One vote’s backstory:
Last April, I decided I should vote for Sen. Barack Obama for president for this reason: Of the three candidates at the time – Obama, Clinton, McCain, all fine people – Obama was the only one who gave the citizens of this country room to take a leap of faith. My belief in that unique opportunity has not been altered by anything that has happened in the intervening months of the campaign.
It relates to his famous speech about race delivered last March, after the other candidates attacked his relationship to his controversial minister, Rev. Jeremiah Wright. I found that speech again yesterday and printed it out, all nine pages, and read it again. When I finished, my reaction was the same as at the time. The speech transcended not only the candidates’ attacks, but the candidates, the campaign, and politics itself. In that 45 minutes, Obama laid before a national audience a simple depth of thought and understanding that was not obtainable by Clinton or McCain.
Now it is Nov. 3, and the election is tomorrow. Clinton is gone, Obama and McCain remain. I have thought that Obama should have made one of those 45-minute speeches at least every other month, on the issue of his choice, to remind Americans of the man’s transcendent ability simply to think, explore, and resolve. It would have provided a natural and effective barometer of his qualifications for office. That did not happen. Instead, it was John McCain who provided a new benchmark. He selected Sarah Palin. I am trying to imagine what a Sarah Palin 45-minute speech on race relations would sound like. Obama is not running against Palin, but he is running against the individual who gave Palin a national voice. I would describe that as a telling update on the depth of thought and understanding available to John McCain.
For that quality of depth, in the entrenched shallowness of politics, I feel ready to trust Obama’s ability. It is an apolitical trust. This is not an election to be voting politically, or even to be voting against the present administration. What good would that do? The cattle are all out of the corral. We are a people in deep trouble. There is evidence that, given a few days to think about it, Obama could make a 45-minute presentation about people in trouble that would transcend politics. What a starting place that would be. In this election, I am betting on a man’s ability and willingness to change the status quo in America in the years 2009-12. In what ways? I don’t know. My belief in Obama is a leap of faith, a roll of the dice. But he is the only one who gives me a chance to roll. That, I am convinced, is a lesser gamble in my future as an American than placing trust in John McCain, even if we had never heard of Sarah Palin, but certainly since we have.
Cartoon by Petar Pismestrovic, Kleine Zeitung, Austria