Thursday, January 3, 2008

Obama and Hope

I've had some time to sit and reflect recently, and many things have been going through my mind.

To start with, I think I need to explain a few things about myself, and about why I am posting this blog. I am pretty involved locally with the peace and justice movement here in San Diego. The group I'm most involved with is the San Diego chapter of Veterans For Peace. I also do some work with the San Diego Coalition for Peace and Justice, and am a freeway blogger.

I am deeply concerned about the direction of the United States. In March of 2006, I came to a turning point, and that is when I started to become active politically. At first I believed that there was momentum behind the peace movement, and that it was time to take back our government. I went to peace rallies. I sent letters. I became involved with Vets for Peace, formally joining and being elected as an officer in our local chapter. Following the election, full of hope and feeling that the newly elected Democratic majority would be behind us, in January of 2007, I went to Washington DC. I participated in a large national protest, and an effort to lobby congress to defund the war. The effort failed, largely because the Democrats have accepted the Republican talking point that defunding the war is not supporting the troops.

I continued to work at it, writing my congressman repeatedly (I have the good fortune to have Duncan Hunter as my representative here in California's 52nd district). In addition, I have participated in meetings with the other members of the San Diego congressional delegation, gotten involved peripherally in the East County Democratic Club, and jumping on the bandwagon from time to time.

I have become frustrated with trying to influence politicians. I now feel pretty strongly, most of the time, that involvement in the mainstream political process has become increasingly irrelevant. Grassroots activism is what fills most of my time, and as my friend Elliott Adams says (to paraphrase): "The members of congress are not our leaders, they are our followers." By this he explained that he means that politicians will blow with the wind, and if they feel that their jobs depend on it, they will change their vote. If enough people get motivated to change things, the politicians will respond out of fear of losing the next election. So since my disillusionment with most attempts to directly influence politicians, I have been learning and attempting to apply grassroots actions to try and move the public.

I am, however, a political geek, and while mostly my politics are of the grassroots variety, and not specifically aimed at the political process, I pay attention. The candidate for President that I most identify with, and whose positions I share most closely is Dennis Kucinich. Kucinich has no chance in this election. A few days ago, Dennis Kucinich asked Iowans that supported him to caucus for Obama as their second choice. This intrigued me, and made me take a second look at this candidate.

About eight months ago I did research on all of the various candidates. In the midst of that, I went to Obama's website, watched his videos along with everyone else's, and the one thing that struck me was that while I agreed with the basic positions of most of the candidates, Obama was the only one to actually move me.

I read Obama's book The Audacity of Hope. After reading it, I was impressed, more or less, but was not satisfied with some of his positions. I'm pretty liberal on social issues. Obama's tepid stance on gay rights and to be honest, his identity as a deeply faithful Christian combined to turn me off a little bit. That combined with the standard American politician position okeydokey-ing the use of force as a tool of foreign policy, even only if "justified", turned me elswhere.

Now, looking back at that, I may have reacted with a bit of prejudice because of his relative conservatism compared to where I stand on things, and because of his faith. I have moved my politics increasingly to the left, and Obama's position is carved out pretty far out towards the center, so that takes me out of my comfort zone a bit. My second look has caused me to reevaluate what I think. To be completely honest here, there is no candidate, except Dennis Kucinich, who even approaches where I am politically, and I am enough of a pragmatist to recognize that I have to vote for someone who is likely to end the war, restore the rule of law in America, restore our civil liberties and the checks and balances in our government, and attempt to restore our sullied reputation internationally.

Kucinich might not be able to do that even if it was possible for him to be elected, because he is, like me, a liberal nonviolent tree-hugging hippie moonbat. It is difficult to motivate people when they see you as an extremist.

Obama gave his Iowa Caucus victory speech tonight:

Damn it's a good speech, it made me cry. I'm an optimist, despite everything, and Obama stakes out a position that we can all see as rational. He includes all of us, as Ghandi did, and as Dr. King did. He could move the center. I feel some of the hope that he speaks of, and I haven't felt that from our political process for a while. I'm not convinced yet, but my vote meter just moved three pegs in the Obama direction.