I've been getting more and more excited about Barack Obama recently — far more excited than I have ever been about a political candidate before. But in reading coverage of the elections online, there's a lot of anti-Obama sentiment. The most frequent accusation made about him (especially with Senator Clinton incorporating it into nearly everything she says) is that he lacks sufficient "experience". I have two problems with this criticism:
- Hillary has only been in the U.S. Senate for one term longer than Barack, and has served less total time in elected office. She's presumably claiming credit for experience as First Lady, which is neither elected, nor granted any particular duties or responsibilities by the Constitution. Her harping on this point actually makes me queasy, as it seems dangerously close to violating the 22nd amendment. Was she co-President? Makes you feel bad for poor Al Gore.
- The President of the United States is not just the chief executive, but also the head of state. This is unusual in Western democracies, in that most have a Prime Minister and a separate President (or monarch). For the USA, however, it is crucial that the President not only pushes sensible policy, but also acts as a symbol of the country as a whole. This is a point I've learned the hard way as an expatriate, when people associate all Americans with President Bush. This is also where Obama just blows Hillary out of the water.
More than any one thing since moving to the UK, supporting Obama makes me proud to be an American. This is a sentiment I've seen on blogs and Op-Eds over and over again, and just thinking it gives me the chills. Surely this trumps nearly any other thing in choosing a President? Policy is important (and I think Obama has sound policy choices). But inspiration isn't just hot air; it's the reason 65 year-olds still remember JFK so fondly.
If any of this sounds familiar, it may be that you read something very similar at Chez MRhé. We even used some of the same phraseology, but I drafted this post before I'd even read his. Take from that what you will.
Finally, Barack's candidacy gives me faith that sometimes the American system does work right. Instead of getting a dunderhead son of a former President we get someone who is the first ever black president of the Harvard Law Review. I got rejected from Harvard Law, so I'm damn glad to be able to support someone who is smarter than I am for President. The downside to feeling this excited is that I'll be absolutely crushed if friggin' Hillary gets the nomination.