Apr/May 2008  •   Salon

Oops, I Did It Again

by Tom Dooley

Four years ago, I wrote an essay for the Salon laying out my reasons for voting for John Kerry. Anyone who knows me or has read my essays over the years knows I lean toward the liberal side of the fence, but I was surprised to learn from several readers they felt I had crossed a line by endorsing a presidential candidate. Frankly, I was amazed. And so, while I have no desire to alienate anyone, be she friend, family member, contributor, or reader, I'm going to once again tell you who I'd like to see as the next President of the United States. Feel free to disagree with me.

A few weeks ago, my wife was getting ready to teach an entry-level comp class, and she overheard a student stating he was going to vote "Republican all the way." When a classmate said she was interested in Obama, this young man said incredulously, "But he's a Muslim!" 

Not wanting to get into an argument with the student about politics, my wife nonetheless felt the need to correct the student on this point. "Obama is not a Muslim," she said. "He's a Christian."

"That's not what I heard," countered the student. He quickly followed that up with, "But I don't want to argue about politics."

"I don't want to argue about politics, either," my wife said. "But this isn't an argument. It is a fact that Obama is not a Muslim."

"Well," the student said, visibly frustrated. "How are we supposed to know what is true?"

How, indeed? If a student earning a degree at a four-year university doesn't know how to figure out whether or not Obama is a Muslim, then I would pose the question this way: How can we ever hope to have a functioning democratic republic if our electorate is this willfully ignorant? Because I guarantee you this student is no isolated case. The majority of Americans are so drop-dead stupid, it's a wonder this country doesn't implode under the weight of all the rocks in our heads.

It may be a blessing most of the stupid people in this country match their obtuseness with apathy, so they don't ever get around to voting and therefore have no effect on our political destiny.  However, it is not a blessing so many of the people who do vote are driven by idiotic, ill-informed passions like those of my wife's student.

I'm sure it's my liberal bias, but I'm most frightened by the faction of the above who tends to vote conservative. These are the people who let Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the right-wing mouthpieces do their thinking for them.  They seem predisposed to be susceptible to subtle and not so subtle backbiting like this: a few months ago, you heard a lot of Romney supporters saying they were voting for "sane leadership." The implication was McCain is mentally unstable, and the origin of this idea goes back to Carl Rove and the South Carolina primary during the 2000 election campaign, when the rumor was floated McCain had been rendered insane by his years in a POW camp. McCain is insane. Obama is Osama. Hillary is Billary. These people, meaning the kind of folks who fall for the Karl Rove brand of attack politics, are hardwired for fear-mongering, backbiting, mean-spiritedness, prejudice, and selfishness. If any of it rhymes, so much the better. Suggest to them their spot on the dunghill of American opportunism is threatened, and they'll rally in force to protect what they believe is theirs by divine right.

At the time I'm writing this, there are three viable candidates left standing. Sorry, Ralph Nader, but regardless of whether you're good for our electoral process or not, you are most definitely not a viable candidate. There are also a number of ex-candidates who still have a shot at a Vice Presidential bid, and/or who will hold some sway at the conventions due to the delegates they won before they dropped out.

Mitt Romney is a tool of the military-industrial complex and a panderer of the highest order. Exit polls indicated his supporters were overwhelmingly part of the 26 percent of Americans who still think Bush is doing a great job. Enough said.

Mike Huckabee is a seemingly decent guy who is unapologetically Christian, and I respect him for that, but he doesn't possess the breadth of knowledge or experience to lead this country through the treacherous waters we're in right now domestically and internationally.  

Ron Paul is a refreshingly direct voice and a reminder of why we have a constitution, but there is no way to see a single-minded champion of the gold standard as the leader of a country as vast and varied as ours.

John McCain is an outstanding citizen with an amazing lifetime of experience who deserved to be our president eight years ago. He's the kind of guy who you know actually has his own opinions and positions but who is also willing to do the compromising and brokering necessary to be effective in this multi-faceted world.

On the Democratic side, John Edwards represents the only voice from either party truly committed to doing something about the impending destruction from within America faces as the chasm between haves and have-nots expands and the middle class disappears into it. Issues of compassion aside, it's a practical matter of survival for our nation, our way of life, and to a large extent, the world as we know it.

Hillary Clinton is connected, savvy, incredibly capable, but she polarizes the electorate and, by virtue of who she is, takes this country in the wrong direction by lengthening the number of years either a Clinton or a Bush will have been in the White House. I have to think it is time for a new chapter to be written.

Which brings me to Barack Obama, non-Muslim. He may be short on experience and substance, but he more than makes up for those shortcomings by embodying what a new chapter in American history ought to be. He doesn't need to talk about racial equality; he represents racial equality. He doesn't need to talk about strengthening America's place in a global community; he is that link between America and the rest of the world. He doesn't need to talk about immigration issues; he is an immigrant success story. He doesn't need to talk about a changing of the guard or engaging with a new generation of Americans; he is change, and he is the new generation.  

But he does talk about all these things, and he talks about them so well, it's hard not to compare him to John F. Kennedy. His "Yes We Can" speech at the conclusion of the Iowa caucuses was the most inspirational public address of my lifetime. If a president's primary job is to serve as the mouthpiece of America, to represent our government to the American people and represent the American people to the rest of the world, and I hold it to be true this is his primary job, then Obama is the best qualified candidate by a landslide.

Obama embodies the kind of person who should be our president. He has the communication skills to do the job. And the things he stands for—bringing Americans together, restoring our place in the world, addressing the (frankly liberal) concerns of the environment, education, and economic disparity, and reining in the military-industrial complex... these are the things we sorely need leadership on at this point in our history.

So, for what it's worth, if Barack wins the Democratic nomination, I'll be voting for him. I just hope he has better luck with my endorsement than John Kerry did.