and many others have made the same connection. He also seems fairly intellectual, with a remarkably balanced sense of what it means to be interracial and American. Some liberal blogs I read complain that Obama's rhetoric seems vaporous, but politics is partly about rhetoric and I think his allows him to neutralize typical modes of political warfare. Besides, the actual details of their platforms are remarkably similar.

Honestly, I never really wanted Clinton to run in the first place; I simply don't like the idea of these two political dynasties and there's just too much talk of the "Clinton machine" and "Clinton loyalty." But she is pretty remarkable. Who would have thought a former President's wife would ever run for President. She's smart, politically savvy (perhaps too much, given her vote to support the war), and combative. She would no doubt give McCain a real race. She must have learned a lot of political lessons over time, especially after the debacle of her health care plan early in Bill's first term. She's the practical candidate, but I keep wondering how far her practicality can take her? She's right that it was Lyndon Johnson who really got things done, but is she an equal kind of operator?

For me, though, I think it really comes down to the war. Obama was not only principled about his initial votes on the war, he understood like so many of us what a folly it was. It's become even more disastrous than I thought possible. But it wasn't easy being against the war in 2002, and Obama didn't try to "triangulate" (the famous Clinton strategy) at the time. This to me is political courage. If I knew who could beat McCain, I'd vote for them in a second. For now, I'll trust that Obama can do it.

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