(original post and comments here)
I know, I know. I've promised more math posts and failed to deliver. The truth is, it takes quite a while to write a math blog post because I have to design all the diagrams and equations and convert them to the right format to upload. So more math posts, I promise, I promise. Eventually.
But as much as I like math, a much more weighty issue is rising to prominence: We will elect a new president in about 9.5 months, and that person will take office in less than a year. I've made no secret about my disdain for the current administration, and for George W. Bush, in particular. I've also mentioned my admiration for Obama before. But now I'm more convinced than ever that he is the right choice by far to be our next president. I know my readership is not very high, and most people land here for my math pages. But I think my reasons are good, and I would feel uneasy if I didn't do something here to tell you what those reasons are, especially with only a week to go before "superduper" Tuesday. Please feel free to link to this post if you agree with me (or if you disagree, for that matter). If you must steal my words without attribution, at least they might help elect the man.
- This is the reason that I hear the least, but it's among the most important to me. The president, in addition to being our leader, is our representative—the public face we show the world. Our modern world is no longer one which appreciates a superpower throwing its rich, white, establishment weight around. Europeans, South Americans, Middle Eastern countries, and sworn terrorist enemies resent that to varying degrees about us. Electing a young, multi-ethnic president will present a much different face: one that says, "We've come to realize that our strength comes from our diversity. Our economic strength resides in the hard work of our immigrants (both willing and unwilling) in our present and our past, and we all have a stake in our success. There's more to this country than you are accustomed to seeing."
- Let's face it, the resentment I feel towards George Bush and the resentment a lot of Republicans feel towards Clinton (both of them, actually, but Hillary, in particular) are not helpful emotions in unifying this country to face the world's threats (terrorism, genocide, environmental degradation, shortages of natural resources like oil and water). Obama is probably the least divisive candidate on either side. He attracts very liberal Democrats (Like most of the Kennedys! C'mon, that's gotta count for something! They're saying: "If you voted for John, or if you planned to vote for Robert, please vote for Obama.") and even conservative Republicans who are attracted to his integrity and his willingness to seek common ground. He isn't perfect, of course, no candidate is. But he offers the best hope of emerging from the D./R., RedState/BlueState, Fundamentalist/Secularist stalemate corner that our politics of division (thank you, Karl Rove and Lee Atwater) has painted us into. Clinton is the opposite. She's so divisive that Republicans will come out of the woodworks to vote against her in the general election. And even if (somehow) she really were elected, it would just perpetuate the antagonism, and that has just got to stop.
- It's a little clichéd, but true: a president of color will surely send a strong signal that people of color (and, frankly, all people not born into White, male, Christian privilege) need no longer assume that this country won't let them succeed. It won't be an end to racism, of course, far from it. And I'm even a bit worried that conservatives will use an Obama presidency to claim that "Racism is over! We don't need affirmative action or any of that anymore, see!" But despite that possibility, the benefits outweigh the risks. At the very least, an Obama candidacy will emphasize the political importance of people of color, even if loses.
- He's smart (extraordinarily so, I think) and confident about it. This means that he won't, out of insecurity, appoint cronies and yesmen to important positions around him. Bush didn't pick grown-ups (Gates, Petraeus) for important posts until late in his presidency, and Clinton has too many favors from her husband's administration to return to make wise, considered appointments. I have confidence that Obama wouldn't hesitate even to name people he disagrees with to cabinet positions if he respects their accomplishments and thinks they'll do a good job.
- He clearly inspires young people to be involved in politics. The supposed apathy of genX and genY has worried older and "wiser" generations for a long time now. But Obama is inspiring record numbers of young people to be involved and vote. While the Baby Boomer generation might not be happy about losing power to a younger generation, the change has to happen sometime, and it should happen by inspiration, not by default.
- I believe he has real integrity. For one thing, he has tried to run a decent campaign. Some tactics that could be considered underhanded are probably impossible to avoid, but I really believe he is committed to changing how political campaigns are designed. For another, he talks about sacrifice and the need to for everyone to change—his speeches are inspiring without being all warmfuzzyfeelgood all the time. For a third, he has real experience in the trenches of community organizing, which he undertook because he believed in it, not because he thought it would bring him the presidency (kindergarten aspirations, notwithstanding).
There. Those are my reasons. I hope someone is listening.