Wednesday, May 21, 2008
A Buddy for Obama
The question concerning most Democrats is no longer who will be the Party's presidential candidate, but rather, who will be the vice-presidential candidate? A Gallup poll conducted this month reported that 55% of Democratic Party voters surveyed wanted Hillary Clinton to be Barack Obama's running mate. The poll also reported that 75% of Clinton supporters and 43% of Obama supporters desire this "dream ticket." However, if such a ticket does reach fruition, Barack Obama's American Dream-like campaign will wither.
The bitter primary battle between the two candidates has exposed the nasty character of running for office in America. It is unfortunate that public office must be fought for "by any means necessary" rather than by civil debate or personal honor. Granted, the stakes are high. Passions are understandably inflamed by such important issues as war, healthcare, and immigration. However, it seems the intensity of campaigns lies not in arguing issues but in attacking an opponent's character.
The Obama campaign began as a breath of fresh air. The articulate and dignified senator sought to pursue the presidency with class and integrity, not with the fierce drive that has maligned most other campaigns, from Congressional seats the the Presidency, since the dawn of the negative television add. But it did not take long for Obama to be drawn into a back-and-forth fist fight of words and accusations with Senator Clinton. Yet, the Obama campaign remained focused on the idealistic notions of hope and change - indeed, the hope that the political process, from campaigning to consensus-building in government, could be changed.
Opponents have charged that the Clintons carry political baggage that could make it hard for Hillary to be elected in November. This charge is more dangerous not in terms of the Clinton's history, but in terms of their political personality and perspective. The 1990's saw the growth of partisanship and divisive political posturing. Leon Panetta, who served as President Clinton's Chief of Staff from 1994 to 1997, argues fervently that politics is compromise. The Clintonian approach, in my eyes, is more focused on winning. And so it is with so many other candidates for public office at every level throughout America. The system is broken because of the continued failure to reach, or even strive for compromise. And it is the American people that suffer from this lack of leadership and common decency from elected officials, as such momentous issues as immigration and social security remain unreformed, and the burden awaiting future generations - my generation - becomes heavier and scarier.
Opinion polls might organize data and tell a person one thing, but they must not dominate decision making. Whether 55% or 80% of Democrats believe the "dream ticket" of Obama-Clinton could be elected in November is not nearly as important as whether Democrats and Republicans can BEGIN to work together in Washington, through compromise and empathy. The aim of politics is not winning but good government. Senator Obama must stay focued to the core message of his campain, and realize the broad support his message has built. Change is so desired and so needed in this country. And change cannot come without bipartisanship and compromise. President Obama will lack legitimacy if he reverts to "old-style" politics of division rather than hopeful oratory reminiscent of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Karl Rove may have gotten President George W. Bush elected to two terms through aggressive, adversarial campaigns. But in all honesty, the presidency of W. Bush has been a horrible failure. Iraq War aside, domestic policy has become stagnate due to the complete absence of bipartisanship. Elected officials have not become public servants but policy procrastinators, and the country is disgusted by
And so Obama stands at a crossroads. Political pundits on television and in the nation's most respected newspapers and magazines have all but crowned Senator Obama as the Democratic Party nominee for president. If the delegates to the Democratic National Convention concur, Obama must decide how to pursue the presidency. Will he satisfy (current) polls and choose Senator Clinton so as to appease Clinton supporters and guard against their defection, or will he satisfy the integrity of his message, and work not only toward winning the presidency but toward building a more effective political climate in America?
Numerous names have surfaced as possible running mates for Obama, from Governors Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania and Ted Strickland of Ohio to Virginia Senator Jim Webb and countless others, whom, it is perceived, could carry a particular swing-state vital to a Democratic victory. The most courageous choice would be Michael Bloomberg, the centrist Republican mayor of New York. Bloomberg would appeal to many, many centrists throughout the nation, as well as many hard-line conservatives that admire the mayor's economic knowledge and accomplishments. But the primary strength of Bloomberg lies is in his attitude. The New York mayor
seems to ignore partisanship and focus on policy.
My former teacher, Professor Panetta, emphasized that politics must not be about grandstanding but problem-solving. Mayor Bloomberg fits well into this idealistic view of government. Furthermore, a bipartisan ticket would signal a new approach to political campaigns and culture in America. Rather than demeaning an opponent are lambasting his or her party, a candidate could take a higher road and pursue the virtue of openness rather than the destructive vice of stubbornness. U.S. representatives must negotiate with each other rather than isolate each other.
The stakes are too high for the current political attitudes of representatives to continue to stall policy and taint voter attitudes. The choice for running mate by Obama, the presumptive nominee for the Democratic Party, will test his values and integrity. Does he seek primarily to be president or to better America? He can have both, perhaps, but right now, one impulse must be primary. The road that could lead to his presidency must not stray too far from its original course, or he will become, like many Americans, lost in the political wilderness of an uncivilized and warring political system.
-James Haight Driscoll