This morning I woke up and walked to my polling station and there I cast my vote for Barack Obama. I had the opportunity to vote for Edwards, who was still on the ballot, but I chose not to. Since Edwards suspended his campaign, I've been forced to do some hard thinking about who I would support in his absence.
One of the issues Edwards championed was universal health care. He came out early with a bold plan that set the bar for the other candidates. Clinton's plan is nearly the same as Edwards's, while Obama's leaves a little something to be desired (as I've blogged about before). So, strictly in terms of healthcare policy, I'd prefer Clinton. But of course, in politics, policy is only a piece of the puzzle. And in thinking about this, I realized that healthcare is actually a good lens through which to view the broader issues at stake.
Obama's healthcare plan is essentially the same plan that the "liberal utopianist" Bill Bradley proposed in 2000 when he ran against Al Gore--the same plan for which he was pilloried by Al Gore for going too far. Of course, those were different times. And it is reassuring to realize that the healthcare plan being critiqued today as insufficiently progressive is the same plan that was too progressive eight years ago. That's progress!
But of course, the President doesn't make laws, the President executes laws. It Congress who writes the laws, so when it comes to healthcare, whether Clinton or Obama are president, their policy proposals are only proposals, and it is the law that comes out of congress that they'll have to decide to sign or veto. And this brings me to my larger point: what kind of congress are we likely to see if Clinton is the nominee, and what kind of congress might we see if Obama is the nominee?
We all know how polarizing Hillary Clinton is. And we all know how many enemies the Clinton's have. One thing that seems clear to me is that if Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she will unite a fractured republican party against her. She may win the Presidency, but it will be yet another close election, and it will cost the democrats scores of downticket seats as republicans, who's entrhusiasm has been lackluster in the primaries, will suck it up and go vote not only for the republican nominee (who will be McCain), but also for all the republicans running in theri district. I expect that if Clinton gets the nomination, Democratic gains in congress will be squelched. Further, I predict that she, like her husband, will lose democratic seats in congress in the 2010 midterm elections of her first term. If Hillary Clinton is working with a weak Democratic majority, or worse, a republicasn majority, we can be assured of several, more years of vitriol and acrimony with less than progressive outcomes.
And of course, if it's Clinton vs. McCain, the distinctions between them are minimal. And in a general, McCain will move to the left and Clinton will move to the right, further blurring the distinctions. I believe this scenario favors McCain as the anti-dynastic candidate.
What we know about Obama as a candidate is that he's energized the youth vote like no other candidate in my lifetime, which is a huge thing. These are people who might never have voted before, and Obama is bringing them into the Democratic tent, and most are likely to stay there. We also know Obama has appeal across party lines. Of course we remember Reagan Democrats, that bloc of voters who helped Ronnie into office in '80, and into a landslide in '84--effectively setting up the kind of republican party that would elect Bush in 88, and after losing the White House in 92, they would take back congress in 94...they would elect Bush in 2000, and take congress in 2002. Of course, many in the republican party viewed Reagan with suspicion. He had been, after all, an FDR Democrat. But it was his broad appeal that allowed him to build the party that has effectively set the agenda in this country for 26 of the last 28 years.
I believe that Obama can do the same thing for Democrats that Reagan did for Republicans. Obama at the top of the ticket agains McCain is a much clearer choice--youth vs. age, the party of change vs. party in power, a vote against the war vs. 100more years in Iraq. I believe Obama will have no trouble winning that matchup. And the wave of enthusiasm that would accompany Obama when compared to the suppressed republican turnout due to conservative suspicion of McCain will mean big gains for the downticket democratic races. With an Obama candidacy we can expect solid democratic majorities in Congress which will hold or grow in 2010 midterms, and the very real possibility that President Obama will be give a healthcare plan to sign into law that more closely resembles Edwards' plan than his own.
On foreign policy, Obama IS the best candidate. Clinton is a hawk. McCain is a hawk. Romney wants to double the size of Guantanamo. Only Obama has had the courage to say that we would engage the world like an adult, which is to say he'd use diplomacy rather than preemption. We know that much of the animosity the rest of the world feels towards the US is directed at our boastful neo-imperialism. Obama would soften that image with genuine global citizenship.
Obama is not the perfect progressive candidate in terms of domestic policy. I have many reservations about him on several issues. But I believe he is the candidate who will galvanize the Democratic Party and lay the foundation of a new progessive era and a better America.
Whgo else supports Obama?
Janet Napolitano, Governer of Arizona -- a state G.W. Bush won twice
Kathleen Sibelius , Governor of Kansas -- a state G.W. Bush won twice
Claire McCaskill, Junior Senator from Missouri -- a state G.W. Bush won twice
Hillary can win in the bluest of the blue, and so can Obama. But Obama can turn the purple states blue, and start turning some red states purple.