I’ve been watching the elections back in the states more fervently than I would like to admit. It’s ridiculous while at the same time very exciting. In 2000, I would have been extremely excited by a McCain nomination. Now, with the incredible promise of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, I find myself being far more critical than I really think I deserve to be. After eight years during which many people like me would have voted for almost anyone should it mean Bush leave the White House, it’s sort of bewildering to have two intriguing, historical options.
As a young person who remembers watching Bill Clinton’s 1992 victory on television, remembers the paltry, cynical divisiveness of those years, I cannot envision a Clinton presidency as healthy. Barack Obama is right in characterizing it as more of the same. Mrs. Clinton is razor-sharp, dedicated, and she would make an excellent president. But she would perpetuate the rule of our country by two families into a third decade. 2008 is an opportunity to start fresh. A Clinton-McCain race would only offer a choice between which side of the argument you want to continue. Barack Obama represents new energy, and at 46, would be a pretty sharp contrast to McCain at 72.
I don’t claim to know that Obama would beat McCain or that a Clinton nomination would mobilize conservatives. No one knows the outcome. Six months ago, everyone had written off McCain, and could not shut up about Fred Thompson, the moron actor with the hot wife. Same with Giuliani last summer. Same with Howard Dean’s “inevitability” in the summer of 2003. Even the Economist featured a piece on Hillary’s inevitability last fall, before any primaries had taken place, although it wisely acknowledged the annoying impossibility of predicting a year into the future.
While I did not vote in the Super Tuesday primary for Democrats abroad, and I am still registered as undeclared in Alaska, I look forward to seeing Obama receive the Democratic nomination. He is exciting, his message is thrilling, underneath his message of hope exists real policy, and his website kicks serious ass. Really, it’s beautiful. Visit it, then visit Hillary’s. You don’t need a degree in design to recognize the difference.
In some ways, the enthusiasm for Obama, particularly among young people, reminds me of the enthusiasm for Howard Dean four years ago. Their fundraising methods at least, are similarly successful. The reasons for the enthusiasm are different, though, and I would be surprised to see Obama’s campaign collapse especially since he is the front runner for the nomination in not only conventional wisdom (not usually wise) but delegate count too. Obama’s message touches the patriotic heart of every American who really believes in the positive effect of change. I really do think it is a patriotic movement, closer to the definition of that word than its perverted usage suggests.
Discussing America with Katya last week while driving through the snowy Russian countryside, I realized not only how optimistic we are as Americans, but how truly we believe in the mythos of America, no matter how liberal or counterculture or politically critical we are. The thought that America has a destiny for greatness rings of a jingoism that embarrasses progressive minded people, but the root of that thought is buried somewhere in our culture, in our upbringing, and I think it’s a good thing. Obama has this source of energy tapped, and I think it could mean great things for America.