Sunday, December 7, 2008

Notes From a Political Observer - The Beginning

Welcome to the first edition of what may or may not be a series of "observations" from a political observer. Whether there are follow ups depends on interest - both yours and mine, so let me know your point of view.

I have my opinions, which those who read my articles and comments on Gather know I tend to state with great verbosity. But mostly I observe. Sometimes this comes in handy, as for example when my observations allowed me to predict the election exactly to the electoral vote (including the first in a lifetime split-off of one Nebraska electoral vote). What I hope to do is offer some observations of the psyche behind political trends and actions (or non-actions). The goal is to better understand how we think politically so that we can together think of how to resolve some of this country's most pressing issues.

I should begin by saying that I wasn't always a political observer. Like most people I have a life (yes, it is true, despite appearances to the contrary). As such there is only so much time for political discourse, much of which is unproductive as people stand on either side of the fence and lob verbal ideologies at each other like grenades. As some so vehemently ascribe, it often doesn't matter much who gets elected, as the wheels of government creak along the same ineffectual path, incrementally inching toward the next reelection cycle.

This election, however, was very different, in large part because of 9/11 and the political gamesmanship that occurred in the aftermath. Virtually everyone in this country was behind the Bush Administration following that fateful day. I was no exception. I wore my flag pin, I placed a US flag in my office window, I supported the routing of bin Laden and the Taliban from Afghanistan. I knew people who died that September day and I understood, as did we all, that action was necessary.

Without going into detail, the period of unanimity began to fade as everyone returned to somewhat normal day-to-day life, though that normality was not the same pre-9/11 normal by any measure. Moreso however, the universality of support was affected most by the actions of the Administration. Since the exact actions could take several pages and would no doubt stimulate significant debate in their own right, I'll suffice to say here that I felt the need for a different way of thinking.

Those who have read me know that I supported Barack Obama for President, but this was not the case from the outset of the campaign. I fully understand that there are legitimate reasons for others to choose another candidate. But contrary to those who say all Obama supporters are "Obamatons" or have some sort of groupie mentality or messiah complex, I began by closely observing all of the candidates, both Republican and Democrat. On the Republican side I felt early on that Romney was the most capable because of his strong business and managerial background and a proven executive track record. Unfortunately the "winner-take-all" nature of the Republican primaries and a bias from the right against his religion nixed his chances. Huckabee seemed like someone who thought deeply and communicated well, but he was unable to convince me that he could govern a diverse nation. Giuliani simply ran an incompetent campaign. I had been a supporter of John McCain back in 2000 and was happy to see him rise to the top, but I was discouraged by the fact that he felt the need to discard his principles in order to get the nomination. Others on the Republican side were simply not broad enough thinkers.

On the Democratic side I assumed, like everyone, that Hillary Clinton would get the nomination. She had name recognition, had shown she was a capable and competent Senator, was an experienced politician in her own right, and perhaps most importantly had access to the Clinton rolodex of donors. All of which should have made her a shoo-in. Unfortunately, she, like John McCain, seemed to lose grasp of the reality that this was to be a "change" election (which we all knew as far back as 2005) and ran on experience. She actually could have been both change and experience and did try that at one point, but frankly ran such a poor campaign from the outset that it, if anything, confirmed she was not the right person for the Presidency at this time. In any case, when I first started observing the Democrats I initially favored Joe Biden. Joe, like me, tends to verbosity and the occasional verbal flub. However, and perhaps presciently, after seeing a few debates I concluded that Biden was better suited to be Vice-President than President. Richardson had by far the most impressive resume but I felt he was not a particularly good communicator nor an expansive enough thinker - both skills I felt were critical for the incoming President. Obama certainly gave a good speech, as we all saw at the 2004 convention, but it was during the debates that I started to see both the expansiveness and inclusiveness of his thinking, as well as his confidence in making decisions. I later came to appreciate his management skills in putting together one of the best run campaigns many of us have seen in our lifetimes. In the end, it was his abilty to think that convinced me he was right for this time and place in history. Those who followed my writings will see that I didn't take sides on any candidate until I made my decision to support Obama. I preferred to observe first, and advocate later.

It is my observations that I hope to communicate with this blog. My intent is not to be partisan, but rather to explore the thinking from different perspectives.