Politics & Promises

So I like this Barack Obama kid. I use the term “kid” advisedly, as it’s true that he’s nine years older than me. Then again, I’m not running for President. And he is only about one third of the combined age of the two democrats in the race I most liked, Joe Biden and Bill Richardson. He’s also running against someone 25 years older than him, which is a whole almost-grown person’s worth of age.

Age and experience are not trivial matters in being able to manage the Presidency (cf. my earlier stated preference for Joe and Bill) but they are also not necessarily decisive. Teddy Roosevelt and JFK each filled out the office pretty darn well, and Mr. William Jefferson Clinton was the same age in 1992 that Mr. Obama is now. And Obama brings something that I still remain hopeful is going to matter: A vastly different perspective from anyone who has held the office in the last fifty years.

It’s not too much to hope, I think, that a bi-racial man raised in Indonesia and Hawaii who from birth has expected to live half his life in the twenty-first century will have a significantly different worldview from the previous occupants of the office. Going further out on a limb, one might hope that this difference will manifest in a different kind of politics, one more holistic than binary and better suited to this new millennium. I remain hopeful, but somewhat less so than I was a few months ago.

Yes, you do what you have to in a campaign in order to get elected. But when you start to do silly misconstsruals and misrepresentations of what your opponents say in order to score points (like harping on Mr. McCain’s “hundred years”), when you adopt positions you don’t really believe in to appeal to one base and then soft-pedal them when it comes time to switch to another (like renegotiating NAFTA), when you break a promise to abide by public funding because it’s become expedient to do so and then try to spin it as a protest against how broken the funding system is, well, it starts to seem…

Twentieth century. Old millennium. Typical. Disappointing to the expectations you yourself had stirred up that this time, things might be different.

John McCain, meanwhile, is championing public funding of elections, campaign finance reform, and is the one offering to have a live, no rules or handlers-mediated series of public debates throughout the country, to which the Obama campaign is saying, oh well, let’s wait and see. Who’s representing a different kind of politics now?

Don’t get me wrong, McCain himself has back-pedaled on so many admirable and risky against-the-grain positions that he formerly held and become such a creature of Bush policies that the reform sheen is decidedly off of him. And like I said, I do like this Obama kid, and remain hopeful that he will be a breath of fresh air in many useful ways.

I wish though, that instead of Obama vs. McCain we could get a contest of two committed reformers refusing to play the same old game. Like maybe pre-January Obama versus 2000 primary season McCain.

Now that would be a contest worthy of the land of the free and the home of the brave.

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