Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Why I'm Voting for Barack Obama

This is my first and I promise it will be my last foray into politics on this blog. Politics is a black hole of partisan opinion, misleading rhetoric, distortions of truth, and outright lies.

Below is me and my absentee ballot for the Presidential Primaries.
I voted for Barack Obama and here's my reasoning.

Before we get to directly to Obama, let me first share why I am a Democrat. Of the two parties in American politics (I wish there were more) Democrats tend to have a more interdependent worldview. Interdependence is a Buddhist concept that means nothing in this world exists independently of anything else. Everything is connected and constantly interacting. Say, for example, I steal 10 dollars from your wallet, and you don't notice. It may appear that I've gotten off cleanly and that my action has had no impact aside from letting me have a good lunch that day. But suppose, not having as much money as you thought you did, you don't tip your new waiter well at your lunch and he has negative feelings for you which he carries over to his next customer, who thinks the service is lousy and tells all her friends not to go to the new restaurant which closes down 6 months later due to lack of business. Of course this is a rather trite and trumped up example, but it serves its illustrative purpose well enough. (And doesn't take into account all the internal reverberations you will feel from stealing money from your friend)

All the things we do emminate outwards in impossibly complex ripples, and all the things that happen to us are the result of a distant action sometime in the past.

This is not only scientifically true but it has the advantage of having an inbuilt civic code. Eventually my actions and the actions of my country will come back to me in some way or another. So yes, I can sanction polluting the environment and messing with other countries governments for a personal gain, but it's not hard to see how sooner or later those choices will affect me and those I love in a negative way as well.

Interdependence is unfathomable. We have no idea what will happen even despite our good intentions. That's why we need to make choices that tread softly on the Earth and our neighbors, rather than blazing ahead with a misguided sense of what is right and wrong. I'm not afraid of high taxes or of helping people in my society who are worse off than me. And as it turns out, Denmark, with one of the highest tax rates in the world, also ranks as the happiest country on Earth. This week 60 minutes has a great story about the reason why Denmark is so happy and America isn't doing so well.

So that's why I'm going with the Democrats. Now, why I'm not voting for Hillary Clinton.

  • America does not need dynasties. I find it mind boggling that more people aren't asking what is wrong with America that we have had just two families in the White House for 20 years. (not including Bush seniors 8 years as Vice President) I am 28 years old which means that for my entire politically aware life I have been looking at a Bush or Clinton behind a podium with the Presidential Seal. It's a shame that with such a dynamic and intelligent population we can't get past these two families.

  • Is Hillary really empowering for women? I respect and esteem women and think they make great leaders (women too have a better sense of interdependence). I'm sure Hillary Clinton was a great corporate lawyer before, but it's clear that the only reason she has gotten to where she is now is based on who she married rather than her own accomplishments. This seems to me the antithesis of feminism. I would much rather see our first female president (and it will happen) be someone like Nancy Pelosi or even Condoleeza Rice who has won the post on her own merits.

  • Hillary Clinton has had her chance. A few months ago when Hillary teared up at the luncheon and told us all that she kept going because she just cares so much, I had a few moments of sympathy and fondness for her. But then a voice inside my head said, "Wait a minute, this person had the ear of the single most influential man in the world for 8 years. She's been in the highest seats of power and has had her opportunity to change her country. She's had more power than you ever will." My sympathy for her quickly vanished.
  • Bill Clinton gives me the creeps. No, not because of Monica Lewinsky. Because of the way he acted in South Carolina. For a few days the curtain was parted and we could all see the man for what he is, a politician who will do anything to win. His false attacks and marginalization of Obama as another "Jesse Jackson" left a bad taste in my mouth which won't go away. Like Bush, 8 years of Bill Clinton was enough for me, I'm all full up.

Up until now this post has been all negatives. But that is just a small part of why Obama has my vote. Here's the happiest thing. I'm going to lay out why I like Obama and I don't have to apologize for things he's done, do any mental wriggling to be at peace with his positions, or convince myself that he's the right person for the job. I just honestly support him.

  • Obama isn't straight out of the 60's. Before Obama became a serious contender, way back in the summer of 07, he made a statement that really got my attention. He said, “I didn’t come of age in the ’60s. I’m not invested in them.” He went on to explain that the Baby Boomers have been having the same fight since the Vietnam era. The Hippies vs. the Establishment. As Andrew Sullivan from The Atlantic put it much better than I ever could:

"At its best, the Obama candidacy is about ending a war—not so much the war in Iraq, which now has a mo­mentum that will propel the occupation into the next decade—but the war within America that has prevailed since Vietnam and that shows dangerous signs of intensifying, a nonviolent civil war that has crippled America at the very time the world needs it most. It is a war about war—and about culture and about religion and about race. And in that war, Obama—and Obama alone—offers the possibility of a truce.

The traces of our long journey to this juncture can be found all around us. Its most obvious manifestation is political rhetoric. The high temperature—Bill O’Reilly’s nightly screeds against anti-Americans on one channel, Keith Olbermann’s “Worst Person in the World” on the other;’s “General Betray Us” on the one side, Ann Coulter’s Treason on the other; Michael Moore’s accusation of treason at the core of the Iraq War, Sean Hannity’s assertion of treason in the opposition to it—is particularly striking when you examine the generally minor policy choices on the table. Something deeper and more powerful than the actual decisions we face is driving the tone of the debate." (For the full article click here)

Before I heard Obama's comments on the 60's divide I didn't have a clear understanding about what so turned me off about American politics. As soon as I heard him say that a lightbulb went off in my head that illuminated so much. These people are still arguing about something that happened more than 40 years ago. I was born in 1979 and I don't care who went, who didn't go, who supported and who dodged the draft for a terrible war that we didn't even have any business starting. I don't care. What I do care about are the issues facing us today, a sensible foreign policy, alternative fuels, healthcare, and sustainable growth. This isn't to say that the 60's era politicians like McCain and Clinton don't care about these things either, but they are hampered in their vision by these old, bitter divisions which have shaped their lives.

  • Obama lived abroad. A few months ago, when asked about his foreign policy experience, Barack Obama said:

"Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia."

The next day Hillary Clinton mocked this answer, saying "Voters will have to judge if living in a foreign country at the age of 10 prepares one to face the big, complex international challenges the next president will face.’’

This response deeply unnerved me as it could only be said by someone who has never lived abroad. Living in a foreign country for long periods of time (sorry, a semester in England doesn't count) is a deeply changing experience. It teaches you that the way you interact with the world is not due solely to your own personality but to your culture, your upbringing, and even your language. (interdependence again) Knowing this about yourself, that you approach a situation not just as "Jane" but "English speaking Jane from East Coast America middle class" will forever alter your worldview. It allows you to respect that other people might not see things like you. It gives you skills for compromise and also informs you of when compromise is impossible due to too great a cultural gap. Does it matter that Obama was a young child when he lived in Indonesia? Not at all, the lesson from living abroad is like riding a bike, it's a part of you that you never lose. Clinton's answer is far too characteristic of the self-centered, narrow perspective of the ugly American.

Fareed Zacharia, who has more degrees than I have fingers, wrote very eloquently about this in Newsweek, excerpted here. Please read it if you have the time!

  • The dude can talk. I have been continually amazed at George W. Bush's poor public speaking. I mean, you are the President of the United States. Being able to think on your feet or deliver a good speech should not be optional qualities. If you're trying to be an actor, a certain amount of handsomeness is required. If you're unattractive, that's ok, but maybe acting isn't the best field for you. We have no qualms with this reasoning and I don't see why we shouldn't hold our leaders to similar standards of public speaking. Being President means speaking a lot. And no one does it better than Obama.

  • Obama snorted cocaine. One of the most depressing aspects of American politics is how our electorate insists its leaders pretend they are perfect beings. And then when they show a crack and act like a regular old human, with addictions, lusts, and skeletons in the closet, we cast them out with disgust. None of us could live up to the ideal of the Puritan American leader. What I respect much more is someone who has had their problems and actually worked through them. And isn't ashamed of it. Plus, you gain compassion for people in the same circumstance and are less likely to get on a high horse about anything. I deeply distrust someone who has never done anything bad in their life. There's just something unnatural about that, something pent up and explosive. Doing bad stuff (I would rather say unskillful), and then coming back from that line is where we find our humanity.

So, that's all I'll ever say about politics. I just figured if there ever was a point to say it, now, when things are being decided, is that time. Thanks for reading, and sorry for all the non-Americans who don't give a damn about our crazy political system! : )


Yoga Garden


Vol said...

I would vote for Dennis Kucinich. Have you seen his wife? She is hot. Not that that is a good reason to elect a President, but well, she'd be a helluva First Lady, and besides, he along with Ron Paul seem to be the only honest politicians out there.

Actually my vote did go for RP.

Kerstin Upmeyer said...

Wonderful post Patrick! I so agree with you about all these years of Bushes and Clintons. We are NOT an Oligarchy! Having Hillary in the Whitehouse would continue to make Americans more accepting of the idea that it's OK for the same people to keep staying in power, and then, here will come Jeb Bush (who was our Gov. in FL) um... yikes!

Anywho, well said my friend! :-)

gwen bell said...

Patrick--this post is a minor triumph. In your usual style you slay the adversary and tell us why you've done so. As you know, I teeter on apathy with regards to politics most of the time, but with Obama, I feel a kindred connection. I think that connection is what will move me to vote for him.

That, and what you said about disowning me or something if I didn't (when we hung out in December). How a woman should vote like her man tells her. Ha ha.

Keep fighting the "good" fight.


Devin Reams said...

Great post, Patrick. I realized that our generation became jaded by politics. We millenials feel we incite more change through capitalism (spending) than democracy (voting).

But, a lot of us see Obama as someone/something that can truly do some good.

...but only if we actually go out and vote.

Mutsumi said...

I don't write a lot. But if I can do I want to vote for Obama-san.
Anyway other hand in Japan......

Zen said...

Yes we CAN!

good post!

zenguitarmonk said...

I practiced Soto Zen (and yoga) for years, but left my sangha with a great feeling of dissatisfaction and went back to being an atheist. Recently, my interest in Zen was rekindled when I discovered your podcast via iTunes and liked most of what I heard. Now I just read your post on why you are voting for that fraud Obama, and suddenly I remembered why I left the smug, liberal clique that is American Zen. I suggest that you change your name from "Zen is Stupid" to "Zen Makes You Stupid".

Patrick said...

LOL. How do you REALLY feel zenguitarmonk?

Rebecca said...


I love your blog, but I'd like to comment on your statement about Hillary, dynasties aside: "'s clear that the only reason she has gotten to where she is now is based on who she married rather than her own accomplishments."

Hillary, a Republican in her youth, "has gotten to where she is now," not by the influence of her husband, but through her very political family, the Rodhams.

Karen Sella said...

Well-articulated and engaging post, thanks!

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