On Tuesday, November 4, 2008 at about 8pm Pacfic Time, the major news networks officially called the election for the President of the United States of America for Democratic Candidate Barack Obama. But you all already knew that. A lot of people have been expressing excitement over the issue, but to be honest, I'm not one of them. I did not vote for Barack Obama, but neither was I able to bring myself to cast my vote for John McCain.
Don't get me wrong, I respect John McCain as one of this country's greatest public servants. I know some would disagree, but John McCain's devotion to this country and it's people is inspiring. So, why did I not vote for him? Because the last six months have made me wonder if John McCain was his own man anymore. He refused to bring the party away from it's modern message of hate and fear. While he didn't come out himself and try to mark Obama as a Muslim, he did virtually nothing to stop his people (particularly his Vice Presidential Nominee) from making those suggestions. While McCain didn't act poorly himself, he did not, in my opinion, do enough to put a stop to it. In essence, this honorable man, through his own inaction, let his own name get sullied, more so, because it was in the name of an unfair attempt to sully the name of another.
Which brings me to Sarah Palin. When Palin was first announced as the VP Nominee, I was interested. Here was a virtual unknown, from a state that is often poorly represented on the national stage, and it seemed for a moment to be a decision that way like the McCain I respected. It seemed that he did something in spite of the party, intended to shake things up. I was disappointed that the nomination wasn't given to Joe Liberman, or another more moderate candidate, but I knew that the Party would never allow McCain to select a Non-Republican as his running mate.
Then Palin started talking, really falling into her stride. It was clear that she appealed to a large number of people, and energized them for the campaign. Unfortunately, this is exactly why the race became such a blowout. Sarah Palin attracted exactly the kind of people the Republic Party shouldn't be pandering to, but has been anyway. The willfully ignorant. People who revel in Barack Obama being referred to with his middle name, Hussein. People for whom McCain's energy policy boiled down to three words, "Drill Baby, Drill." People who honestly believed, and looked forward to, McCain and Palin attempting to overturn Roe V. Wade.
In other words, people who were never going to vote for Barack Obama. However, this choice as Vice President, and the apparent recklessness with which it was made, drove a lot of middle-ground voters away from McCain. If you look at the National Polls, such as the one below, McCain suffered a major hit in early September, right after announcing Palin as his running mate. It continued to drop for well over a month. Yes, eventually there was a bit of a rebound, but Obama's numbers were consistently rising over that same time period.
As much as I disagree with Obama's policies, I did find it amazing how he ran his campaign. I had never, in my entire life, seen people as excited about a candidate as many were about Barack Obama. For once, this election felt to be more about the man than the party for a lot of people. I watched as expatriate citizens and resident aliens worked hard to volunteer on behalf of Obama. I watched hundreds of students here at Washington State University not only walked around wearing Obama merchandise, but actively engaging people in discussion regarding the issues. I still fundamentally disagree with most of the policies they were arguing for, but I can not argue with the passion embodied by many Obama supporters.
And so, in an early night, just after the polls closed here on the West Coast, the election was called. Barack Obama won, by a healthy margin. And John McCain spoke. His concession speech is exactly what I've been wanting to see out of John McCain for the past six months or so, but have been desperately missing. It was respectful, and clear. McCain still disagrees with Obama on many core issues, and no doubt this will show in McCain's voting record for the remainder of his time as the Senator from Arizona. Had the McCain I saw in the following video been the McCain who I had been watching for the last few months, I would have gladly cast my vote for him, a man I wanted desperately to believe in, but found myself unable to. Had McCain stayed true to himself, I firmly believe this election would have been far closer.
But, like McCain, I do not wish to dwell on the loss. I do not wish to enter upcoming Obama presidency full of spite and anger. Obama ran a good campaign. One of the best campaigns I've ever watched. In his speech on Tuesday, accepting the role of President-Elect, Obama continued his message of change, passing on his "Yes We Can" message beyond not only his supporters, but this entire nation. It's like what Trent, over at The Simple Dollar, said in his morning post yesterday.
Today (Tuesday), America pretty clearly voted for change, for better or worse. But today is when the real change begins, and it begins with you.
Ultimately, if change is supposed to happen, we cannot depend on Barack Obama. We cannot depend on anyone, except for ourselves. This country is hurting, and the healing it requires is something deeper than any one man, however charismatic, can accomplish. It requires work from all of us.
I agree with some of Barack Obama's platform. I believe in Open, Transparent Government. I believe in Network Neutrality. I believe that while Faith is important to life, it should not be a consideration in governing. I don't believe that Obama is right when it comes to Health Care Reform. I don't believe Obama is right where it comes to Tax Reform (note, I will benefit from Obama's Tax Plan). I don't believe that Obama's Energy Policy is enough.
But, I'm willing to give him a chance. What choice to do I have? I won't leave this country for this reason alone, not yet. If Obama can bring about positive change in the way our government operates, but more importantly in the way people view their role in government, I will be content. If Obama makes it easier for me to track the government in a meaningful way, I'll be content.
Obama's acceptance speech didn't feel terribly important to me. It was mostly reiterating what he's been saying for months, which is reasonable. The only thing I feel is truly important in his speech, are comments beginning around the tenth minute of the speech. Where he begins to call out toward the people to be better, to work together, and work harder. He invokes Abraham Lincoln (a Republican), and in so doing reminds America (albeit briefly) of the qualities on which that party was founded, and the principles for which I tend to agree with that party.
To those American's whose support I have yet to earn, I may not have won your vote tonight. But I hear your voices, I need you help, and I will be your President too.
I do not believe that Barack Obama's Presidency will be what many people do. I believe that Barack Obama will work hard. I believe that he will, by his very nature, improve the way many people globally view this nation. But I don't believe that many of his plans are ultimately good for this country. I could be wrong, but there are ways to improve health care, that don't involve government subsidies. I believe that while alternative energy is important enough to invest in, but that Nuclear Power is safe, reliable and effective now and needs to be a part of a major energy policy. I believe that America electing a Black Man as President does not make America not racist.
I wonder how many people voted for John McCain, purely not to vote for a Black Man. I know that some Black People went out of their way to be remarkably racist, going so far as to keep white people from getting to the polls. That story is backed up by personal reports. Admittedly, America has come a long way at breaking down it's racist roots, and there is a good chance Obama will take that even a little further, but the next step in breaking down racism in this country is to recognize that white people are not the only one's capable of being racists.
So, for the next four years, we as a country are saddled with a President, who, while I respect his campaign, and agree with a few of his stances on the issues, I disagree with on enough important issues that he could not earn my vote. Perhaps that will change by 2012, I know that I'll be watching with interest. There is change in this countries future, and I know that some of it is for the better. It's not the change I chose, but often, that really an option.