Saturday, February 9, 2008

My personal take on the US Presidential primaries

I am not a US Citizen, and cannot vote in US primaries or elections. However, as a citizen of this world, where the US is the sole superpower, and more importantly, as a (legal!) resident of the USA, I do have a vested interest in the US Presidential election.

My path began with support for Senator John McCain (R), mainly because he vowed to finish the job in Iraq. The current mess in Iraq was precipitated by the US invasion, and I firmly believe in cleaning up after oneself. Senator McCain is a Republican, but he also accepts the scientific evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change, is not a part of the religious right, and has a sensible approach to immigration. However, of late his pandering to conservatives and promise to make the Bush tax-cuts permanent (without any mention of cutting spending) have undermined his appeal.

Both Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will withdraw US forces out of Iraq, which is somewhat unfortunate. I was inclined to support Senator Clinton because she is a woman. As simple as that – I find it extremely embarrassing that for over 200 years, Americans have not elected a woman President. I come from India, and our most powerful Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi, who ruled India (some might say like a dictator, which she was between 1975-1977) with an iron fist for 16 years. Other countries in South Asia – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and even Bangladesh – have had woman premiers. And these were (are?) among the most backward, highly illiterate countries!

However, having seen the Clinton and Obama campaigns in action has made me switch my loyalties to Senator Barack Obama.

Here is a list of what soured me off Senator Hillary Clinton:

  1. Senator Clinton represents the 50+1% style of politics, where opponents are her enemies. That only leads to protracted struggle, where it would be difficult to bring about her avowed goals of universal health care, comprehensive immigration reform and the like. For example, the US Senate requires 60% support to avoid filibusters.
  2. The Clinton campaign’s original fund-raising strategy was to amass a war-chest so huge that no other candidate would be able to compete in the Democratic primaries (link; link). Seeking to undermine the democratic process with money strikes me as sheer arrogance.
  3. The attacks on Senator Obama by Senator Clinton’s surrogates and campaign workers, from the two workers in Iowa to President Clinton. Among others:
    1. Spreading false rumors like “Obama is a Muslim out to destroy America.”
    2. Seeking to reduce Senator Obama to a Black candidate like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, despite Senator Obama’s performance in White states like Iowa, New Hampshire and even Nevada. This was pre-Super Tuesday.
    3. Repeatedly bringing up Senator Obama’s self-admitted drug use during his youth. Remember “I did not inhale!”? Do we not want our leaders to be truthful?
  4. Back to President William Jefferson Clinton. If Senator Clinton cannot control him on the campaign trail, how will she control him in the White House? In the last California debate, Senator Clinton cleverly dodged this question.
  5. Senator Clinton has a reputation for secrecy, as described by Carl Bernstein (link). I just might buy Bernstein’s book, but what I hear – of her past – makes me visualize another Bush/Cheney-like approach to “open” government.

Why I support Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States:

  1. He understands what a leader really needs to do. It’s not just about legislative maneuvering, getting the 50+1% support. It’s about making a significant majority support landmark reform, whether it be health care, climate change, education, what have you.
    1. President Reagan was able to create Reagan Democrats, and swept Mondale in almost all 50 states back in 1984; many people voted for him even when it was not in their interests to do so.
  2. Even better than (1), Senator Obama truly inspires, to the extent that:
    1. Caroline Kennedy (the daughter of President Kennedy), who generally keeps away from the public spotlight, has come out to endorse him (link).
    2. Supposedly-apathetic youngsters are coming out in force, and even convince their parents to support Senator Obama (link; video link).
    3. Even Susan Eisenhower, a life-long Republican and grand-daughter of President Eisenhower, supports him (link).
  3. He is open and candid. Witness his admitted drug use during his youth, and his explanation why. He has also released his income tax returns; Senator Clinton has refused to do so unless she wins the Democratic nomination.
  4. Senator Obama has successfully pushed for ethics reform in the Illinois legislature as well as in the US Senate. This is a passion he shares with Senator McCain, though they have their disagreements!
  5. In the Illinois legislature, Senator Obama introduced and passed (with bipartisan support) legislation making video-taping of interrogations and confessions mandatory. He has also expressed his strong reservations on certain aspects of the PATRIOT Act, and supports Senator Feingold’s amendments (who voted against the PATRIOT Act, and has tried to curb expansive government powers).
  6. Senator Obama’s fund-raising comes mostly, if not entirely, from regular voters, not corporations, PACs or Federal lobbyists. Most of his donors give less than $200, and yet he has matched or out-raised the Clinton fund-raising machine (the Clintons and Terry McAuliffe, among others). That speaks to the passion and dedication of his supporters.
    1. Could Senator Obama do better, say, avoid all lobbyists’ money? Sure. But admitting the influence of lobbyists and the fact that they have an agenda is a good first step to cleaning up the system.
    2. Even Senator Obama’s campaign slogan, “Fired up! Ready to go!” comes from a regular voter, not some paid ad guru.
  7. Senator Obama is young – just 46 as of writing. He is just a few years from paying off his student loans! That’s got to be a good thing :-)

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