Now, as some of you might have figured out by now, I tend to be pretty conservative in my thinking. Which means not that I’m always thrilled with Republicans, but that I typically don’t like Democrats so much that I vote Republican (although not for George W. Bush in 2004, I’m proud to say!). However, I must admit that I’m actually kind of excited about the prospect of Barack Obama running for president. I even find myself thinking from time to time that I’d like it if he were elected president. Which is weird because I disagree with almost all of the man’s policies. And I don’t think I’m alone. But I do think I’ve figured out why that is and why it makes more sense than it would seem.
It seems to me that Obama’s appeal is due in large part to the fact that our country is tired of the divisions which pit us against each other. I would go so far as to say that the level of discord and enmity between liberals and conservatives has gotten downright scary. Really and truly, a trip through The Daily Kos or a couple of hours listening to Glenn Beck will make a person wonder if one day we won’t take up arms against each other. Literally. I have sometimes wondered if our democracy can survive in any healthy way if we can’t start to develop some common respect and understanding.
I am in my mid 30’s, so I’m too young to remember this myself, but I have heard tell that there was a time when people with differing ideologies would look at their political opponents and say, “I think he’s wrong, but I respect him. I know he means well, even if he’s obviously going about it in the wrong way.” Maybe it was really that way. Maybe it’s just a myth. Because for my entire life, all I can remember is political people declaring that their ideological opponents were not only wrong, but evil, out to destroy our country and deserving of as much righteous hatred, anger and scorn as the human soul can muster. Perhaps the idea of respectful disagreement is a fairy tale, but I for one have had enough of The Daily Kos and Rush Limbaugh methods of political discourse.
I have realized that this is what is driving my attraction to Obama. He seems like the sort of person who is capable of respectful disagreement. And because of various factors (his race, his likability) it will be very difficult for his opponents to continue with their hate-politics without killing themselves off in the process. I don’t have many illusions that Obama will be much of a moderate. He’s a liberal with a liberal record. I fully expect that he will govern as a liberal and work to implement liberal policies and practices that I disagree with if he’s elected. However, it does seem to me that he can do this without painting conservatives as unfeeling jerks who eat puppies for breakfast and kittens as snacks. And I think he can conduct himself in a way which won’t attract accusations that liberals want children herded into government run education camps at age 3 and homosexual experimentation made mandatory.
So, as much as I disagree with the man’s policies, I can’t help but wondering if they aren’t a small price to pay for a chance for us as a country to relearn how to say, “I disagree with the man, but I respect him. I know he’s doing what he thinks is right. I just think he’s going about it in the wrong way.” Right now, that’s what Obama represents to me. Is that a good enough reason to support someone who I think is wrong on most major issues? Maybe.