A lot of people say “they’re no different on the issues”. I disagree. There are major differences on four issues I care about a lot: civil liberties, the war, immigration, and LGBT rights.
- civil liberties: Obama’s good — not perfect, but better than any president we’ve ever had. Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, supports garnishing wages and presumably other enforcement for her mandatory health insurance plan, wants to censor videogames, and did not object when her husband signed the CDA and COPA, expanded wiretapping, and approved warrantless searches. He supports net neutrality; she opposes it.
- the war. He advocates a firm timeframe for withdrawal, and his opposition from day 1 will help restore American credibility; he also, in my opinon, has a more accurate analysis of the situation. I also think he’ll make future wars less likely (for example his willingness, unlike Hillary Clinton, to engage personally with “hostile” leaders); Chris Bowers discussed this well. She still won’t admit that she was wrong when she voted for the war; for that matter, neither she nor her husband has ever disavowed the sanctions policy that led to hundreds of thousands of Iraqi deaths and did nothing to prevent the war.
- LGBT rights: while far from perfect (both candidates oppose gay marriage and support the military’s exemption from campus anti-discrimination policies), Barack Obama is distinctly better than Hillary Clinton. He supports a full repeal of the federal “Defense of Marriage Act”; and he supports an inclusive Employee Non-Discrimination Act. More here.
- immigration: He’s marched on May 1; she opposes drivers’ licenses for undocumented immigrants. And this is as good a place as any to point out that she never spoke against her husband’s “welfare reform” policy.
There are some other important differences as well, but come on … isn’t this enough?
Of course it’s not just the issues. The Clinton campaign’s repeated racist speech is appalling, as is the voter-suppression lawsuit in Nevada and her decision to break the agreement with her opponents and campaign in Florida are classic Rovian — and Clintonian — maneuvers; I’m tired of politics like that. Obama’s ability to galvanize involvement from younger and first-time voters has a chance to rewrite the political map, starting with the 2008 election and building on it. His strategic and out-of-the-box thinking during the campaign (the use of social networks; his head speechwriter is a 24-year-old; actively going on Spanish-language radio after the Kennedy endorsement; going on The Billerico Project) has really impressed me. I think his ability to work across partisan divides, trans-partisan as well bi-partisanship, will help him be very effective at making progress on his platform.
Oh, and I like and respect his wife a lot better than I like her husband.
Ever since my first election, I’ve looked forward to being able to vote for a candidate who’s not a straight white male who’s got a real chance at becoming the President of the United States of America. And in November, I’ll have a chance to. How cool is that? But that’s not enough.
If Obama’s the Democratic nominee, I’ll also have a chance to vote for somebody who I think can really change the world.
PS: A few of the many other posts I read that had an influence on me: Matt McGinty’s letter to friends and family in the Facebook Obama discussion group, danah boyd, on the new/old media distinction; Jack Turner’s The Clintons , Black Folk, and America: A reckoning on Jack and Jill Politics; Michael Chabon’s The Phobocracy; Meteor Blades and DHinMi on Kos; the New York Times civil rights editorial; the many great analyses in the Women of Color and anti-racist blogospheres of Gloria Steinem’s “oppression olympics” piece in the New York Times; and endorsements from Oprah, Caroline Kennedy, Ted Kennedy, and Maria Shriver.