Are Hope and Unity Enough?

Fri, January 4, 2008

Democrats


I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed with the outcome of last night’s Democratic Caucus in Iowa.

At least my Jayhawks won.

Seriously, I’ve made no secret of the fact that I am an ardent John Edwards supporter and am still keeping my fingers crossed that he can win the Democratic presidential nomination, especially since many polls show that he has the best chance to beat a Republican candidate for the White House in the fall.

But I have to admit that last night’s winner Barack Obama does have a powerful message. I just worry that it’s a bit naive.

Calling for hope and unity in a country that is so divided over issues like the war in Iraq, health care for uninsured children and education is a breath of fresh air. I just don’t think it’s enough.

It’s a message that I understand resonates with his biggest demographic — first-time voters and young voters. If I was voting for the first time as a high school senior or college co-ed, I’d probably be on his bandwagon, as well.

I remember being wide-eyed and enthusiastic when I was able to vote for the first time, trying to find someone I could trust and believe in. Being able to participate in the process and express my feelings through my vote was exciting and empowering.

As I got older, it didn’t take me long to realize that I wanted more in a leader than a desire for peace, love and understanding and that the first excited rush of supporting a candidate’s ideals can leave us disappointed later on.

While a positive message is a good start, we’re going to need a lot more in 2009 than a president who wants to focus on a hopeful message in the White House. There will also need to be a sea change in the make up of Congress, which isn’t likely. Without that, the next president is going to have an uphill battle to make any sort of headway in the direction of change.

Obama’s lack of foreign policy experience in these unpredictable and scary times also gives me pause. With certain areas of the world teetering on the brink of implosion, I feel the need to have someone at the helm who can make the big decisions on Pakistan and who knows where the next hot spot will be. There is bound to be one. Or more.

The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a stark reminder that there are many places on earth that we think we can manage, but are clearly out of our control. We’ll need much more than hope and unity to manage those crises.

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19 Responses to “Are Hope and Unity Enough?”

  1. Professor J Says:

    Hope and unity aren’t enough, I fear. I like Obama, but I wish he had some specific proposals. I, too, have fading hope for John Edwards. His speech last night was inspiring.

  2. Life As I Know It Says:

    I agree. I like him, but I think he’s too green for the job. Another election, maybe?
    Like most elections, none of the candidates wow me. Not a huge Edwards fan, but I do agree that he may be the only one who could beat a republican candidate…although none of those guys are stellar candidates either. And don’t even get me started on how much Huckabee scares me…

  3. Veronica Says:

    I think you summed up my hopes & fears about Obama nicely. Thanks.

  4. Brad Levinson Says:

    Joanne,

    My apologies for Edwards’ loss yesterday. I was an Edwards supporter for a long time, and I had hoped that he’d have done a bit better, myself.

    Being 24, I might be considered naive as well for my belief in a better way and for change. But I think people my age know how this world works — we’ve seen for the last 7 years how bad and bitter and divisive and horrible it can be. We’re not under any illusions.

    This belief isn’t naivety, however. It’s a stubborn refusal of allowing the world to work like this.

    I think, if we stop believing, and stop fighting, we’ve lost, and we’re refusing to give up.

    Best,
    Brad

  5. ohslowburn Says:

    Hi there,

    You said, “The recent assassination of Benazir Bhutto is a stark reminder that that there are many places on earth that we think we can manage, but are clearly out of our control.”

    I’d actually tweak that a bit – it’s not just the places we can’t manage, it’s the places/situations that have nothing to do with us, that we didn’t have control over to begin with, but are going to affect us.

    The Bhutton assassination is a classic case of that (although the US isn’t uninvolved in Pakistan by a long shot) – I think the US was probably never even remotely connected in any way to some of the factors involved in her death. But that will make no difference in how immediately it will affect US foreign policy in South Asia.

    Thanks for the thoughtful post on Obama.

  6. Queen of Spain Says:

    I hear ya. The one thing that keeps me from fully jumping on the Obama bandwagon is exactly that…but *I* don’t want to be naive and fall for it. Boy, I really do WANT to believe though. I really, really do.

  7. Paige Says:

    I think you articulated my feelings about Obama quite nicely. I might have voted for him a decade ago. Now? I’m not so sure.

    His convention speech was a shot in the arm at the right time, but now I think you need someone with his mindset but more of a resume.

  8. Katherine Gray Says:

    Totally agree with your views about Obama. He sounded like Bill did, back when I was 19. Problem is, Republicans don’t want to unite. Backstabbing and extreme tactics are working just fine for them. The Dems as a party have to get a better strategy and, frankly, the Repubs will just have to choose a new one. Though they likely won’t.

    And Brad, the problem is, refusing to let the world go a certain way by putting all your energy into one idealistic candidate doesn’t make the other side change their ways. The only change I see thus far in Obama is someone who is good at speaches. Unfortunately, pretty words, and pretty words only heard by the converted, don’t make policy or mobilize citizens.

    In fact, if there is anything we learned from Bill, it’s that by putting all your faith in the guy who talks the good talk, we forget that WE are the ones who have to make change. We can’t assume someone else is going to do it for us. We all got fat and lazy under the Clinton administration, while the far right mobilized.

  9. propellor Says:

    As a Missouri Tiger fan and an Obama supporter in his 30s this post was hard to read on many fronts. The dismissal of Obama supporters as believing in only the rhetoric is pretty bad. I find it hard to believe that Edwards supporters find so much more substance in their candidate. The truth is none of the candidates are offering much in terms of concrete proposals this early in the campaign, they never do. And in terms of foreign policy, there is no candidate on the Dem side now that Biden is gone that has any real substantive experience in foreign relations, and most of what happens in their administration will be based on who they choose for their cabinet. Frankly I think Edwards and Obama supporters should just make sure Hillary isnt the nominee. And the unelectable talk about Obama is bizzare to me.

  10. propellor Says:

    And just one more thing, I think when Obama talks about uniting he isnt talking about Dems and Repubs agreeing on everything and working closely, I tend to take it more as returning to the way it was before 9/11. Remember the time when disagreeing with the president didnt get you called unpatriotic? And fear wasnt the main tool used in politics. Sure accusations of fear mongering have always been hurled, but it was never as bad as it has been in the last 6 years.

  11. Lawyer Mama Says:

    I think you’re right. That’s exactly what troubles me about Obama. After too many years of political stagnation and accomplishing virtually nothing, I’m frustrated not hopeful.

    I’m still hoping Edwards can pull it off.

  12. Lawyer Mama Says:

    I just read the comments and I had to comment on propellor’s comment. I don’t think Joanne is saying Obama is unelectable, just that polls so far have shown that Edwards is the *most* electable Democrat in comparison to the top Republican candidates.

    And after supporting Edwards for the last 4 years and having participated in a conference call with Elizabeth Edwards, I think there is quite a bit of substance behind the sound bites. I’ve never encountered a politician so willing to actually say what he means and really answer questions. (And believe me, I’ve encountered many politicians.) Most tend to sidestep uncomfortable questions and are experts at sounding good while not saying much of anything at all.

  13. Mom101 Says:

    It’s funny, as undecided as I claim to have been all these months, my spirit sank a bit when Edwards didn’t win and I realized where my heart truly was.

    That said, Obama is a smart guy – not at all like Bush who was elected with no foreign policy experience (or knowledge, to say the least). I trust that should he win, he’d surround himself with the brightest and best and that he could hold his own across the table from all kinds of world leaders.

  14. Mary Says:

    Actually, this blog (and the links) helped convince me that Edwards had the best chance of winning a general election. He is by far the most progressive, on paper, of the three, too. So I would officially cast a vote, here.

    But — I don’t think he can survive the cult of personality that has become this current race.

    And, I don’t think Hilary can win. We’re not ready for a woman in this country. Why? Consider the two women running countries in South America. They emote. They’re vibrant personalities. They are decidedly feminine.

    Yet femininity here doesn’t extend to political power -the scope of our understanding of this word, of being embodied in the female body–or any power, really. So Clinton, like those before her in smaller races, need to distance themselves from emotion, from femininity, from an essential part of Self.

    And I think voters feel that distance, and don’t connect in a way they do with a Huckabee or Obama.

  15. Mrs. Chicky Says:

    People’s feelings on Obama make me realize that so many are in need of a little Kennedy/Camelot. Different situation, yes, and I’m still an Edwards supporter but it’s hard not to like Obama. Especially after that speech.

  16. Amy S. Says:

    Funny that everyone sees Obama as idealistic and naive. That’s exactly how I see Edwards. As a Democrat, I like all of Edwards’ ideas on education, the environment and the war, but I do think they’re too left leaning to have any hope of being realized in DC.

    I’m not sure I see a whole lot of difference in Obama’s “Hope and Unity” rhetoric than Edwards’ “Plan to Build One America” (see Edwards’ Website). Their ideas are very similar and Edwards’ agenda isn’t much more fleshed out than Obama’s. But I see Obama’s agenda as being much more centrist, pragmatic and achievable than Edwards’.

    I do believe there’s substance behind Obama. He is a great orator, but let’s not forget that’s a really important part of the job (I’ll be so glad to have a president that can just say “nuclear” instead of “nucular.”) And while he may not have as much experience at the federal level as the other candidates, he does have a strong track record of bringing people together as a community mobilizer and a state legislator.

    I also agree that the country is in desperate need for some Camelot-esque change. An Obama presidency might just send a strong enough message to the Republicans that Americans are sick of politics as usual. And I agree wholeheartedly with Mom101 that if Obama was elected, he would rise to the occasion and build an administration with very smart, experienced people.

  17. Chris Johnson Says:

    While I appreciate your concern I really think that Obama is our only hope. I myself am a fairly conservative Democrat on social issues (I’m southern what do you want), and I love Edwards’s popular approach but I think he’d lose a general election. Obama keeps some of his message without the burning of bridges that Edwards will inevitably have to do in order to continue to be viable, besides I think Edwards is already putting himself in a position to be the running mate. Hillary on the other hand is a joke, she created the middle of the road pseudo-republican Democratic leadership council that essentially told Democrats to sell out there constituents economically, and she represents more of the same. And her speech last night that some how she embodies change apparently ignores the fact the Obama is uhhh I don’t know black. Obama needs to be the candidate. Besides what was her husband’s big Washington foreign policy experience before becoming President?

  18. Oh, The Joys Says:

    What are your thoughts on the Nunn, Bloomberg, et al national unity talks?

  19. Houseonahill.org Says:

    Being from Illinois, I am not falling for the rock concert. I worked hard on Sen. Obama’s senate campaign. Look closely at Illinois to see what, if anything he can change. I am still on the fence.

    I hate to say we’re being deadbeats, but we’re being deadbeats, not researching and being mindful of what each candidate is really capable of. I don’t know who the best person for the job is, but I am not falling for the hype of hope and pray America doesn’t either.


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