Offering frequent news and analysis from the majestic Evergreen State and beyond, The Cascadia Advocate is the Northwest Progressive Institute's unconventional perspective on world, national, and local politics.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Why we are supporting Barack Obama

Editor's Note: This is the first in a two part series from the staff of the Northwest Progressive Institute concerning our presidential preferences.

This post reflects only the views of myself and Scott Gifford, one of our tireless and capable contributing editors.

- Andrew Villeneuve, Executive Director

We are Obama fans.

Like Markos, we would happily support any of the three major candidates, each of whom, we believe, could defeat whoever the Republicans throw at us.

Senator Clinton is a determined leader and brings with her a tremendous amount of intellectual gravitas. Senator Edwards speaks knowledgeably and forcefully about the challenges that face most American families - such as wage stratification, healthcare, or making college affordable.

But Barack Obama is the only candidate of the three who is talking about transformative, sweeping change. Not just a change in who runs the executive branch, but a visible, meaningful change in our politics and our culture.

Change that casts aside apathy, conflict, and cynicism in favor of fresh energy, harmony, and renewed hope for the United States of America.

Perhaps because he is such a gifted communicator, he speaks the plain language of real American values more masterfully than his rivals.

Obama has inspired a breathtaking number of young people across America - the generation whose participation is critical to the future of our democracy - to care about our nation's political process and become involved with his campaign.

We have been impressed with the responsiveness of the Obama campaign firsthand. Earlier this month, we inquired as to Barack Obama's position on transportation and livable communities - a topic that doesn't receive much attention in the traditional media. We promptly received a comprehensive paper outlining Obama's support for Amtrak, for municipal rapid transit and light rail, for a stronger air traffic control system, and for livable, walkable communities.

And then, when we had a couple of very specific follow-up questions, Obama's team tried their best to answer those for us as well.

Barack is a strong and charismatic leader capable of rallying our nation together... and building a powerful Democratic Party, as Roosevelt and Kennedy did. He is a candidate that Americans feel they can trust. Someone we can identify with, as Caroline Kennedy declared so eloquently in her New York Times column today.

If the Clinton and Bush years have taught us anything, it is that narrow (and illegitimate) victories are often somewhat pyrrhic. President Bill Clinton, for example, held many positions that were hardly progressive (don’t ask don’t tell, welfare cutbacks, and the "Defense of Marriage Act", to name a few).

Clinton governed well, considering the hostile Republican Congress he had to contend with for most of his presidency. But he was unable to advance the progressive cause and be the shepard of dramatic, transcendental change.

And George W. Bush...well, don't even get us started. The rampant destruction Bush and his cronies have caused will forever be a remembered as a tragic era error in our nation's history.

Compare Bush and Clinton to Ronald Reagan, revered as a saint among conservatives and held in fond regard by many biconceptuals (or independents) as well. Reagan cleverly championed individualism and advanced the right wing agenda as president. He won reelection decisively over Mondale in 1984 and spent much of the decade quietly dismantling the work of Lyndon Johnson and Jimmy Carter.

Much as we dislike and disagree with Reagan's views, we have to admit that he did an outstanding job of winning Americans to his side. He sought to move voters to embrace his worldview, rather than sacrificing his beliefs in an attempt to get support. He even persuaded Americans who did not agree with his conservative views to vote for him. And that's the kind of power that Barack Obama has.

In recent decades, Democratic candidates have unfortunately come to rely on polling and focus groups to determine the direction of their campaigns.

This is a self-defeating move. The job of leaders is to lead, not to follow.

Following the voters may make sense if you desperately want to capture the White House, as Hillary Clinton does. Barack Obama's campaign, in contrast, is about growing the Democratic Party and building the progressive movement. Movement building requires communication, framing, connecting, and engaging in politics in its truest and most traditional sense.

The word politic is from Latin or Greek. It refers to matters that pertained to citizens or the state; the body politic. Politics is the science or study of how to best govern, not simply how to win elected office. While winning is important, it is only important as a necessary condition for the true aim of politics, to create good public policy for the betterment of the nation.

It’s about inspiring Americans to see that they can be better, and to see progressive ideas as the key to improving this country.

It's not just about restoring America's promise. It's the true advancement, in every dimension, of the values our country was founded upon and has always stood for.

Hillary Clinton and John Edwards may have their own unique strengths, but neither has Barack Obama's extroadinarily compelling emotional message or diverse, widespread appeal. As the nominee - the Democratic standard bearer - Obama would benefit more from having Edwards and Clinton at his side than Clinton or Edwards would benefit from having Obama at their side.

Why? Because the theme of Obama's candidacy, which resonates both inside and outside the Democratic Party, is a new, unifying progressive politics for America. Clinton, on the other hand, is the darling of the Democratic establishment, while Edwards is a confrontational populist who justifiably wants to fight back against corporate greed and degradation of our common wealth.

We admire Edwards' resolve and passion for fighting the good fight. But America needs more than that at this critical moment, at this crossroads in time.

Healing the harm caused to this country through years of a divisive "you're either with us or you're against us" administration will take courageous and patient leadership from an authentic, pragmatic Democrat. It will take a Commander in Chief who can move this country forward by making it nearly impossible for Republicans to choose not to compromise.

We believe Barack Obama will be that President.


Blogger Howard Martin said...

Happy to read that you are now "Fired Up and Ready to Go!"
For daily postings with an Obama slant, there's www.seattleforbarackobama.

January 28, 2008 3:31 AM  
Blogger Julie Fanselow said...

Andrew and Scott,

This is a wonderfully well-written and well-reasoned case for Obama. As someone who, like you, first considered Edwards but became convinced by Obama (early last YEAR, in my case), I welcome you!

I especially appreciate your spreading the word about Obama's excellent stand on transportation. Many people have complained that Obama has put forth few substantive positions, but it's not true: they're there for the asking. Big media has simply chosen not to ask, most of the time.

Thank you for your support and your endorsement.

January 28, 2008 6:20 AM  

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