Today, I will vote for Barack Obama. Not because he is black, and not because he is a Democrat. I will vote for him because I believe he is the better man running; I will vote for him because I share many of his ideologies; I will vote for him because I have watched this grueling campaign relentlessly and only one candidate showed the wisdom, poise, and leadership qualities necessary to lead a nation.
This is not a time in American history where we can afford to be flippant about our choices. It is not a time when this choice should be about one issue, or even about which candidate will ensure you have the most money sitting in your bank account. If we as Americans care about anything outside our borders, and everything within them, we cannot place a man in the presidency who has shown himself to be rash, impetuous, and strangely (as these qualities don't seem to go together) wooden. This has to be a day about reshaping our image in the world. It has to be a day about maturity. It has to be a day about valuing rationality and the US Constitution. It has to be a day about being smart, about change, and yes, about hope. It has to be a day about inspiration. Words and rhetoric are not enough, but that is not all Barack Obama is about. Read his books. He wrote them. He, himself, wrote them. No one who reads his books, whether conservative or liberal, can deny that the man behind them is that most rare and precious thing: a clear thinker. A wise, discerning, rational voice who is not afraid to wade into complexity and has a knack for explaining himself simply. Trust me. Trust me. It's a lot harder than it looks.
This election isn't about Sarah Palin, although there is one remarkable thing to remember about her: the man who hired her as his running mate was aware that he is a survivor of a particularly lethal form of skin cancer, is older than any newly inaugurated president would be, and that there would be a real possibility that he was picking his presidential successor. A man who put country first would do just that: He would pick someone who has the wisdom combined with the experience to lead; he would pick someone honest, someone wise; he would pick someone who could step in at a moment's notice. The fair accusation of the McCain campaign that Barack Obama doesn't have enough experience has withered under this pick, for Barack Obama has spent 22 months being tried and tested and answering reporters' questions and proving that he is conversant in the issues and would be a cool hand on the till and that there are no monsters so great in his past as to upturn public opinion. John McCain was comfortable putting a woman about whom a simple Google search turned up damning ethics questions a heartbeat away from his job - he was comfortable doing this even though he had met her twice, for an hour - he was comfortable with her many contradictions and questions and, as it has been proven, many lies. That was all fine, because she could energize the base and get people excited. A man who put country first would not think so little of women, so little of the job to which he wishes to ascend, so little of the American people, and so little of himself, as to present this woman as a realistic future president of the United States.
Barack Obama, on the other hand, picked Joe Biden. A longwinded, gaffe-prone, down-home guy from Pennsylvania, who was not guaranteed to bring in even one more electoral vote (in the swingy state Biden's presence on the ticket has surely helped but it did not drive it home), but did add many years of foreign service aptitude, experience and wisdom to an already intellectual ticket. Why? Because the focus is on government, not campaigning. It's about country first.
Our country is in such real trouble, on so many fronts. Today I was notified by the IRS that I'll be receiving a sizable check from the government as part of the Economic Stimulus Package. Well, thank you, Government, but let's all take a minute and realize how bad this is: They are giving me money. It has gotten so bad that apparently the government feels I'm a better steward of this cash than they are, and are entrusting me with it. Our country is in major trouble.
So today I will vote for a man who I believe can turn the tide, can make us start believing in ourselves and the promise of a better nation and world again. I will vote for Barack Obama because he gives us hope.
In 2004, right after I witnessed his remarkable Democratic Convention speech, I wrote this on my blog:
"I'm wary of saying "first black president," more because I really don't want his stock to crash and burn. We're going to burn him out. Let's just keep an eye on him. ... There hasn't been someone like him in...in my life. Not since Clinton's saxophone moment have I watched any political event with actual hope. ... Maybe all a politician can do to inspire change is be a great orator. To bring hope to people the way that speech did. Is a politician more than one who inspires? Is a politician anything if he does not inspire? ... I don't know. All I know is this country needs a little inspiration. We finally got some.
I hope you'll join me, and I hope that whomever you vote for we are on the way to better times here and around the world.