By Patricia Wilson-Smith
Now that I’ve committed myself to supporting the Obama ’08 campaign, I find myself involved in discussions around his viability as a candidate, and about the state of politics in the nation as a whole almost on a daily basis.
I talk to friends, strangers, and occasionally a relative or two. In a discussion with one of my closest relatives the other day, we broached the subject of how she will go about making a choice of who she’ll support. I of course, was extolling the virtues of Senator Obama, and urging her to learn more about him. She was hesitant, she said for a very good reason.
According to this relative, most people have a single issue that polarizes them, and compells them to throw their support behind one candidate or another; for my niece, that issue is abortion. I can imagine that for many these days, the war in Iraq is a hot-button issue, and for me, the quality of education in this country is a biggie, because I’m of the opinion that if we don’t improve the system somehow, we’ll find ourselves in a position of diminished competiveness, especially in the fields of technology and science, where we’re already reduced to importing young up-starts from Asia and massive outsourcing to stay in the game. Everyone has a single issue which they feel passionately about, and I guess I’m no different.
But my conversation with this particluar relative got me thinking – they always do, in fact, because she happens to be a staunch Republican, and was a solid Bush supporter. I say was, because as with most of his fan base, he’s lost his shine with her. Which gets me to my point.
I can recall vividly the heated debates she and I had about the potential for a Bush second term. It was during a time when I was convinced that John Kerry would be the next President because as a nation, we were right smack in the middle of the discovery that (oops) there really were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq to speak of and, (double oops), there was no detectable connection between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. And of course Osama bin Laden was and still is on the loose.
But my niece was adamant that Bush was the right candidate at the time; she, like many Americans at that point were in my opinion completely blinded by Bush’s strategy of pandering to the religous right with weak declarations of his belief in God, and his adamant stance against abortion. I got that. But even then, I couldn’t help but think to myself the question that many had asked before me – how can you possibly celebrate this man as a champion and protector of the unborn, knowing that he is directly responsible for the loss of the lives of so many innocent women and children in Iraq, not to mention the loss of so very many of our young soldiers?
I would submit that the people who supported Bush back then, especially in his second run were inflicted with S.I.S. – Single Issue Syndrome, and it IS a syndrome, because the enormity of the job of President of the United States should and could never be reduced to one man’s stance on a single issue. As our friend Mr. Bush has demonstrated, even a half-assed attempt at what he called ‘compassionate conservatism’ in the form of initiatives like No Child Left Behind proved to be less than effective at best, and a complete failure at worst. By the time we got to the 2004 election, the totality of who the man was as a president was evident, glaringly so, and yet he pulled the proverbial election rug right out from under John Kerry by tearfully renewing his committment to God and faith before the nation again and again. And it worked. Yikes.
Please don’t get me wrong. I have a strong faith in God, and always have. I was raised to fear and believe in God, and I am raising my son the same way. But the principles upon which this nation were founded should cause us to reject the idea that the way a single man believes religiously should form the basis of whether or not he should or shouldn’t be the leader of this great nation. It flies in the face of everything this nation was meant to be, and clouds our vision to the realities of the really tough issues we face.
And so in the last election, we put a man back in office who would keep us on a path in Iraq that even his staunchest supporters now agree was a mistake, and in doing so completely obliterate any of the good will that may have remained between us and other nations around the world (just ask Tony Blair). And why? Because his vision for our nation’s future was so compelling? Because he had a solid plan for healthcare reform, our education system, and was well on his way to eliminating our trade deficits and balancing the budget? Nope. We did it because at the end of too many of his rambling speeches, he offered the obligatory ‘God bless America’.
I exaggerate of course, but you get my point. For the last couple of decades, we have been headed down a treacherous path, one where real political issues have given way to media coverage that distracts instead of educates, and where politicians have to become so consumed with fund raising and cow-towing to special interests that the noise level is just deafening. And nothing gets done. And the major issues that plague us grow worse and worse. I have decided this time that I will not support anyone who doesn’t have a real vision for our nation as a whole. Senator Obama has convinced me that not only does he have that vision, but it’s a fair and balanced one (to use the phrase of a popular news network) one in which he will position himself to work with both sides of the political aisle to tackle the tough issues we face – our dependence on foreign oil, our broken healthcare and education systems, and of course the mess that is the war in Iraq.
His vision is inclusive of everyone in the nation, and that’s why he’s where he is today, having raised more money this last quarter than any Presidential candidate in history; his message is resounding with the American people, people from every race, age group and from every walk of life. I have committed myself to helping spread that message because I believe in it. All of it.
I encourage you to look at the man for yourself. Read The Audacity of Hope and the many speeches and other information we’ve compiled on BWFO.org. We can’t afford to suffer collectively from S.I.S., not this time, there’s too much at stake. Only when we’re able to look at the issues we face as a complete and complex whole, can we make the right decisions about who can most effectively lead us out of the darkness of the past few administrations to a brighter, more prosperous future.