Saturday, February 02, 2008

LFAB endorses Barack Obama for president!!!

And not just in a "lesser weevil" kind of way. I think this candidate is the leader we need.

I just finished reading The Audacity of Hope. (I know I was supposed to be reading my German lessons, but you know what they say "Procrastination is the mother of getting other useful stuff done." Or if that isn't a proverb, it should be...)

Barack Obama shows not only great empathy but also a great deal of respect for ordinary Americans. Over the past few decades, our political discourse has been maddeningly reduced to emotionally-charged (usually polarizing) soundbytes. The American people have been treated as though they can't handle any ideas more complicated than that. Barack Obama understands that our overall vision for America -- and strategies for how to get there -- are more complicated than a few catch-phrases, but not so much more complicated that everyone but the experts should be excluded from the discussion. He explains not only his reasoning but also his listening and learning in a way that invites discussion.

Personally, I've been incredibly frustrated by the use of the term "values" and especially "family values" in the last few election cycles. These code words look like such a clear-cut case of opposite-speak that it's easy to dismiss those who bestow these words on a narrow segment of the political spectrum as just a bunch of cynical politically-motivated liars. But Obama does not dismiss anyone out-of-hand. He recognizes that the "family values" people really are ultimately motivated by values the way progressives are, and that in fact people all over the political map share a lot of the same values. We'd all like to see America as a land of opportunity where people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, so why not take a fair and rational look at what it would take to make sure opportunities exist, in terms of strengthening families, communities, and education?

In world affairs, Obama understands how important it is for America to take the lead morally. We need to hold our own policies up to high standards of ethics first in order to be able to expect the same from other nations. For our own security (if nothing else), we need international cooperation, and step one is demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and play fair.

Now I know a lot of you in the atheosphere are not happy about Obama's overt displays of Christianity. You'd like to be able to vote for an atheist. Hey, me too -- I'd love it if admitting to atheism weren't the kiss of death that dooms a candidate's chances before putting up the first campaign poster. But consider what Obama has to say (p. 219):

What our deliberative, pluralistic democracy does demand is that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals must be subject to argument and amenable to reason. If I am opposed to abortion for religions reasons and seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or invoke God's will and expect that argument to carry the day. If I want others to listen to me, then I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all.

Then he goes on to explain that creationism (even disguised as "intelligent design") is not science, hence does not belong in the science classroom. "Reason -- and science -- involves the accumulation of knowledge based on realities that we can all apprehend." That's good enough for me, and should be for anyone who agrees with the Constitution on "no religious test" being required for political office.

Obama also explains how separation of church and state (even the "establishment clause" preventing government-sponsored religion) benefits religion, and was initially backed by religious leaders. I can try to tell Christians this message myself -- along with the message about shared values (see here) -- but they're more likely to believe it when it comes from one of their own. Such leadership will go a long way towards convincing the general population that non-believers deserve rights, fair treatment, and even a place at the table of discussion.

Now I don't want to bother with the negative side and explain why one should vote against Clinton. Frankly, I don't have a big problem with her except on foreign policy. I had a few choice words for Gloria Steinem, who saw Obama's success as unfair and apparently thinks feminism is about competing with other disfavored groups over who's the most oppressed. However, I don't want to blame Clinton for Steinem's article, and I don't want to advise people to vote against Clinton or to vote for "the black guy" over "the woman." I would like to ask people to vote for Obama because he's the best candidate, and because really he's a much better candidate than I ever expected would make it this far.


UneFemmePlusCourageuse said...

Yay! I'm happy now! You just articulated some of my feelings better than I ever have been able to.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks UFPC!!!

Glad you like my analysis! :D

Anonymous said...

Nice post. You've laid out a good argument. I think one of Obama's biggest advantages over Hillary is that he does not have the divisive baggage of her history.

AnnM said...

Hmmf. I'm still hoping for the Clinton/Obama ticket. I once thought it was complete fantasy -- now it seems not entirely complete fantasy. But the Clinton/Obama ticket gets us up and running immediately upon taking office with Clinton's health care proposal (which is better than Obama's because everybody is insured, not just children), but still gets us Obama's increase in US soft foreign power -- AND Obama would be a shoe-in for the subsequent 8 years.

Am I still dreaming? Once upon a time insuring all children was my hope...was that really only four years ago? And look, now here I am saying Obama's not good enough because he only wants to make insurance mandatory for the children.

It's all good.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks Chaplain!!!

Hey Sam!!!

I wouldn't really have a problem with that vision, but I'm not sure I see eight years + of smooth sailing ahead.

You're an economist, so maybe you can tell me what you think of this:

It seems like the U.S. economy has been artificially inflated on bubbles and debt. The fact that Congress responds to the merest threat of recession by trying to convince people to spend more borrowed money tells me that the American people are still united under the grand vision they learned from Reagan.

I think we need a leader who can get the country on board for a new vision of the future instead of imagining we can patch Reagan's balloon indefinitely. If I understand correctly, our economy is dangerously dependent on the goodwill of China and Saudi Arabia. When the next president takes office (whoever it is), the Saudis will no longer have the motivation of doing a personal favor for their friend Mr. Bush, so we can't necessarily count on continued favorable treatment from OPEC (BiV -- if you're reading -- you can correct me on this if it's wrong...). This could potentially have economic repercussions that might make the Chinese start to get worried about their investments in the U.S. economy, and who knows what they'll do? I'm not saying this will happen, but it could, and soon. In this scenario, it would be absolutely critical to have a leader at the helm whose vision the people believe in and who has exemplary relations with other nations.

Michele Boselli said...

as I see it from Europe, as a European liberal, the Clinton-Obama (or the other way round for that matter) would really be a dream ticket. let's hope they find an agreement and a ticket like this will certainly WIN!

btw, exactly because of this all-important presidential race I'm linking the finest American blogs: visit mine and let me know if you like to reciprocate. ciao :)

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Miss Welby!!!

Sounds great!!! :D

Lars Larson said...

Ms. Hanson...I could not agree more.

Not Just Because He is Black

Lars Larson said...

Actually I COULD agree with you more...but I do agree. I am really going out on a "racially sexist" limb in my opinion. But when Steinam talks about feminism how does she expect to reach the leaders of Islamic countries with her reasoning? We have to be realistic in this country...for once.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Erlybrd!!!

I'm glad you're voting Obama, but I don't agree with your reasoning about how we need to elect a man (not a woman!) in order to reach out to the Muslim world. If the skills of the two candidates were reversed, I'd change my vote. When it comes down to it, world leaders are capable of dealing with other world leaders in spite of their prejudices regarding the culture, race, religion, etc., of the other country.

It is essential to give a strong message of "We're ready to deal fairly with you," but not to say "We're totally with you on subjugation of women" or "We're ready to sacrifice our culture and values to fit yours." Keep in mind that some important leaders of grass-roots democratic movements around the world are women. Should we say to them "Please, we can't recognize your movement or the people you represent. Think how the patriarchs of your country would be offended by sitting at the table with a woman (or a black or a jew or whatever)..."

Lars Larson said...

Believe me. I would like nothing better than to a strong American woman leading our diplomacy and healing our damaged reputation. And I think you are right when you say that world leaders will bend over backwards not to stonewall such a woman in the light of day. But I am very, very cynical when it comes to how Islamic leaders would treat a woman President, even in their most diplomatic moments.

I would hope that I am wrong but usually, where religions are concerned it is hard overestimate this sort of exclusion.

And if we are going to push yet another idea down the world's throats, even one I would wholeheartedly agree with, isn't it just another form of arrogance on our part? Here we are telling the world how to act! Better get behind the world's moral leader! See how progressive we are? How modern? It's all about humility for me now. And although electing a woman (but NOT Hillary) would be a grand step forward in principal I don't see testing the waters at this juncture as such a wise move.

But I could be wrong. I, for one, with THIS woman, hope we never have to find out.

C. L. Hanson said...

Look, we need to be showing the whole world that we're committed to leading in the direction of fairness, not that we're committed to trashing our own ethics whenever it's politically expedient.

When dealing with other nations, giving the message "We're going to deal with you fairly" vs. the message "We're going to make the rules that suit us and back them up with deadly force" is waht really matters. The leaders of other countries understand this. And if there's a case where a leader is irrational enough to care more about our leader's gender than about our leader's diplomatic skills, then when dealing with such a person it is doubly important that we have the wisest leader to handling it rather than choosing the one who happens to thave the least offensive genitals and hoping for the best...

Lars Larson said...

Heh, heh. Point taken. I agree...really, I do...the size and shape and certainly the relative offensiveness of one's genitals should have nothing to do with how much respect one's opinion is given. I am definitely not as brave as you are though. And I don't think our "ethics" have ever been much to brag about...certainly not lately. But I do have hope.

Thanks again for the post.

MeL said...

YES. YES!!!!

When Caroline Kennedy wrote that she had never known a politician who could inspire her the way people said her father did... until Obama, I thought "THAT'S it exactly."

While I won't say I think Kennedy was the be-all-end-all of Presidents over all, his ability to lead and inspire gave the Civil Rights movement the kick in the ass it needed!

I think Obama can be that catalyst for the economy and fiscal responsibility, for foreign policy (particularly in re: the Iraq War) and even - gasp - possibly appeal equally to the better instincts and ideals of Democrats AND Republicans, conservatives and liberals alike.

The man is speaking my language, indeed!

C. L. Hanson said...

Re: I don't think our "ethics" have ever been much to brag about...certainly not lately.

Exactly. That's the point that needs work. :D

Hey MeL!!!

I agree, it's exceptional, and it's an ability we need right now in a leader.

Rebecca said...

I heart Obama. What a far cry his comments about religion are from Romney's. I have a problem with people who say Obama isn't talking about the issues (besides the fact that it isn't true) - that he's running his campaign on a platform of change and hope, which are only vague ideas. I think that change and hope are the foundation of just about all the issues, which would mean Obama's got a pretty good handle on them. As for the actual details of his plans for healthcare, the war, the economy, etc - I think Obama is pretty much as good as anyone, and better than most. I also have a problem with people who claim that he won't be an effective leader because his strength isn't in experence, it's in his charisma. His ability to inspire people, and his hope for truly uniting us on the things we DO agree on, are important - even crucial qualities because they will make him a more effective leader. Who doesn't want to work under a person you admire? Who DOES want to work under a person who doesn't inspire you, even if you like their policies? I'm on tenterhooks today, waiting to see how it goes in 24 states!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

I have to admit, I'm really annoyed with people who dismiss Obama's position as just talk with no substance. I've read his book, and he has a solid analysis of our situation and where we need to be heading. For a president, having a clear macro-strategy is probably more valuable than having a bunch of details of micro-strategy worked out where the overarching goals are less clear.

Rebecca said...

Yeah, I agree on the macro/micro thing. What many people seem to overlook is that PRESIDENTS DON'T KNOW JACK SQUAT ABOUT MOST THINGS. That's why they're supposed to surround themselves with experts (hopefully on both sides of the issues) - so they can hear all the evidence and make truly informed decisions. A President doesn't NEED to know everything about oil or foreign policy or the middle east - as long as he/she has people around who DO know about them. No President is ever going to be an expert in all the areas presidents deal with. What a President DOES need is to hear all sides, to have the ABILITY to make informed decisions, to have an idea of the direction we should be going. And Obama has that in spades.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Rebecca!!!

Exactly!!! :D

John Evo said...

Anyone who is hoping for a Obama/Hillary ticket might as well give it up. That isn't going to happen. There is no way Obama would take Hillary as a running mate for 3 reasons:

1. There is great animosity between them.
2. Obama has nothing to gain from her. She's an absolute negative to independents and moderates.
3. "If you get Hillary, you get Bill". That might sell a voter on going with Hillary, but it sure ain't gonna sway Obama towards putting her up on the ticket.

Meanwhile, I agree with CL's selection. Here's a candidate that has the potentiality of uniting America towards a common cause, infusing the youth with hope and enthusiasm for public service, restoring our Constitution and regaining America's prestige in the world.

Hillary could hopefully do the last two (which are maybe the most important) but has little chance on the first 2.

Alon Levy said...

But I am very, very cynical when it comes to how Islamic leaders would treat a woman President, even in their most diplomatic moments.

And I am very, very cynical when people bring up hypotheticals without considering how they treated Margaret Thatcher or Benazir Bhutto.

As for Steinem's article, copying and pasting what I said on Fetch Me My Axe:

"Clinton's using race to attack Obama as much as Obama's using gender. If Obama were white, nobody in the Clinton camp would've brought up his past drug use. The mainstream media recognizes this, and has run a lot of stories in the last few days about gender and race in politics. It's just the feminist movement that seems to be oblivious to the existence of oppression that isn't about gender."

Anonymous said...

The way I see it, aside from the issues and the history, there's a basic difference between Obama and Clinton.

When it comes to the general election, Obama gets every vote that Hillary would, PLUS he draws in more independents, moderates, and even Republicans.

The reverse is not true.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

I think you're right. That's okay, I'd still vote for Obama even if Clinton's not on the ticket.

Hey Alon!!!

That is an excellent point. On an idealistic level, I feel like choosing to discriminate ourselves in order to smooth things over when dealing with sexists (or racists or whatever) is the wrong type of pandering, and favors a "racing to the bottom" view of globalization. On the other hand, I really don't know how Margaret Thatcher and Benazir Bhutto were received by the leaders of Islamic countries, and, as you point out, it's quite relevant.

Aside from that one Steinem article, however, I haven't been following the gender vs. race aspect of this contest. For me, this is really about the candidates' skills and positioning. It's unfortunate (but not uncommon) to see less-favored groups going after one another.

Hey C.V. Rick!!!

I agree completely.

Anonymous said...

Great endorsement. BTW, Obama is UCC which is a pretty liberal Christian denomination. Rather than fighting all religion, securalists and atheists need to be reaching out and making alliances with liberal Christians, Muslims, Jews, etc., against religious fundamentalism.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey John!!!

I completely agree. That's been one of my goals with this blog (see Is religion the problem? and my passionate secularism).

John Remy (who is also an atheist) is working in the same direction, and has posted a cool collection of Obama endorsements.

Alon Levy said...

I'm for Clinton for reasons that have nothing to do with religion. There aren't big issues in this campaign, on either side.

On Iran the contenders are all the same, none has a sufficiently pro-civil liberties record to suggest to me s/he won't abuse executive power once elected, and abortion isn't so important now that the Supreme Court is 7-2 pro-Roe. On immigration, McCain, Clinton, and Obama are all vaguely pro-immigration, McCain slightly more so than the others, which balances out his less sensible position on Iraq.

So I'm going for the mid-level issues, especially the deficit, poverty, and urban policy. There Obama has too much idealism and too little competence. He's promising deficit spending, at a time when unemployment is still low while inflation is rampant, especially when it comes to food prices. He's also proposing to extend the mortgage credit, helping the upper middle class purchase bigger tax-subisidized homes while renters get nothing.

In contrast, judging by what her husband did, I think Clinton isn't above raising taxes and cutting spending where necessary. In addition, her idea to give a $5,000 cash grant to every American who turns 18 is a step in the right direction: simple, direct cash benefits are overall a better form of welfare than piecemeal programs like food stamps and free school lunches.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Alon!!!

It's true that Clinton seems more likely to balance the budget, reversing the current borrow-and-spend mentality. But giving a $5000 grant to every 18-year-old? Here again we see the same old faith that more individual spending is a cure-all, and actually trying to fix the infrastructure and services that have been degrading and disintegrating for decades is unthinkable.

Alon Levy said...

The actual proposal costs remarkably little. There are about 4 million Americans who turn 18 every year, so we're talking about $20 billion every year, which is far less than the cost of later giving them college tuition grants, unemployment benefits, and welfare.

Repairing the infrastructure is a sound long-term goal, but I think it's easier to do when the government isn't running big deficits. To wit, the only time in the post-war era when the US really stopped the bleeding and invested in infrastructure enough was in the 1990s, under Clinton. Locally some places began that earlier and have continued since - e.g. New York has since 1980, and in fact invested less in the 1990s under Giuliani and Pataki - but nationally it would have to wait until 1993, and all but stopped in 2001.

I should add that in a lot of areas, McCain is more like the Clintons than like Bush. He's probably not going to neglect science as much as Bush did, for example. On the other hand, he's against investment in public transit and for continued subsidies for roads and airlines, which is a Bad Idea in terms of both infrastructure and the environment. He's also pathologically against government spending, which is necessary for routine maintenance and investment.

Anonymous said...

Great article! You are the first person to sum up my own thoughts so succinctly. And you included several I hadn't even thought of.

C. L. Hanson said...

Thanks JenBen!!!

Hey Alon!!!

I agree with you about the deficit. When Clinton says she stands for "change" it looks like she means "change back to what things were like under Bill Clinton," and in terms of fiscal responsibility and getting the budget in order, that's a good thing.

On the other hand, I don't see how you consider something direct that addresses a clear problem (eg. school lunches) as "piecemeal" while handing every kid $5000 without a clear objective isn't. I've been thinking about this ever since you posted your earlier comment, and my first reaction would be that having had that money invested in improved K-12 education would be a lot more valuable in the long term than $5000 cash. OTOH, how much can you improve education on $5000 per pupil? It seems like a lot, but in fact -- as you point out -- it doesn't amount to all that much money compared to what education costs. So, let's go with the idea that I'm a student who has just graduated with a typical American (public) High School diploma, and I've just been handed $5000 to try to buy some additional education to compensate for the low quality of what I've gotten so far. How much additional education is $5000 going to buy me? Again, not very much. So what is the point of giving me this money? Sure it's "cheaper" in the sense that it costs less than welfare or Pell grants or whatever, but it's not a wiser investment unless it actually translates to less money spent on grants and welfare, which is far from clear with this throw money at random solution.

But really, the critical points of difference between Clinton and Obama are macro-strategy (eg. leadership) and foreign policy. For macro-strategy, see Rebecca's comment above.

On foreign policy, Clinton voted to authorize Bush to invade and stands by that decision to this day. She has made other statements which make it clear that she is completely on board with the current system of insisting other countries follow rules that the U.S. won't follow and enforcing those rules through acts that would be considered acts of war if directed at the U.S. In eight short years America has squandered every ounce of credibility, support, and good will it once had in the eyes of the world. If America wants to live in a reasonably safe and stable world, it is absolutely critical to earn back America's position of world leadership based on others being able to trust America to play fair and show an example of not violating basic human rights.

Anonymous said...

Great post, and comments. (Hi Phil!) As an atheist, I have a lot of affinity for certain religious activists, such as the late William Sloane Coffin, John Shelby Spong, Jim Wallis (& the Sojourners crowd), Thomas Merton, Quakers writ large & the entire 'peace church' movement, etc.

I need to read your blog more often. Next stop: your list of 10 best erotic books of all time. ;-)

Alon Levy said...

Well, spread over 4 years of college, the $5,000 won't do much. But that's because institutions produce an immense amount of waste. If you don't believe me, compare American social spending to German or even French spending. Overall, the levels of spending are nearly the same. It's just that France and Germany rely on means-tested cash benefits more, while the US relies on byzantine tax deductions and piecemeal programs like school lunches.

As for foreign policy, I don't believe Obama will be better than Clinton by one bit. He's endorsed the Bush line on Iran, just like Clinton. He opposed the Iraq war, but post-2004, he and Clinton have the same Senate voting record on Iraq. He may be even more dangerous. With Clinton, there's a good chance she talks tough to sound moderate, but will have a moderate-realist foreign policy in power. With Obama, there isn't one; from his early endorsement of aggression against Iran in 2004, I can tell he's probably going to start a war in order to look moderate.

And America's position in the world is permanently shot. Talking about American leadership today is as appropriate as talking about French leadership in 1876, or British leadership in 1947. There are ways to repair it in the long run, but all Americans outside New York and Los Angeles, and even many within these two cities, are going to hate the idea.

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Alon!!!

As far as America taking a leadership role is concerned, I mean that the U.S. still has a significant amount of power and influence which should be used wisely.

If Obama's voting record on the war doesn't match his philosophy outlined in his book, then it's true that's a problem. But I don't think he'd start a war just to look moderate. If he's elected, that isn't the foreign policy position he'll have gotten elected on.

Anonymous said...

I'm still holding out hope for Hillary!

As much as I dislike Obama I will vote for him if it's him vs McCain. No Reshrubs!

C. L. Hanson said...

Hey Anonymous!!!

I kind of like Obama myself (see above), but I would definitely vote for Clinton over McCain.