Beyond Identity Politics

So, it looks like the candidates that have a chance at the Presidency are Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, and John McCain. I’m linking them all because I want you to go do your homework. The two democrats have very similar positions; McCain’s are quite different.

Twice now I’ve heard news stories broadcast from beauty parlors in South Carolina asking black women if they were having a hard time choosing between Hillary and Barack. After all, do they choose Hillary–a woman like them or Barack–who is black like them? This is such a sad assumption about identity and how it plays out in political choices. After all, who is asking if male democrats are going to vote for Barack–a man like them or Hillary, who is white like them?

Let me talk for a moment about how I made my decision. First, I read the website of any candidate I would consider supporting. I looked for several things: a commitment to support some of the positions I hold dear, an articulation of why they hold that position, and vision for the future. I also listened carefully to what they’ve said.

Not just speeches and debates, but everything. I paid special attention to how they said what they said. I find that one of the democratic candidates seems to be more respectful, a better listener, and compassionate. I find that Barack Obama looks people in the eye, listens, and is able to reflect on what was said. My impression of Hillary Clinton is that she is alway calculating what she should do or say next. Her answers sound like sound bites. Her eyes often wander on to the next person in line to see her or to one of her aides.

There are two other things that matter to me. One is that I believe that Hillary Clinton’s “35 years of experience” (a line from her campaign advertising) leaves her beholden to many people, corporations, and lobbyists. And sadly, I have to consider one thing I hate but seems too important to ignore: electability. The Republican party and especially the religious right have been preparing to fight Hillary for years–at least a decade.

I think there are just too many people who are convinced that Hillary is dangerous, if not demonic. Barack Obama throws a serious wrench into that machine. Yes, I know there are plenty of people who would vote against Obama because he is black, but I actually think there are far fewer of them than would vote against Hillary because she is Hillary.

That’s my thinking. I believe that Barack Obama is a man of compassion and integrity. I considered having a button made that said, “Obama ’08–intelligence and integrity.” He doesn’t strike me as an idealogue, but a deep thinker with a commitment to liberal values. I think there is reason to trust him. I know there are those out there that feel differently and will pepper this entry with comments. I’m quite sure Obama is imperfect. But to me, he seems grounded in the real world, willing to listen, and thoughtful. And that’s good enough for me.


One thought on “Beyond Identity Politics

  1. Obama is amazing. And I totally agree with your assessment of Clinton – calculating, always. I watched the State of the Union on CSPAN, which is a great way to see what’s really happening instead of having pundits tell you what you should be thinking. When Obama came in, shaking hands, he looked and spoke to each person who reached out to him, leaning in to hear what they had to say. When Clinton came in, she shook as many hands as possible as fast as possible, seeming very mindful of the cameras and spending more time with more “important” figures. It was fascinating.

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