Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The day after

A few days ago I was surprised to learn that my dad was going to vote for Obama. We hadn't really discussed the election (though he knew my feelings) and given his tax bracket and past voting history, I supposed he would stick with McCain. Imagine my surprise to hear I was wrong (this occasionally happens). I will quote him, since I do so enjoy his way with words:

"Okay, I'm voting for Obama. There, I said it. I've voted for Republican candidates consistently over the years (starting with Nixon over McGovern while I served a mission), but not this time. I have doubts, certainly, and I'm not actively campaigning for him. Plus I think McCain is a smart and overall decent man. It's a tough choice for me, and in these parts, my vote really doesn't matter; but on balance, I'm going for Obama.

"Sure, I'm bothered that three of his early mentors and role models were avowed socialists, and a triumvirate of Obama/Pelosi/Reid is frightening to say the least. But Presidents tend to move toward the center, particularly those who, unlike W, like ideas and welcome opposing viewpoints (see, for example, Team of Rivals, a fine book about Lincoln and how he brought together advisers who often disagreed strongly with him). I'm taking a leap of faith here, but I think Obama is smart enough and concerned about his legacy that he won't turn out to be the Trotsky many here paint him to be.

"McCain, while a good man, just has too many drawbacks (though I wasn't as concerned about it, Clinton's womanizing enraged the right, while McCain's seems to get a free pass -- Obama, by all accounts, is a devoted family man, but let's move on). A McCain weakness that doesn't get mentioned here much is his temperament. Consider that he finished something like 895th out of 900 at Annapolis. Why? Seriously, you have to want to do poorly to finish that low in anything. And perhaps he did. His poor performance wasn't because he was stupid (in fact, I believe him to be quite smart). Rather, he had a reputation for intentionally screwing up, making bad decisions, living on the edge, and (later in his career) crashing planes because he took too many chances. Rather than being a positive, I see his being all mavericky as evidence of a predisposition toward pointless risk-taking (see, e.g., his selection of Palin, or his spasmodic reaction to the bailout). This is a critical time, and we need a steadying hand, someone who can calmly and analytically draw upon the best resources of the nation to work through the problems that beset us. Obama seems better suited to that task than McCain.

"I have a bunch of concerns about Obama, but I'm banking on the historical shift of pretty much all presidents to move to the center. Obama, will -- again, it is hoped -- aspire to be a two-term president with a legacy of accomplishment. No president does that by swinging too far away from the center. Consider those with whom Obama confers on foreign affairs and economic matters; it's a far more diverse group than we've had advising the Oval Office over the past eight years. Yes, McCain isn't Bush, but he hasn't shown me much lately to confirm he's still his own man; his pandering to the evangelical right gives me as much or more concern than my fears about Obama shifting further left.

"Other reasons, including the trivial and the significant:
  • He's smarter than McCain.
  • He's a better, more analytical, decisionmaker than McCain (see, e.g., the way both of them reacted to the financial markets meltdown, the bailout bill, the selection of a VP, etc.)
  • He's healthier than McCain. Yes, this is not a showstopper, but it's kind of funny that McCain's medical records for the past decade are 1,200 pages in length (and I salute him that most of those pages may be a consequence of his military service), while Obama's medical records (that he submitted, anyway) for the past two decades are one-page long. Plus, I’m deeply envious that Obama's blood pressure is 90/60. McCain looks like his would top 200 when Cindy leaves the toothpaste uncapped. Ok, that was cheap.
  • In view of the previous paragraph, while no fan of Biden, I’d feel better about him on the world stage than I would about Sarah Palin.
  • I think/hope he'll do more to heal some pretty serious rifts within the country, and between us and our friends abroad.
  • He's a better family man than McCain.

    "After eight years of tremendous disappointment produced by a Republican administration I voted for, I'm ready for a major change, even it means four years of disappointment generated by a Democratic administration.

    "Yes, Obama may prove to be too liberal, or even an inept president. But he's well-spoken, and understands the power of rhetoric and usually uses it effectively. Those who fear the end of the world by reason of his administration are overreacting by a few orders of magnitude.

    "I confess this is liberal (which I am not) guilt (which pervades my life), but I think it's very cool that after centuries of oppression (albeit with the great inroads that have been made in the very recent past), the United States is going to have an African American president. That's not a reason to vote for him, but it's a very good reason to celebrate."

    I am sad that so many people I know are convinced that this is the worst outcome imaginable. I am sad that they feel unsafe and have bought into the fear. I respect their right to be disappointed. It's how I've felt for many years now.

    Last night, as I was glued to the television, letting my kids eat as much Halloween candy as they wanted, listening to Ainsleigh sing "Barack Obama" to the tune of the Hallelujah chorus of Handel's Messiah and Donovan yelling, "I have a Obama sticker!" I glanced down at Gemma who was grinning and kicking and cooing, and I triumphantly whispered, "We did it!"

    I've learned about the passionate leaders of the Revolution, of Abraham Lincoln, of Martin Luther King, Jr. I've often wondered who was there and who supported them and how it must have felt to watch them succeed. Last night, as I watched this historic moment unfold before me, I looked at my children and knew that I would not only be able to tell them where I was and what we were doing, but that I actively helped make this happen.

    So yes, today I celebrate.

    suzska said...

    Beautiful, Sarah! You have me teary-eyed all over again. And I love your dad's thoughtful words.

    Anne said...

    this is great, sarah.

    Christine said...

    Spot on.

    Alice said...

    hooray! We roped Jared's Dad into it also.

    laura said...

    I heart my family.

    Anonymous said...

    I have always loved the articulateness of the Ostlers. As Nancy is one of my closest friends, she puts into words stuff about me that I can't, not being an articulate Ostler. You guys said about Obama what I've thought, but, sigh, don't have the words for. Shelley said...

    While you know my view is slighty ;) different than yours, I do think the first African-American President of the United States is something to celebrate!