Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama the Blank Slate

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Let me preface this by saying that I'm a fan of Obama and have been since I first saw him at the last Democratic Convention that involved the nomination of a presidential candidate. I will be voting for him should he earn the nomination to compete against McCain in November. However, I'm a little disturbed by the fanaticism that seems to follow him. Slate has an interesting series of short articles that satirically offer proof that Obama is the second coming of the messiah (although they make it clear that they aren't accusing Obama of having a messiah complex, but instead they mock the way he's often described in more than glowing terms.) Check out the one about the talking to space aliens (the archive is at the bottom).

And I often see political cartoons mocking him for being a blank slate. It's true that he hasn't made a lot of policy proposals during the campaign, but you can look back through his voting record as a senator and see where he stands compared to you on the issues. Normally, the lack of specifics on policy would be a little worrisome, but whereas Bush left you with no reason to expect he was smart enough to intelligently solve problems, Obama leaves you with no reason to expect that he can't intelligently solve problems. Besides, what presidential candidate isn't inherently vague on most issues? They want to work as many voting blocs as possible and leave wiggle room later so that when they change their mind, or realize something is unworkable or unadvisable, they can change course and still be able to argue truthfully that they weren't breaking promises. I think part of the problem is that Obama has been a politician at a national level for such a short period of time that we don't have the years of experience with his stances and policy decisions like we do with McCain (who's been around for decades) or Clinton (who was involved in much of her husband's work, although possibly to a lesser extent than often believed by her detractors).

Actually, it's gotten so bad that any candidate who does focus on his intended policies is ridiculed for being a dork. Remember Ross Perot? There were no doubts about his policy plans. That's all the little dude would talk about. I, at the tender age of 12, was quite impressed and even convinced my parents to vote Perot in '92, but there's never been another candidate with a legitimate shot who was mocked so mercilessly, and much of it for his taking policy and the numbers seriously. Do you really think that Obama would stand a chance talking policy to the public? Yeah, right. He'd impress those of us with enough brains to follow along, but he'd lose the masses, who need pretty faces, quick sound bites, and catchy slogans instead of actual thought processes. Unfortunately, the latter, not the former, is the majority in every culture in every era.

Still, unless something surprising comes up, I'd enter into the voting booth in November with fewer reservations about Obama than I would any of the other potential candidates at the moment.


Chris said...

Actually, I'd probably be inclined to vote for a president who said, "I've got no special plans. We'll see what happens."

Well, not really. Those sound like the words of a guy with a serious diabolical scheme up his sleeve.

Nevertheless, my point is that I'm generally more worried about the crazy shit that a president will do than I am about the good things that he or she might not accomplish.

Also, if you haven't read it already, here's an interesting Slate article on the personality profiles of the three main candidates remaining:

Mickey said...

You can probably guess that I agree with you.

Jacob said...

Mickey, are you capable of disagreeing with me? It's all be "I agree, maaaaster" and forced insults lately like you feel guilty for your lack of free will.