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.