I woke up this morning going over my mental checklist of things to do today. And I decided that one of those things was to vote. I'm not even sure where I'll be or when I'm working next Tuesday. And the results in South Carolina this weekend helped me to make up my mind about whom to cast my ballot for.
Since it became obvious last October that former Vice President Al Gore would not be offering himself for president in 2008, I had been leaning towards John Edwards. He's the guy that I voted for in the 2004 Presidential Preference. And although I wasn't completely sure that I had done the right thing back then, I felt much more comfortable with him as my choice in 2008.
Edwards is a populist that just happens to hit most of the right notes with me. He's on top of healthcare issues that concern me, and could possibly affect me. And he's definitely in tune with my feelings about free trade, and what the free trade policies of people like the Bushes and the Clintons have done to this country. In short, outside of Dennis Kucinich, Edwards was the best fit for me.
I still feel that way. But I will not be voting for him today. With apologies to my many friends who are Edwards supporters, South Carolina was his last best chance to get a foothold in this race. And it just didn't happen.
I have so many friends and allies in the womens rights community that are supporting Hillary. Folks, I want to go there. I want very badly to join you. Way back in 1992, when I was working for and supporting Bill Clinton for president, I thought Hillary Clinton was someone that I would LOVE to see run for office one day. What an amazingly talented and intelligent woman with the guts to put herself out there and not be afraid to announce herself as a viable working partner to the man who would ultimately become our president!
I have always wanted more women to get involved in politics. I was thrilled to support Cathy Cox for governor of Georgia in 2006. And I'm looking forward to supporting Lisa Borders for mayor of Atlanta in the near future.
Women have had to fight their way to the table. And then they've had to put up with the smirking, the tush patting, and the condescension. They have had to go the extra mile and for less pay in many vocations just be true equals to their male counterparts.
My own mother is the reason why I care so much about what happens to women in our society. She was a woman that was shunned by her Baptist community in the 1950's because she divorced her first husband. It didn't seem to matter that she would have to sometimes stay home for several days behind closed doors in order to allow her black eyes or her busted lips to heal. To many, she was just a woman. And she was bound by her duties as a wife and a daughter of Christ as they mistakenly decided that it should be.
Here was a woman who was her class salutorian, with the intelligence to do anything that she wanted. But she never dreamed big dreams. Partially because she wasn't allowed to. Simply because she was female. She was encouraged to do nothing more than to find her husband, bear his children, and raise them according to religious and community standards.
She was also a woman, whom when my father became so sick and his business failed, had to step in and become a breadwinner, a disciplinarian, the head of the house, and everything else that my father had been in addition to being the loving and emotional heartbeat of her family. She worked in my high school lunchroom, and then K-mart, and then Goodwill. And she was someone who humbly accepted that anything above minimum wage was a "good day's pay for a woman."
This was a woman, that to her last day on this earth on February 12, 2007, gave everything she had away to others that she knew needed it more. My mother was an example of Christian liberalism without ever having known it. Because it was never her intention. But that is what she was. She gave of herself more than she ever received of anyone. And yet for most of her life she felt that she had no voice. That's just not right.
I would love for someone like Hillary to be her voice. But I just don't buy it.
I understand that women need role models, just like any other group does. And I understand that Hillary is that role model for many of today's women. I respect that. In a way, that is an accomplishment in and of itself. Believe me when I say that I'm with you in your intentions. I just disagree on the woman.
The Clintons that I thought I was getting didn't turn out to be what I had envisioned. Not out of what I simply wanted as a 20 year old thrilled to be involved in the elections process for the first time, but because of what I still feel to this day was promised - by them, themselves.
I thought I was getting one more step towards equality in the lives of those in the GLBT community. Instead I got "Don't ask, don't tell." And then in his second term I got the Defense of Marriage Act.
I thought I was getting someone who understood the value of the middle class, as well as the need to protect the lower classes from corporate America. Instead I got NAFTA, WTO, and other free trade organizations that have zapped jobs, family time with parents who now have to work 2 jobs to make what they used to make at 1, and decreased the power of the average American.
I thought I was getting someone who protested Vietnam because he loved America, not hated it. Because he wanted Americans to give their lives as a last resort, and for the right reasons. What I got was a president whose administration enabled a self-declared enemy of this nation (and in turn everyone that I care about) to leap forward by decades in missile technology possibly endangering our very lives. Meanwhile, we had their officials, including military leaders, renting out the Lincoln Bedroom.
To top it off, Hillary ended up supporting Bush's Iraq war.
I thought I was getting a Democrat. What I got was a Democratic president who ran his 1996 re-election campaign like a Republican. And then governed like one too. Ultimately, he hurt his V.P.'s presidential campaign in 2000. And, along with Hillary, tepidly supported John Kerry's bid in 2004. After all, Hillary didn't want to have to run against a Democratic incumbent in 2008. If there was ever any question in my mind about the Clintons' goals vs. Democratic goals (along with the good of the country), that was answered in the last 2 presidential elections. We are now left with 8 years worth of memories of the worst president (George W. Bush) to ever occupy the Oval Office.
No, the 8 years of the Clinton presidency wasn't all bad. It had its moments. And we were better off with what we got rather than another 4 years of George H.W. Bush or Bob Dole. But that doesn't fix everything. Furthermore, I'm not a Clintonite. I washed my hands of that in 1996 when I voted 3rd party as a protest vote.
And, yes, I know that it's Hillary that is running for president, and not Bill. But let's get something straight. She's used her 8 years as First Lady to say that she's more experienced than the other contenders. She also inherits the goodwill and affection that most Democrats had for Bill and his two terms in office. No matter what anyone says, her legacy is tied with Bill's. And she has used that to her advantage.
This is all fair game in 2008. Bill has thoroughly interjected himself in this race. And with each passing day he sullies his own reputation by playing the race card. The man who is beloved within the African American community and known as "America's first black president" is now dropping casual references to feel good, but failed campaigns past by African American presidential candidates. It's almost as if he's saying it can't really happen. That's so beneath him.
Could Hillary stand on her own two feet? The answer is yes. She had an opportunity as a United States senator to distinguish herself. Instead, she took the political DLC route and governed as her husband had governed in office with few idealogical or policy differences. That's not the Hillary that we knew in 1992. If Hillary had been running for president in 1992, I would've voted for her.
So, no, I cannot with good faith cast my vote for Hillary.
If I believed that her ambitions were about more than just power, I would do differently. If I believed that having Hillary as president would help the lives of the average woman like my mother, I would vote for her.
Call me an idealist, but I washed my hands of political centrism a year ago. Those of us on the left have bitten our tongues for the sake of political expediency too often. And we've gotten so little in return for it. Meanwhile these centrist politicians get exactly what they want. They get the power, they get the prestige, and it doesn't really matter what happens to average Americans who need them to be their voice.
Instead I'm voting for someone who I doubted a few months ago. I doubted his experience, his leadership abilities, and his political sustainance. But as time has marched on, I've come to respect and admire Barack Obama. He has experience in all the right places. Maybe not as an elected official. But as someone who has stood up and been counted in several different communities.
I will no longer doubt his leadership. This is a man that was against Bush's Iraq War when it wasn't politically advantageous to be so. To stand amongst the few and fight the good fight, that's courage. Anybody could do what Hillary did on the Iraq vote along with everything that she has done since. As her husband was so often accused of, she seems to govern by polls. But what Obama did took leadership.
And, finally, I no longer doubt his ability to put up a fight. We all know what the Democratic nominee will face this fall. It'll get ugly. But when things got ugly in South Carolina this weekend, Obama stood strong. He stared down Hillary's attacks at the last debate. And he has shown that he's not going to cower to a popular former president and party leader. He stood strong and he prevailed.
I have no idea what will happen next Feb. 5th. Or the week after that, or the week after that. But I suppose I can take what satisfaction there is from exercising my right to voice my opinion. No one should feel influenced by my choices in this race or any other. They should look into what's important for them and make up their own minds. And now, I've done just that.