Monday, July 7, 2008

Standing up and speaking up

I'm not sure I'll vote for Barrack Obama. But I am certain that I will not be casting a ballot for John McCain. I have voted for lesser-party candidates in the past, rather than settle for the lesser of two evils.

And while as an African-American I do feel some sense of pride in the fact that Obama has emerged as the presumptive Democratic nominee and the first real black candidate with a chance to win the top job at the White House, my decision is not based on color but what his candidacy represents.

That's why, despite the fact that she was so open in her support for McCain, I was proud to see a young Detroit Free Press intern sound off in this Sunday's editorial section about the issue. If you missed it, check out Angelica Brown's editorial in the June 7 edition of the Freep.

The recent Detroit Mumford High School grad proudly stated for the world to hear that she's not voting for Obama, despite the overwhelming show of support by her friends and family for the senator from Illinois. She is bothered by the fact that so many people who are close to her want to see Obama win because he is black. The discomfort she felt over their blind show of faith compelled her to become a student of politics, Brown said, in an effort to delve into the substance of the candidates. For that, I commend her.

While I'm not all that old, I have lived long enough to have the fortune of experiencing two presidential campaigns that "changed my life." The first was the 1992 campaign that saw former Arkansas Gov. William Jefferson Clinton capture the victory and change the country in a way that many never imagined. For the first time ever, I saw people who never thought about voting suddenly become interested in the process. I'm seeing that again this time around, and teens like Brown are proof.

Clinton went on to have eight years in Washington, and during that time we didn't have mortgage foreclosure madness, a senseless war in Iraq, high unemployment, $4 gas and a Hurricane Katrina nightmare that continues to disrupt the lives of thousands of innocent victims from New Orleans.

Okay, the last one was partly and act of God and could have been at least partially avoided by earlier government intervention. It also could have been handled better by President George Bush's buddy and FEMA head Mike "Brownie" Brown. Also to be fair, we would not have had Monica Lewinsky, Paula Jones and a few others to heap jokes upon as a result of presidential indiscretions at the, um, hands of the leader of the free world had Clinton not occupied the Oval Office.

But while I digress, I still contend that eight years of Clinton were far superior to the eight years of George W. Bush we have managed to survive. I am a native of Little Rock and voted for Clinton because he was from Arkansas, my family liked him for that reason and he has done some tremendous things for that state as both governor and president. That may not have been the most astute way to pick a candidate, but that was my decision, and I'm glad I made it.

To her credit, Brown points to a number of perceived strengths in McCain's planned policies over propositions layed out so far by Obama. I don't necessarily agree with her, but that's what makes this nation so great. My problem with McCain -- and I will admit that I might have voted for him had he won the nomination in 2000 -- is that he has changed over the past few years and sounds too much like Bush for my tastes these days.

Obama will not get my vote because he is black. Quite honestly, he had me at "change." The first time I saw him at a campaign stop and saw "change" on his posters rather than his name I thought he had a great strategy and knew he was commited to doing something different on Capitol Hill. That's what his candidacy stands for in my mind, and I am convinced of that, although I wonder how successful he'll actually be if elected.

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm came into office as a smart candidate who presented well and had great ideas. I was a huge fan, but have been surprised by her lack of effectiveness. She was had an unwilling state legislature to deal with, but I hoped she would be a strong enough politician to get things done, because at the end of the day that's all that matters. I worry that Obama will have a similar time moving the needle, but I have to stay optimistic. Or, I'll have to move to the country and start growing corn, raising cows and building wind turbines (okay, cheat sheet -- think about all the money going into ethanol production, what we're spending on food these days and the promise of alternative energy.

Brown also pointed to Obama's inexperience in her editorial -- something I thought ironic, given the fact that I was impressed by the case presented by someone from her generation. She said that because he is still very young, even though the world believes it is ready for an American president who doesn't have white skin, she doesn't know if she believes it really is.

I was disappointed in that statement because I thought progress in the area of diversity and inclusion would be made by those in Brown's generation, which tends to consider race as being less important than do their parents. At the very least I would hope that the world is as ready for a bright, well-spoken and energetic president with little experience as it was for what we have given it the past eight years.

No comments: