I’ve partially bought into Obama. No, I don’t think he’s the Messiah and I don’t expect him to single-handedly turn the economy around, fix health care, end Iraq, improve education and cure cancer. I am disappointed with his faith-based plan, but I still think Obama is the best presidential candidate to come along in my lifetime. To paraphrase Cornell West, the day Obama gets elected, I’ll dance and celebrate, but the next day I’ll be an Obama critic.
As president, he is the establishment and needs a vocal core to keep him focused on progressive governance. Obama, above all, exists in a political world where compromise is the only way things get done. If, to get the things I want as a progressive – health care reform, out of Iraq, pro-choice judiciary, drug law reform, poverty reduction, sophistication of domestic and foreign policy, competent emergency response, focus on global warming – even if Obama’s faith-based plans don’t get him one vote but if it allows him to build a bigger working coalition on other issues and it earns him political capital with which he can advance agenda items I believe in, I’ll gladly take the compromise. I won’t refrain from criticizing the program, but I won’t judge Obama by the concessions he makes as much as I’ll judge him on the progress those compromises buy.
I am optimistic about Obama because I feel that in areas I disagree with him or find him deficient, that, because he his thoughtful, open-minded, and sophisticated, we can employ vocal criticism, activism and the old-school principals of grassroot democracy to pressure President Obama and his Democratic congress to get right on controversial issues.
I’m voting for Obama and I’ll rock the “Hope” poster and the campaign t-shirt, but I will not give him a free pass. I’d urge people who disagree with Obama to still vote for him because I believe at the very least Senator Obama is dedicated to making government work and will respond to pressure from the people to do the right thing. In other words, he may not comply with your viewpoint today on an important issue, but we the people can work with this guy. He is unlike Bush and McCain because he lacks the GOP’s rigid dogma. Examine this statement from his 2006 book “The Audacity of Hope”:
[I]t is my obligation, not only as an elected official in a pluralistic society but also as a Christian, to remain open to the possibility that my unwillingness to support gay marriage is misguided, just as I cannot claim infallibility in my support of abortion rights. I must admit that I may have been infected with society’s prejudices and predilections and attributed them to God; that Jesus’ call to love one another might demand a different conclusion; and that in years hence I may be seen as someone who was on the wrong side of history.