Last of the no-he-can'ts: Why I don't believe in Barack Obama

    Full disclosure: The author used to work for the Clinton campaign.

    And then there was one.

    One presumptive Democratic nominee, one inexorable Democratic movement, one dream of HopeChangeUnity, one chilling video and, as it often seems, one Democratic Barack Obama-doubter under the age of 35.

    Let me be straight: I’m far from despondent about Obama’s looming victory. I really like this guy. After all, what honest Hillary Clinton supporter couldn’t? I care about policy, and the Democratic candidates are fraternal twins on policy points: showering the uninsured with health care, creating avenues for legalizing illegal immigrants, and methodically pulling out of Iraq while expanding regional diplomacy. I could go on, and perhaps it would be a useful reminder for some Obama supporters that the woman they claim to despise is as close to an ideological doppelganger as Obama could find in Washington.

    I’ve never heard so many haters in a movement that’s supposedly about reconciliatory unity. Take some Obama folks I met in New York City, who told me they’d rather vote for John McCain than Hillary Clinton. Judging by the 800,000-strong “Anyone but Hillary” Facebook group, I don’t think they’re alone.

    Such charlatans clearly have no interest in universal health care, or Iraq’s future, or regional diplomacy, or egregious tax credits. They care about the voice. They lust for homeopathic orations that substantively offer little more than song lyrics.

    Shake off those luscious pearls of eloquence, and you’ll see some questions. Do we really think we can “push back” a two-billion-dollar lobbying industry (much of which represents Democratic interests, by the way)? Do we think rich words will make Republicans roll over on health care like tickled puppies, or that hawkish Republicans are quivering to be lullabied into diplomacy? It bears repeating: Supply-siders are supply-siders; homophobes are homophobic; neoconservatives are neoconservative. They all have their reasons, and it’s not because they haven’t been properly instructed by true liberal eloquence.

    Politics is war. Anybody who has taken a world history class knows that bipartisan unity breaks out in government about as often as tap-dancing. So I’m wary of otherwise brilliant friends who claim that Obama will not only lead political changes, but also change politics. That’s not a vision. That’s a delusion inspired by eloquence too beautiful to rationalize. I’ve heard it said, “Vote with your head, not your stomach.” Do we really think our goosebumps are any wiser than our guts?

    People say they cannot trust Hillary Clinton. I believe them, even if I don’t believe their reasons. When I ask Democratic Hillary-haters to explain themselves, I often see a face that looks like it’s trying to untie a sailor’s knot with its eyes. I don’t want to parody their reasons, but I’ll offer my own: I trust Hillary because, as strange as it might sound, she promises to be what she is. She’s a politician; she’s willing to compromise; she’s moderate about being a liberal.

    Those facts are wielded as accusations against her, but they’re undeniable strengths in a president. No, she doesn’t inspire my heart with yearbook-worthy quotes. And, thank goodness, that means my head can think with minimal gastric interference. And my head says: If you really want to change the world, go with the candidate who isn’t afraid to use the word “fight.”

    I’ll vote for Obama with fervor and pride if he wins the nomination, because unlike those folks in New York City, I believe in the issues I say I believe in. But no words will convince me that some untapped unity exists beneath the surface of American politics. Maybe Obama can even usher in a liberal utopia as he transforms the politics that have shackled our government. That’s a future to hope for, but it’s not a change to believe in.


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