On Obama: My Hopes and Doubts

Barack Obama seems to invoke two feelings in me: one of extreme pride and one of a growing doubt.

Let me explain. Speaking not as a Republican, but as an African-American, I am extremely proud to see a black man running as a serious candidate for President. This isn’t Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton, who ran campaigns that were basically protest campaigns, but this is a real candidate with a real, bona-fide shot at the White House. Only a generation or two after the civil rights movement, this is real progress. Not something that says the racist ghosts of the past are gone, but that we have made some substantial progress in our society to be the society that we aspire to in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

That said, I have my doubts about the Senator from Illinois.

Like a lot of people, I have been wowed by his rhetoric. He speaks with the cadences of many a black preacher I heard growing up in my Baptist church in Michigan. He speaks of unity and hope, something that so many of us want to hear after eight years of cynicism and divisiveness. It has been that message of hope that has swayed many a centrist. A number of my co-bloggers have heard the song of unity and have decided to support Obama.

It’s hard not be enticed. I like the guy. But there are some things that make me pause. I am wondering if there is more to Obama than the words. At the end of the day, if he is elected President, will he actually try to bring the country together and actually work with Republicans who are willing? Will the base of the Democratic party allow him to that?

One of the things that I’ve noticed about Obama is that, unlike John McCain, he has never said that he will reach across the aisle to work with Republicans. He talks about Republicans joining him, but that’s not necessarily the same as being bipartisan. The other thing that is disturbing is that his voting record is not as centrist as one might hope.

The second thing that gives me pause is not Obama himself, but Democrats. I’m not talking about all Democrats, but there are some on the hard left that might not want to be in a sharing mood if Obama (or Clinton for that matter) come to power. Many viewed George W. Bush’s rise to power as illegitimate and, after having put up with the Bushies for eight long years, will see a Dem win as payback time. If you see the Democrats build on their majority in Congress as is expected, then you can expect the knives might very well be out for Republicans. An emboldened Democratic majority will feel no need to make nice with the GOP.

The question here is: would Obama be willing to buck the impulse to sideline the GOP and really work together? Or is his very liberal voting record a sign of what an Obama presidency will be?

I could be totally off-base here, but those are my concerns. Frankly, I want a president who is willing to work with the opposing party to get something done. Why? Because there are a lot of things that need to be done. Global warming, the economy, terrorism and so on. In the past, some of the greatest legislation, the ’64 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, Medicare, Medicaid, the Endangered Species Act and others were passed with bipartisan majorities. I personally want to see our government come together again. I want a President Obama to hold fast to the words of a predecessor who happened to be a Senator from Illinois. I want him to have “malice towards none, with charity for all.”

President Bush had a chance to bring the nation together and blew it. I hope that if Obama does make it to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, he will get it right.

Author: DENNIS SANDERS

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4 Comments

  1. Dennis I think your concerns are well stated, and good for you for taking the time to look a little deeper than the emotional surface of Obama's rhetoric. I'm more of a feeling kind'a guy – but I also know that can lead to things like GDub “peering into Putin's heart” and believing he can “work with him.” And so I do appreciate those of you who are more willing to ask, “but where's the beef?”

    Among the things about Obama that has really been interesting to me during the primary contests has been his willingness to tell the Dem base what they might not like to hear, and offer praise where it might not always be welcome. He has used the rhetoric of the overtly religious on any number of occasions – which the liberal stereotype would certainly advise avoiding (and I do believe he is still successful because it is in fact a stereotype). Remarkably to me (and along the same lines) he spoke of his concerns regarding homophobia during services in front of a devout African-American congregation. It seems to me that these are the actions of a man who is unwilling to sell his soul for expediency -the very opposite of Sen. McCain (whom I actually have admired, but who has deeply disappointed me in the last year plus as he laid out his path to the nomination) as well as Sen Clinton, whom I also respect, but see as just more of the same.

    I have come to the realization over the years that the presidency requires a leader, not a manager. A leader hires the right managers. A leader inspires, and points the way forward. His managers will deal with the negotiations and compromises that inevitably must be made. Obama, I believe, offers that leadership – that (I hate to say it shoot me now) transcends the political divide we face today. Yes, the devil is in the details – which managers? But his willingness to say what others might not want to hear, the ideas that he expresses, his need to accomplish something unifying to move any part of an agenda forward, and yes, his popularity despite his “minority” status, offers me real hope that he, more than the others running, represents a real break with the past , a hard thumb to the reset button of American political reality.

  2. We probably have no way of knowing if your concerns are valid. My own guess is that Obama won't routinely reach across the aisle, but that, while most of his opinions fit neatly into the Democratic party, we will discover a few that don't and, on those issues, he may reach across the aisle. I would be very surprised if he attempts to demonize those he disagrees with, however, just to push stuff through. He seems happier simply stating disagreements and trying to persuade others of the merits of his position. That would be a welcome change. But this is all pure speculation, however.

  3. In the 7 years that Obama served as an Illinois State Senator (I'm from Illinois, but not the district he served), all but the last 2 years he was a member of the minority party so in order to get anything done, he had to reach across the aisle. I once read an article (don't remember where) where one of the, if not the top, Republican leaders in the Illinois senate has said that Obama was always willing to work with the other side, listen thoughtfully to their point of view and talk with them to see where they did agree. There was no demonization and he spoke very highly of Obama, even if he didn't agree with him. That is the very definition of bipartisanship.

  4. Lincoln was never a Senator from Illinois.

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