O Me of Little Faith

This will likely be a controversial post — at least among my closest friends and family, most of whom are Republicans and McCain supporters — but it’s time for me to come entirely out of the closet as a supporter of Barack Obama’s campaign for President. I am one of those young evangelicals who have been swayed by Obama. I’ve admired him for quite awhile — in fact, back in early 2007 I looked briefly into buying a domain name to sell Obama t-shirts (sadly, was already taken). So instead, I went with the Fake Band Shirts idea.

Anyway…I want to make it clear that I have always, always liked John McCain. I loved his maverick personae, especially his commitment to certain values to the point that he wasn’t afraid to break with his party when he thought Republicans were on the wrong side of an issue. I appreciated his openness with the press and his commitment to “straight talk,” which was a refreshing change on both sides of the aisle. Above all, I respected his commitment to our country. He was a prisoner of war. My granddad was a prisoner of war. Both suffered a lot for their country, and I would have been proud to have voted for him. I rooted for him in the primaries because there were no other Republicans in the race to whom I would legitimately have given my vote. I was happy when became the Republican frontrunner.

That was seven months ago. A lot has changed since then. McCain — or at least his campaign — has begun taking steps away from the honorable public figure I trusted and toward someone that represents the worst of Republican politics.

So I’m not voting for him. I’m voting for Obama. I tried to pinpiont exactly what I liked about Obama and came up with 14 reasons. I’ll give you seven of them today and seven tomorrow. Feel free to comment, disagree, discuss as necessary.

#1: Obama made a conservative, safe, serious choice when given the chance to make his first executive and presidential decision — the selection of a running mate. On the other hand, McCain capitulated to the evangelical religious right he’s battled with for so many years (conservative Christians spent most of the last 12 months hating on him) and ended up picking someone hardly anyone knew about, and whom hardly anyone thinks is qualified to be president. Any time you pick a vice presidential nominee who doesn’t give a press conference and can’t appear in an interview for a couple weeks because she needs to learn enough about foreign policy not to sound completely ignorant on a national stage, well, it’s safe to say you have probably not made a wise pick. I like Palin, and I’m sure she’s a great mother. My own mother is a great mother, too, but — no offense, Mom — I don’t think she’s qualified to be president. When your presidential candidate is already in his 70s, has had a physically difficult life, and is a cancer survivor, these kinds of things absolutely matter.

#2: Obama has handled the political season with civility, coolness, and intelligence. McCain has slipped away from the high-minded, non-attack politics he used to practice and — other than the congratulatory DNC ad, which was a nice touch — he’s been as nasty as a blend of Karl Rove and James Carville. In fact, even Karl Rove has said that McCain’s attack ads “have gone a step too far,” beyond truthfulness and civility. That’s like Darth Vader saying you’re getting a little too deep into the dark side of the force. (Yes, I know Obama has aired attack ads, too, but they don’t come close to stooping to the level of McCain’s.)

#3: Obama is hopeful. He sees the best days of the US as being ahead of us, not behind us. McCain seems more nostalgic, pessimistic, and negative about our future. I’ve always thought of McCain as a fiery but ultimately decent guy. But the recent tenure of his campaign — the “lipstick on a pig thing,” and the stupid ads about Obama and sex-ed for kindergarteners — is convincing me otherwise. He’s turned into a cynical, whatever-it-takes-to-win candidate, and he’s losing the integrity he was once known for.

#4: Obama makes the U.S. look better in the world’s eyes. This is so significant to me. Credit goes to Andrew Sullivan for first making this case in The Atlantic — an article that kick-started my appreciation for Obama. Here’s the thing: When the world looks at the U.S., what do they see? In most cases, they visualize the President. In our current situation, this president comes off as an agressive, arrogant, polarizing, not-very-smart, go-it-on-your-own, way-too-certain, reckless cowboy who justifies most of his bad decisions in religious language. No wonder the rest of the world in general and the Islamic world in particular don’t like us. Obama puts a different face on the U.S. Yes, he’s a Christian like Bush, but one with some understanding and history with secularism and even Islam. (No, he’s not a secret radical Muslim. Shut up, please.) He’s a bridge between races. He has a funny, non-Western name that wouldn’t be too out of place in Pakistan or Iraq. (When our enemies look at us, the Great Satan, and see someone who looks more like them, and has a name like theirs, are they more or less willing to continue viewing him — and his nation — as their enemy?) Obama is thoughtful instead of myopic, complex instead of simple, and conflicted instead of certain. He would be, as Sullivan wrote, a “re-branding” of the United States. And based on conversations I’ve had with international, non-American friends, we desperately need to be re-branded.

#5: Obama is black. This is definitely controversial, but I like what it says about the U.S. that we could finally have a non-white president and first family, and I don’t mind at all letting anyone know that his skin color influences my vote in a positive way. In 20 years, I’m not sure I would feel very good upon looking at my grandkids and telling them I had the chance to vote for America’s first black president — the first serious non-white presidential contender — but I chose the old white guy instead. Some will argue that simply voting based on skin color is just as racist as anything else. If so, fine, I’ll own up to it, because I wholeheartedly agree that it is not a colorblind choice. But I’ll also argue that ours is not a colorblind society, and because of that it means something to have a serious African-American presidential candidate, and it means something to have a potential African-American first lady. It means something to have two little African-American girls in the White House. No, it won’t solve racism, but it’s a huge, huge step in the right direction. I’d feel ashamed to
pass this first-in-my-lifetime opportunity.

#6: Obama has raised the level of political and intellectual dialog in this country. I appreciate that. He’s not mean. He’s not angry. Sure, he’s had some major mistakes (“bitter rural folks” was a very bad choice of words, and “above my pay grade” was a total cop-out and a big disappointment), but at least the guy knows how to pronounce “nuclear.” He gives thoughtful answers to complex questions without reducing everything to a soundbite. Sometimes this comes back to bite him — the media prefers a soundbite politician — but I love it.

#7: Obama is offering a new economic agenda. It’s unproven, but it has possibility and the potential for immediate benefits. McCain is offering pretty much the Bush administration’s take on economic issues like taxes, trade, and health care. Which very few people like. And which have already proven to not work, as evidenced by the last several months and particularly the news today. The post-Sept. 11 crash is not an excuse for the failed economy, by the way. After eight years, Bush has had plenty of time to turn the economy back around. If his and McCain’s methods haven’t worked so far, why are we still looking for them to work in the future? I’m firmly of the opinion that if one administration has proven to be a failure, then you bring in a different administration. And I’m not convinced that a McCain administration will differ much from a Bush administration. Period.

Reasons #8-14 will appear tomorrow, and will cover abortion, the environment, drilling, and other fun topics.

Feel free to agree or disagree in the comments. Only one request: We may differ politically, but that’s no excuse to be mean. Keep it nice and civil.

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