I Was Wrong About Barack Obama
by Scan, Tue Oct 28, 2008 at 08:26:05 AM EDT
When Barack Obama clinched the Democratic nomination on June 3rd, the bruising primary battle was so rough that I felt I had no candidate to support.
Right and left, those who had been by my side fighting for America's undisputed progressive heroine were declaring themselves "PUMAs" and proudly swearing their allegiance to Republican John McCain. I was invited to join them, and it actually crossed my mind a few times.
How could this happen? Simple. The fight in favor of one candidate had become so intense that it had transformed her primary opponent into someone who's defeat became the only goal. Somewhere along the line, the person I supported became the cause, with the beliefs behind it all taking a back seat. This had never happened with me before.
That's not to say that I wasn't correct to be skeptical during the primaries, because recent history has taught us that it is so hard to find a Democratic candidate who can actually win the White House.
For instance, let's remember what happened in the run-up to the Pennsylvania primary: the Wright catastrophe, the shockingly unwise "bitter" comments, the 37 score in bowling, the disastrous final debate with Hillary. Rough stuff. Clinton ultimately won that crucial swing state by a strong margin, despite being massively outspent. It seemed like once again, against tremendous odds, it was a Clinton that had figured out how to win over swing state voters.
"Obama could definitely lose to McCain" I fretted. "He can have all the money in the world and continue delivering incredible speeches at massive rallies, but what will it matter if he can't connect?"
The polls at the time concurred. Even Hillary herself agreed, saying on a blogger conference call in May that while she definitely "would win", Barack only "could win". With so much on the line for our country and the world, it seemed absolutely imperative that we nominated a sure winner in November. And quite simply, I had grave fears that Obama wasn't up to the task.
But I was wrong.
Those difficult thoughts following Obama's triumph only lasted a few days, ending when Hillary gave full and unequivocal support to her former rival in her concession speech on June 7th. Many thought it was the speech of her life, and it was hard for me to disagree...because it worked. At that point, John McCain was no longer an option, and I resolved to listen with an open mind as Barack Obama made his case.
And as those bruises healed, my vote could be earned.
It didn't happen right away. I was openly critical of some of his campaign's decisions. His vote for the FISA legislation was a particular disappointment. I was also initially very skeptical of his choice for running mate in light of poll numbers showing a divided party around the time of the conventions.
Indeed, there were plenty of times when things did look a bit iffy during those summer months, and those long-held fears about Obama's electability remained.
The speech in Denver was incredible, but it was only in the wake of the Republican convention and the selection of Sarah Palin that something much more important took place. I began to see the teleprompter less and less. Full suits were ditched in favor of rolled-up sleeves. Economic plans were presented in a detailed, down-to-earth manner in town halls where the candidate took lots of questions. And he was funny. Really funny.
In other words (and this is a high compliment) he had finally found his inner Clinton on the campaign trail. There are reasons why Democrats have only won 3 of the last 10 elections, and there's one good reason why two of them were by a Clinton. It's the same reason Hillary won New Hampshire and staged the amazing March-May comeback.
It was that connection with voters. Kerry didn't have it. Nor did Gore. And don't get me started on Dukakis. Until late in the game, I feared the same about Obama.
But I was wrong.
By the time the economic crisis hit, Barack was ready to seal the deal. Right when it has mattered most, it became clear to me that the early hype was right after all. The substance and skill required to win as a Democrat was there all along...it just needed to show itself.
And so, what seemed to me like naive dream in early 2007 is about to become a once-in-a-generation realignment that will rock the United States in just a week's time. He just might be that transformational political figure after all, and it all starts with transforming the electoral map on November 4th.
Sometimes, amazing things do happen.
Sometimes...I am wrong.
In February, on the first day of early voting in the Texas Democratic primary, I proudly cast my vote for Hillary Clinton.
Last week, on the first day of early voting for the general election in Texas, I just as proudly cast my vote for Barack Obama and Joe Biden:
True, it's quite possible that he would have ultimately received my vote for simply being a Democrat on the ballot next to the far worse option. But he earned my vote, and my confidence, by growing into a stellar candidate who demonstrated beyond any doubt that he has the steady hand and deeply thoughtful mind required to be a great president in troubled times like these.
May the Democratic wave that accompanies him wash away the sour landscape of the failed conservative era for good, and clear the way for better days ahead.
May the hope finally become the reality.
Originally posted at http://allprogressives.com