25
Oct
08

endorsement season

After mailing my absentee ballot, some reflection has left me totally confused as to how someone might still be undecided. With such stark differences between the candidates, it’s hard for me to imagine a state of mind that would result in being an undecided voter. Luckily, it doesn’t seem like we need to wait to find out on what side of the bed some undecided Ohioans wake up Nov. 4.

In case there’s an undecided voter out there who is going to choose based on the opinions pages of the NYT, WashPo, New Yorker, etc (I find it unlikely that there are many undecideds in the audiences of these papers) their editors have come out with their (un)surprising endorsements of Barack. But endorsement season doesn’t stop with the elite, liberal, America-hating media. Any loyal HuffPo reader has surely seen endorsements that range from poor attempts at humor to last minute ship jumping.

I don’t want to entirely minimize the importance of endorsements. Obama’s commanding lead (133-44 among print media) around the country should end the “discussion” about the sufficiency of his experience. I’d also be lying to suggest that I haven’t been following the endorsements closely. The last few weeks have seen some really moving, strongly worded statements of support laden with political and historical significance beyond the immediate choice. Colin Powell’s forceful eloquence on Meet The Press should reassure even conservative voters as to Obama’s capacity to keep the nation safe.

I was particularly impressed with his denouncement of the McCain/Palin/Right Wing attacks; I believe his argument was only stengthened by the obvious insanity of his post-endorsement skewering by racist right wing zealots. Though nothing can ever atone for Powell’s infamous argument for war at the UN, he’s using his immense credibility with the American people for a cause this time. It’s a start.

Of all the notable Bush->Obama reversals, I found The Chicago Tribune’s to be the most poignant:

Many Americans say they’re uneasy about Obama. He’s pretty new to them.

We can provide some assurance. We have known Obama since he entered politics a dozen years ago. We have watched him, worked with him, argued with him as he rose from an effective state senator to an inspiring U.S. senator to the Democratic Party’s nominee for president….

We have tremendous confidence in his intellectual rigor, his moral compass and his ability to make sound, thoughtful, careful decisions. He is ready.

This endorsement makes some history for the Chicago Tribune. This is the first time the newspaper has endorsed the Democratic Party’s nominee for president.

The Tribune in its earliest days took up the abolition of slavery and linked itself to a powerful force for that cause–the Republican Party. The Tribune’s first great leader, Joseph Medill, was a founder of the GOP. The editorial page has been a proponent of conservative principles. It believes that government has to serve people honestly and efficiently.

The Tribune has been publishing since 1847; it’s endorsement of Abraham Lincoln – The Tribune was Linocoln’s hometown paper as well – is linked from the page. It means a lot that Obama has been able to win the support of the (conservative) organization that knows him best.

The New Yorker’s endorsement was almost a nonevent considering the magazine’s intelligent coverage of the campaigns. However, the text itself is impressive; “The Choice” fills the entire Talk of the Town section. The piece weaves together a harsh but honest account of the Bush administration – it says a lot more in a few paragraphs than Oliver Stone managed in two hours – with a review of major policy differences between Obama and McCain. It really got me fired up.

But what really emerges from this endorsement is a sense of Obama’s intelligence. At a time when intelligence is demonized – an attitude which (shockingly) hasn’t disappeared even as the country emerges from the tragedy of the Bush presidency.

The incumbent Administration has distinguished itself for the ages. The Presidency of George W. Bush is the worst since Reconstruction, so there is no mystery about why the Republican Party—which has held dominion over the executive branch of the federal government for the past eight years and the legislative branch for most of that time—has little desire to defend its record, domestic or foreign….

Nowadays, almost every politician who thinks about running for President arranges to become an author. Obama’s books are different: he wrote them. “The Audacity of Hope” (2006) is a set of policy disquisitions loosely structured around an account of his freshman year in the United States Senate…. A Presidential election is not the awarding of a Pulitzer Prize: we elect a politician and, we hope, a statesman, not an author. But Obama’s first book is valuable in the way that it reveals his fundamental attitudes of mind and spirit. “Dreams from My Father” is an illuminating memoir not only in the substance of Obama’s own peculiarly American story but also in the qualities he brings to the telling: a formidable intelligence, emotional empathy, self-reflection, balance, and a remarkable ability to see life and the world through the eyes of people very different from himself. In common with nearly all other senators and governors of his generation, Obama does not count military service as part of his biography. But his life has been full of tests—personal, spiritual, racial, political—that bear on his preparation for great responsibility.

Due to the perversion of sense intrinsic to the American political system, Obama has been criticized for his rhetorical abilities for two years. Recent history must have foreclosed the possibility of a legitimately intelligent and successful politician. One of the reasons for the current sorry state of the union is too much doing and not enough talking. Obama will help us think before we spend ourselves into oblivion, hurtle our power at a foreign nation, or strip anyone of their human rights.

Finally, The New York Review of Books‘ published a selection of endorsements from intellectuals in “A Fateful Election.” This collection includes the reflections of Joan Didion, Ronald Dworkin, and Paul Krugman, whose perspectives are refreshingly nuanced, specific, and thoughtful. Together, they deal effectively with the most delicate and weighty issues of the election: race, free-market capitalism, rampant inequality, and the international reaction to our election. The essays are among the best I’ve read over the past two years.

The election is a week from tuesday. I can’t wait.

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