Left on our phone the other night:
“Hey, it’s E____. I had to call you guys and share my happiness about Obama winning at least the first caucus, because we were all sitting there in pain about Gore back in 2000, and finally I have an election that I have a little bit of hope that the person I want may win. Anyway, I just had to say that and I hope you guys have a good night. Bye.”
That was a fun call to get. And E____ and I are in the same camp. Although as I told a John Edwards canvasser, I can’t spell out logically while I’m leaning this way. And after years and years and years of looking for the rationale for my votes and often coming up short, I’ve given myself permission to just go with my instinct on this one.
(One of the best pieces I’ve read about Obama recently came from David Brooks, the New York Times columnist who has played the role of centrist/conservative (the paper recently hired a real conservative for the op-ed page). Brooks argues for Obama on the basis of his personal experience, temperament and intellect:
Moreover, he has a worldview that precedes political positions. Some Americans (Republican or Democrat) believe that the country’s future can only be shaped through a remorseless civil war between the children of light and the children of darkness. Though Tom DeLay couldn’t deliver much for Republicans and Nancy Pelosi, so far, hasn’t been able to deliver much for Democrats, these warriors believe that what’s needed is more partisanship, more toughness and eventual conquest for their side.
But Obama does not ratchet up hostilities; he restrains them. He does not lash out at perceived enemies, but is aloof from them. In the course of this struggle to discover who he is, Obama clearly learned from the strain of pessimistic optimism that stretches back from Martin Luther King Jr. to Abraham Lincoln. This is a worldview that detests anger as a motivating force, that distrusts easy dichotomies between the parties of good and evil, believing instead that the crucial dichotomy runs between the good and bad within each individual.
Obama did not respond to his fatherlessness or his racial predicament with anger and rage, but as questions for investigation, conversation and synthesis. He approaches politics the same way. In her outstanding New Yorker profile, Larissa MacFarquhar notes that Obama does not perceive politics as a series of battles but as a series of systemic problems to be addressed. He pursues liberal ends in gradualist, temperamentally conservative ways.
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