My Lack of Unbridled Optimism

As I’ve pointed out, time and again, I’m not from a demographic that counts for much, been, as it is, rather small, thanks to an unfortunate series of events overseas.

And, as you’ve probably guessed, I’m voting for Obama on Tuesday.  It’s not because I think Clinton would be a bad president.  I think she’ll be a fine president.  If she gets the votes and is in the general election, I’ll happily vote for her, dancing and in-your-facing included.

But I can’t lend her my support this early for one reason–I think it would be terrible for the country to have the presidency in the hands of two families (or near the hands of said families) since 1980.  Since I was six years old, we’ve either had a Bush or Clinton living in the White House or next in line to live in the White House.  That’s no way to run a healthy democracy.

It so happens that I believe that keeping the Republicans in power would be worse, but that’s why I’m not yet on the Clinton bus.

I like Obama, but Kennedy was eleven years dead when I was born.  Even Robert was in the grave.  I have no living memory of what it was like when they were alive.  I believe that the country was much different back then, that it seemed full of promise, and that people who remember the Kennedys do feel like something’s been lost.

And so I understand, after listening to Obama speak, why, for them, he would resonate in that way.  But it doesn’t resonate for me that way.

Unbridled optimism and enthusiasm for a candidate makes me nervous.  I hear it in people’s voices and I feel like we’re rushing headlong without remembering that, at the end of the day, he’s just a man.

52 thoughts on “My Lack of Unbridled Optimism

  1. I’m voting for him too. He’s not the New Messiah or the Great Biracial Hope; I don’t need him to be Santa Claus or Superman. I need someone to appoint good people in the right jobs. I need someone with the capacity to be deliberative about the effects of their actions. I want someone who hasn’t just read the Constitution, but someone who has studied it and even taught its precepts to others. I want to vote for someone who might do something different — not do the same damn thing that wasn’t so hot ten years ago.

    In all, that’s a pretty modest wish list. Ultimately, I guess I think that a good president is far less effective in making positive change than a bad president can be a force for destruction.

  2. I wrote in response to your earlier post on the heavy-handed guilt-tripping by the feminist establishment that I, too, believe it’s wrong for two political dynasties to occupy the presidency for over twenty years. BUT–I’ve since read a critique of this position whose points do make sense to me. The gist of that response is this: it’s not really accurate to call the Clintons a dynasty in the way that the Bushes or the Kennedys are. The Clintons are both self-made people, rather than descending from a family whose political roots and machinations run deep. I accept that reasoning as accurate.
    However, I’ll still not vote for Clinton, but for Obama, for other reasons, including her partisanship (even though it may be understandable, given what the Bill and she took from the Republicans), and the unsettled and unsettling question of what role Bill, the former President, would have in her government. He can’t have an official one, and he couldn’t be limited to a ceremonial one, so wouldn’t he be likely to wield Cheney-like influence from behind the scenes? It’s hard to relinquish power and to keep your mouth shut when someone else moves into an office you’ve held formerly: the tendency is to want o give the new occupant the benefit of your experience and advice; but what the new person needs is the freedom to put her own stamp on the office and to seek advice when and only when she wants it. Once you’ve been President, it’s pretty hard to restrain yourself, especially as everything about being President works against it.

  3. I will, sadly, vote for Obama. Bridgett makes good points (so there, Mack), and I would add that Clinton and Obama both left law school with loans to pay off and first rate degrees, but one of them went into community organizing and teaching and the other went to work for a large firm doing corporate law to make a bunch of money. These different responses suggest to me that the two candidates may have different ideas about public service.

    Mostly, though, I worry about what it says about how entrenched “the establishment” is in our country that although the majority of likely voters in both major parties say that they want change in leadership and in ideas, the “establishment” candidates are still ahead in the polls in both parties.

  4. Just throwing my hat in that I’m voting Obama as well. I had a moment of being concerned that my enthusiasm was perhaps akin to what people voting for Bush felt, an uninformed position based on who you would want over for beers. I wavered, until it came down to a choice between Obama and Clinton. Using B’s calculations, there has been a Bush or Clinton around since I was 2 – so the entirety of my politically aware life. The community organizing (as nm mentions) means a lot to me. Successful organizing is brutally hard work, and the rewards are not in paychecks or status but in the small moments where you feel that you’ve made a positive difference. I respect someone who values that type of work. The Kennedy comparison doesn’t resonate so much with me, either, but I think people could use a good dose of hope right about now. Let’s just hope he follows up on it with action.

    Likewise, I’m not convinced that Clinton, even as The First Woman President!, would actually do that much for women or feminists – the establishment ones have simply given her too much, too early. NOW endorsed her in March 2007 – she had them, no matter what she did, no matter who else jumped in, so she doesn’t have to work too hard to keep their support. While she and Obama may be similar on many policy items, I’m not convinced she’ll stick to her guns when in office. Likewise, I’ve simply seen too much of her in the debates, of what I perceive to be half-truths and spin in the work of trying to win. I don’t want more dissembling. I don’t want more running for the sake of winning. I want her to own it, to say, “Yeah, I was completely f’ing wrong about that war vote.” Clinton is never going to say that.

    Ultimately, I’d rather have the devil I don’t know than the devil I know. (insert other reasons for my Obama support here)

  5. Bridgett, when you are as old and wise as I am you will rock even harder than I do. Mack will have a heart attack just watching you.

    As for the Kennedy comparisons, I never cared that much about Jack. And neither of the remaining Democratic candidates remind me much of Bobby. I’m just hoping that Obama will turn out to be like Teddy in the ways that matter: sticking to his guns in matters of policy, knowing how to work with others without giving away the store, not being embarrassed to yell when yelling is called for.

  6. Yes, what Rachel said…

    Plus, after all of the debating is said and done, and I’ve considered all of those factors, I’ve also prayed for wisdom to choose who is right for me. I’m going with my gut…

    It’s Obama for me.

  7. Ginger, when you say going with your gut, I couldn’t agree more and I considered the factors as others on this thread have.
    I posted at my place about my disappointment with the Democrats. I’ll vote for Hillary in November if need be, but the one vote, the only thing I have will go for Obama. I made this decision about a week ago but I’ve had to weigh it very heavily.
    I loved in Europe and Canada for awhile and I think Obama will be helpful in reestablishing us globally.
    Two cents for nothing.

  8. “(finding more to like about rachel every day)” – Mack, clearly, when the weather turns nice, you need to host another hen gathering in which we can all award ourselves crowns of awesomeness made from wildflowers gathered on the property. Would that solve things? :)

  9. Are you out of your mind, Rachel? The sass factor increased exponentially after I played host for that gang of man-eaters. I have been wrongly accused of gyrating in the face of my euchre opponent, trash talking my euchre partner, and all manner of boorish behavior at that (carefully spelling this) hoedown.

    Oh, ok.

    Seriously, all of these reasons people are giving for voting for barack are valid. I did so last week, and the early vote totals for Dems are probably in large part due to a younger block coming out for Obama.

    Magical, heh.

  10. Not that anyone cares, but if the final polls so McCain leading the Rep race in TN by more than the margin of error, and there’s no hope for Romney, I will vote for Obama.

    If only because, if a Dem is going to win in Nov (and make no mistake, if McCain is nominated, it WILL happen), it should be someone who inspires the best out of Americans. Does ANYBODY get ANY optimistic vibe from Clinton? I see nothing but cynicism (and anger) when I look at her.

    And I bet I’m not the only Republican that feels this way.

  11. So nm, to sum up, you’ll vote for Obama in the hopes that he’s like the guy from the biggest political dynasty, that killed his mistress.

    I don’t understand feminists.

  12. Slarti, I have been hearing that same sentiment from a lot of the talk radio hosts this week. They do not like McCain, and will jump over and vote for Obama if it is between the two.

    Hell, even Steve Gill said he’d vote for Hillary over McCain…

  13. I don’t understand these comments. They sound like the last election when people voted for W for all sorts of reasons and held their nose. If Barack Obama was exactly who he is right now, but a woman, he would not even be on the national political horizon.

    I’m voting for Hillary, not Bill. She is a wise, smart, experienced, seasoned and compassionate woman who knows how politics work, all over the country and world, not just Illinois and Chicago. I will wait for more time to decide if Barack Obama really knows how to move our country out of the horrible hole W and Cheney have dug for us. He is handsome, smart and inspiring as are most US senators but I want someone who has been through that horrible wringer called Washington longer.

  14. Do not, even for a minute, think Republicans will vote for Obama. Talk radio hosts are born liars.

    TK, I pondered my choice for a long time. I don’t buy into all of the Hillary bashing, never have. I know where it comes from, I know what it smells like. If she is the nominee, I will work as hard for her as i would for Obama. In the end, I think he will have less markers out there, and can appoint some sharp people to critical posts, and bring out the best in those people.

    For a Dem like me, these are heady times…two smart candidates, and both at least in part representing a long underrepresented segment of the electorate.

  15. No, Ex, work on your reading comprehension. I will vote for Obama with the fact that he doesn’t remind me (for better or worse) of any Kennedys as a matter of irrelevance. But if he can be as dogged as Teddy Kennedy, that puts him ahead of Clinton in my book — she’s already triangulating and refusing to take responsibility for her decisions.

    TK, I find Clinton to be remarkably smart, experienced, and seasoned. but I’m not sure what she’s learned from her experience — if she’d just say, “yeah, I helped to mess up the chance of health care reform 15 years ago, and here’s what I learned from that and here’s how I will start out differently today,” or “yeah, I blew the big vote on Iraq; I was worried, with some justification, that I or anyone who made the right call would be so vilified by the Republicans any future political usefulness I might have would be ended right there. And here’s what I’ve learned from that experience, and here’s how I would change things in Washington so that that kind of political smear can’t happen in the future,” she’d have my vote. But she’s busy saying this stuff never happened, and that doesn’t appeal to me.

  16. nm. What did she do to mess up the chance of health care reform? Do you remember Harry and Louise? Do you remember that the health insurance industry didn’t want a smart woman changing the way they do business? I don’t know if you were paying close attention back in 1992-1994 but I was. And her vote on Iraq was like almost every other senator. I’ve been opposed to this war from the first time I started hearing planes from Ft. Campbell flying more frequently over my house and realized what W and C were doing. And I wish she was as anti-war as I but she and Obama voted the same once he was in the Senate since 2004. And in order to be elected in the general election, there are alot of independents and others who aren’t anti-war so it’s a path full of raw eggs.

  17. Do not, even for a minute, think Republicans will vote for Obama. Talk radio hosts are born liars.

    Can’t argue with that point (heh)…but why do you think so many of them are saying that? How would publicly going against McCain and for a Democratic candidate benefit their side? Is it just to get their side fired up to step up for Romney?

  18. TK, she held months of secret meetings, and then came out and announced a plan so convoluted and impossible to apply that Harry and Louise were able to convince people because no one could figure out what the plan was actually supposed to do. Yes, Republicans and the health care industry who supported them wanted the status quo to continue. But if Clinton hadn’t been so secretive, and hadn’t refused to accept questions about her policy once it had been made public, possibly the ad campaign wouldn’t have been able to convince folks it was bad; certainly it wouldn’t have been so instantly and overwhelmingly convincing, and could have been countered successfully. The PR machine is out there, but there’s no reason to lie down in front of it and refuse to fight it because no one has the right to question your judgement.

    I don’t want to trash her; she knows how to run an administration and values competence, and those facts alone would make her an improvement over the current crew. But Obama has those qualities, too. And he hasn’t got what I see as her negatives. YMMV, and obviously does.

  19. nm: I don’t agree with your assessment but you did what I asked: which was tell me your opinion. Thanks.

    And, now, tell me about Barack’s experience in running an administration. I like him very much but find that he has done the same as all politicians which is make some questionable alliances when politically expedient. Lieberman is one that drives me insane. I think he needs more time on the learning curve. Yes, she, like the rest of us who have lived a while and tried to make change happen, has some negatives, but I know hers. And I do think she has learned from them.

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  22. TK, except she’s going to put forth a healthcare plan in which it’s basically illegal to not have healthcare. That really irritates me. And I cannot wait for the lawsuits to start flying over that. How the hell can the federal government make it illegal for you not to do business with a corporation?

    It’s ridiculous.

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  24. I know you’re paying close attention but I don’t see why you don’t think everyone through a multitude of choices should not be covered by health care. It’s wonderful for them but it’s better for the rest of us. People who don’t have health care are on our bill. It’s quite simple. We all pay one way or the other. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH OR HEALTH CARE.

  25. Just back to B’s Kennedy point, I did a quick look-up and realize more poignantly why the JFK thing doesn’t resonate with me so much – he was assassinated when my mother was 8 years old.

    TK, I also don’t believe that mandating that people have health coverage does much for those people who can’t afford to have it. When states have mandated auto insurance, companies offering bare minimum coverage have popped up (think Safe Auto), which I think of as insurance in name only, keeping folks legal when they can’t afford real, quality coverage. Will it solve the larger problems of healthcare? No, I don’t think it will. I could be wrong.

  26. People who don’t have health care are on our bill. It’s quite simple. We all pay one way or the other. THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH OR HEALTH CARE.

    So why not, you know, just have one system where everyone pays into the same fund, and everyone gets covered? We can call it something simple, like “universal healthcare.”

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  29. Do not, even for a minute, think Republicans will vote for Obama. Talk radio hosts are born liars.

    Can’t argue with that point (heh)…but why do you think so many of them are saying that? How would publicly going against McCain and for a Democratic candidate benefit their side? Is it just to get their side fired up to step up for Romney?

    Bueller? Bueller?

  30. Let’s just say that from my side of the aisle, the difference between Obama and McCain is only by degrees. The disagreements between McCain and the right are many, and quite substantive.

    If the two of them are running in the fall, I won’t be able to vote ideologically,because I will have no one representing me ideologically.

    I’m no party hack sewing discontent. And I’m telling you that I very well might vote for Obama, or sit the election out.

    But then again, Obama could implode, in which I might reconsider McCain as a nose-holding vote.

  31. Thank you, Slarti…

    I was listening to Steve Gill this morning again, and he was all “McCain is a pro-life liberal…” and “McCain is more liberal than Obama…”

    It’s interesting to me, because I gathered from Mack’s comment that there is an ulterior motive behind their (right-wingers) being against McCain so vocally. I would just like to know what that motive is, and how it will work in their favor.

  32. Ginger, if I had to guess, I’d think that what we’re seeing is a colossal power struggle on the right over who has cultural influence. For a long time, it seemed like conventional wisdom on the right was triangulated among the needs of the party, what would keep the talk show hosts talking, and what would appease the religious right.

    I think it’s safe to say that the influence of people who position themselves as leaders of the religious right is on the wane. I also think it’s safe to say that talk show host influence is on the wane, but I think you’re going to see a lot of folks threatening to take their voters and go home, just to throw their weight around and see if they’re still important enough for anyone to worry about.

    What we’re seeing, I believe, is evidence that they’re not. I mean, seriously, what are they going to do if McCain gets the nod? Most of them are going to buck up and vote McCain.

    Everyone knows it.

  33. That certainly seems to be the case. Romney is representing himself to be the torchbearer of the ideals of the Republican party, while painting McCain as having sold out, compromising with the left.

  34. painting McCain as having sold out, compromising with the left.

    “Compromising with the left” = “selling out”

    … while we ALL know that…

    “Compromising with the right” = “bipartisanship”

  35. That makes perfect sense, B., and I’ve gotta tell ya…it gives me so much hope to know that so many of us who used to tow the party line started thinking for ourselves and realizing that that compassion for others is more Christ-like than any rule or regulation could ever propose to be.

  36. Well, Ginger, I wouldn’t go that far.

    If anything, we religious conservaties are finally realising that the business conservatives have been jacking us around ever since Roe v Wade. They take our votes and laugh at us behind our backs.

    Enough is enough.

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  40. And yours, Mr. Oginist, is a perfect example of why most Americans shouldn’t get on their high-horses about immigrants learning English.

    You can say “Above is a perfect example of why women should not vote” or “Above is a perfect reason for why women should not vote.” But you cannot say “Above is a perfect reason of why women should not vote.” You reason for or against something not of something.

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