The Change

I have written scant few politics posts throughout the years, mostly because I’m not as much of an ideologue when it comes to politics, as say, technology.

For most of my adult life, I have been republican-leaning. There was even a period of time in the mid-to-late 1990’s when I very, very wrongly thought that republicanism and protestant Christianity were intertwined – and ascribing to the latter meant that you had to be part of the former. It is still a systemic viewpoint that pervades today in many evangelical protestant churches – which is a whole other post for a whole other day. Needless to say, there’s a lot of people that seem to skip over some of the completely obvious meanings in words in a letter Paul wrote to the church in Thessalonica that is included in what came to be called the New Testament, to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good;” in politics, in science, in relationships.

I still mostly vote republican. But I’m far more moderate across the board as I get older. I have a mix of viewpoints on every major issue that combined together don’t fit any political platform. And they certainly aren’t binary. Life is a lot of shades of gray. And shades of gray don’t fit into a sound bite.

I have been long disappointed with the leadership of both of our major national political parties. I guess fundamentally I have a deep and abiding belief in the power of the individual, and want very much to see a transparent meritocracy that sees no race, no color, no creed, no orientation, no belief system. It’s an ideal that doesn’t really exist. So I guess I picked the platform that matched me more, because the person really didn’t seem to make a difference.

That is, until now.

Don’t worry, I’m not going to turn this blog into a political one. I’ve debated posting this at all for a few weeks. This will likely be my last words on the subject. And normally while blogs are partially ego-driven, and this one is no exception, deviating into politics for non-political blogs is a bit much. And who I vote for is really nobody’s business, nor should it be made anyone’s business.

But this election has become a little different.

My thoughts on all of this are deeper and more nuanced than anyone has the patience to read, and I to write – but I want to highlight a few reasons of how I’ve come to feel and think the way I do about this election.

Even though I am completely fed up with the management failures, the lack of fiscal discipline, the apparent disregard for the separation of powers, and a fear-fueled erosion of personal liberties of the current republican Presidential administration, I thought as the campaigns started I would have surely voted republican again if faced with a Hillary Clinton campaign for president.

Over time I came to respect Hillary a lot more than I ever thought I would have. But I still would struggle in voting for the continuation of a Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton hegemony.

While early on, I liked Obama’s tech policy, and as a technologist, I’d probably come close to voting for him on Network Neutrality alone – Network Neutrality doesn’t make a President. I thought he was a fantastic speaker, but all I knew about him was that he had a few years as a state senator, and almost none as a national senator. I was unsure if he had the experience that I thought he needed to be President.

Then came this segment on the Tim Russert show. And I knew then that I’d certainly vote for Obama out of all of the democratic party candidates I even registered democrat for the first time in my life, so I could cast that primary vote (in NC, only registered democrats can cast a vote in the democratic primary Update see correction in comments).

On March 18, 2008. After the height of a media snippet assault of clips of Jeremiah Wright, Barack Obama delivered one of the best written, most eloquently delivered speeches I have ever heard. In an election cycle dependent on soundbites, it defied conventional wisdom – a 30+ minute speech on race in America – and highlighted a campaign – and a person – that was different – a change in how it conducted its business.

I completely understand cynicism. But you can’t walk away from that speech and not be one part chagrined, and one part inspired.

And that is what leaders do. They acknowledge the wrong. And they inspire those around them to make it right.

I later became one vote in many that showed Obama could do well in a state like North Carolina, and the NC primary became part of a historical shift in the primary race.

The story of course, doesn’t end there. I still worried a bit if Senator Obama was all oratorical style and no substance, still worried at times when I heard the Senator off-stump-speech. I still expected there to be a skeleton in the closet. Meanwhile, all I was hearing out of most of the republicans were questions about experience – and a marked repeated emphasis on Senator Obama’s middle name.

The former question about experience is fine – and should be asked.

The latter statements about his name, repeated at event after event made me madder and madder. That’s not my America. And that’s not my political party.

On August 16, 2008 – both candidates appeared in a forum with Rick Warren – a pastor of a California mega-church, answering the same questions. I’ve watched snippets of it, and have read the transcripts

And by far, the issue that struck the me the most was the question and answers about “evil” This issue is absolutely fundamental issue for me. You cannot ignore the evil in your own midst when you take it on elsewhere – and Senator Obama captured what I feel to be true, you have to confront wrong in all its forms, and you have to be extraordinarily careful to not perpetrate your own evil in the guise of good. I don’t know if Senator McCain’s sole focus on the evil posed by Islamic extremism was political expediency or myopia, but neither are what I want in a President. Our Commander-In-Chief is sworn to protect America from its enemies, but we cannot create the enemy within in a myopic, dogmatic pursuit to rid ourselves of those external to us.

I guess then I was leaning Obama, and as I learned more about his background, his role in the community – and the way he conducted his life. I came to lean that way even more – not so much for the platform, but for the person. Both candidates still had Vice Presidential candidates to select, conventions to run and debates to have. And they each came to form my final view – of each of the candidates for President.

• I feel that the selection of Governor Palin represents a complete failure of judgment on the part of Senator McCain. She is not a leader, not a national leader, and in these last several weeks see absolutely no indication the she ever would or could be. I could go into a litany of reasons. But I’ll focus on one: sure, the media is tough, I know that I’d struggle to have a coherent and concise answer in a series of questions from the professional media. But you betcha I’d try to answer the question, and more, I wouldn’t be afraid of “I don’t know” Blaming some kind of “gotcha media” for illustrating a person so devoid of the fundamental intellectual curiosity necessary to lead our nation that she has to cram so much on the answers from campaign aides that she displays the kind of “cramming recall” incoherence that she did with Katie Couric? That’s not leadership. I’ve heard her with the conservative talk show hosts – and while there was more coherence, there is no greater substance. For that reason and more, her selection was a bad choice. • That whole “suspend the campaign” stunt from Senator McCain? It’s either political grandstanding, or completely reactionary. I completely empathize with reactionary personalities. We are passionate, involved, go-to people for solving problems and getting answers and getting something done. The President needs those people on his or her staff. But the President cannot be that person. That was absurd. If it was political grandstanding, it was even more absurd. • We have many problems we face as a country. Massive debt. A recessionary slowdown like nothing we have seen, not since 1987 – not since the 1970’s, maybe not even since the depression. We have infrastructure challenges in a number of places. A health care mess that even I’ve written about before. We are at declared war – on two fronts. We the people are going to have to get ourselves out of the mess – which we are completely capable of doing – with the leadership that says “here’s the problem – now let’s get with the program and get it done” To make a few committee assignments with Bill Ayers a central point in your campaign with all these problems? Colin Powell said yesterday that it was “inappropriate” – I’m not as measured as General Powell – it’s beyond inappropriate, It is completely ridiculous topic to make it the central focus of your presidential campaign – and it’s completely unethical to play into the terrorism and war fears of the American people in doing so. It is politics, at it’s almost lowest form.

Notice I said “almost” – there’s something even lower and even more insidious. General Powell said it better than I could ever possibly say, and I’ve been searching for weeks for the words to express what he did in just a few minutes on a Sunday morning talk show:

I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

I feel strongly about this particular point because of a picture I saw in a magazine. It was a photo essay about troops who are serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. And one picture at the tail end of this photo essay was of a mother in Arlington Cemetery, and she had her head on the headstone of her son’s grave. And as the picture focused in, you could see the writing on the headstone. And it gave his awards–Purple Heart, Bronze Star–showed that he died in Iraq, gave his date of birth, date of death. He was 20 years old. And then, at the very top of the headstone, it didn’t have a Christian cross, it didn’t have the Star of David, it had crescent and a star of the Islamic faith. And his name was Kareem Rashad Sultan Khan, and he was an American. He was born in New Jersey. He was 14 years old at the time of 9/11, and he waited until he can go serve his country, and he gave his life. Now, we have got to stop polarizing ourself in this way. And John McCain is as nondiscriminatory as anyone I know. But I’m troubled about the fact that, within the party, we have these kinds of expressions.

I am more than troubled. I am angry, and more than embarrassed by that. I never, ever want to be associated with any party of people that stoops to these levels. This is not my America.

And for Senator McCain to condone this, even partially, adds to the continued failures of judgment. I would not be able in good conscience to vote for a candidate and party doing this, not with this kind of judgment – even if Senator McCain wasn’t running against Senator Obama.

But it adds to it that he is running against Senator Obama. And through these last few weeks, the message of Barack Obama has never wavered, never faltered, it has time and again pointed to the problems that are set out before us, and the hope that we can work through them. His campaign alone speaks of “We The People”

To be American, with all our imperfections is to continually strive for the embodiment of the ideals upon which we declared our independence. That we hold dear the self-evident truth that all are created equal. That all deserve life, all deserve liberty, all deserve the chance the opportunity to pursue their happiness.

That is the American Promise.

For the first time in my adult life, I finally hear one party, and one candidate speaking these words. And for that reason, I’m voting for Barack Obama for President this election.