Jun 082008

I haven’t yet written about the current presidential race, which is both good and bad. I’m always wary of writing posts on common topics, fearing my own addition will amount to little more than, “Me, too.” But at the same time it’s still worth the exercise to distill some sort of insight from all the noise, and it might have been nice to have had a record of my opinions as they developed over time. Particularly how they changed and evolved with respect to the candidacies of Clinton and Obama.

Back at the beginning of the primary race I was extremely agnostic about which candidate I preferred. There were even some things I liked about Dodd. But sensing, I believe correctly, that if I started paying too much attention to the race too early I would quickly get fatigued and end up hating them all, for a long time I tried to tune most of the election coverage out.

But little by little things percolated through, and when I caught myself feeling instinctively indignant when mud was slung at Obama I realized that I’d somehow managed to find myself in his camp. For many of the same reasons he seems to have such resonance with so many others, I found him increasingly compelling. And little by little, for many of the same reasons others have cited, I found Clinton increasingly REpelling. That mud being thrown at Obama was too often being thrown by her, and I thought it was disappointingly counterproductive to any policy agenda she might hope to further.

Of course, maybe I’m just impatient. Some people are political junkies and enjoy watching all the jockeying and maneuvering so incumbent to politics and its usual players. But I find no pleasure in it. I just want good policies. I don’t want to care about whose policy it is; I just want a good one.

I am, however, a realist. I know that there are certain policies that are important to me that will only be supported by the Democratic platform, and so I do generally align myself with that party. Even so, the last time I registered to vote I registered independent. Where was the opposition to the Iraq invasion? To the NSA domestic spying? I didn’t want to continue to reward the Democrats with my loyalty if they weren’t going to do anything constructive with that support.
As a realist, though, I would have supported whichever Democratic candidate was nominated. I definitely could have lived with Clinton, even though I’ve always had strong reservations about her. I often find her needlessly polarizing, and I was upset about her pro-war vote. But better her, whom I trusted to protect some of the other important policy values we share, than anyone from the Republican side, who, moderate or not, could not similarly be trusted given the party’s general platform.

But then Obama came along, and suddenly I didn’t feel like I had to settle. When I closed my eyes and imagined the kind of politician *I’d* want to be, when I opened them I saw Obama. I saw someone who seemed dedicated to solving problems. Of rallying people to roll up their sleeves and get busy shaping the country they wanted to live in. I saw someone ready, willing, and able to transcend negativity and tit-for-tat clannish warfare and instead lead people together. I was sold.
Still, what to do with Hillary? A woman in the White House? Yes, it really is about time. And with Clinton there is absolutely no question about her qualification. She’s tough as nails. Unfortunately that’s not what I really wanted in my presidential candidate right now, and thus I couldn’t give her my vote. She was a good choice, but I’d found one that was better.
I really don’t understand her supporters who are so embittered at her nomination loss that they’d rather vote for someone who disagrees with her policy values in the general election than for someone who shares them. Maybe they’re right, maybe she was treated unfairly. But somehow I think she also gave as good as she got. And it’s for that reason that so many chose the alternative.

Obama now has to make the choice of whom to take with him on his ticket. Lots of people say he should just take Clinton. Her supporters plus his supporters surely equals a lot of supporters. But it doesn’t quite work that way. Maybe such a joint campaign would bring her supporters along, but many people who value his status as a political outsider won’t want to see him allied with Clinton, herself the ultimate insider. Then there’s also the *Bill* Clinton factor. These last several years we’ve seen a vice-president seize enormous executive power; with a Clinton in the vice-presidential seat we run the risk of seeing even more power and influence manifest in that office than the Constitution might ever have intended.

But after her speech yesterday I think there’s yet another reason against it, an even better reason: it’s not the best outlet for her. Yesterday in her concession speech Hillary Clinton went miles to rehabilitate her image, at least in my eyes. By the end I stopped seeing a politician and instead saw a passionate, capable, and articulate leader. I’m not so naive as to believe she wasn’t inherently still campaigning, in a way, but out of the crucible of the competition what she was mostly campaigning for was ideas and values, not immediate political prizes. It was refreshing, and it was inspiring. By the end I was in her corner, rooting her on to go out and continue to fight for all those things she’s dedicated her life to fighting for.
And so for that reason I’m not sure she should be Obama’s VP. Even with her own policy portfolio she’d always be in his shadow. Yes, it would put a woman in the executive branch and presumptively next-in-line, but I wouldn’t want to waste years of Clinton’s able service just to be able to have her on the bumpersticker. She is a leader, and she should have a job where she can lead.

 Posted by at 12:06 pm

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