by Randolph T. Holhut
American Reporter Correspondent
February 15, 2008
OBAMA AND MY GENERATION
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- I originally planned on voting for Dennis Kucinich in the Vermont Primary on March 4.
I figured that he would still be in the race, even though the Democratic nomination would be wrapped up by then. My vote, as it usually is, would be purely symbolic.
Except that everything changed.
Kucinich dropped out because even though his political career has been all about persistence against the odds, he has to worry about winning re-election to Congress.
John Edwards might have been an alternate choice, since he was the only major candidate who was talking about the winner-take-all economy and how the gap between rich and poor is growing in America. But he dropped out too.
I liked Bill Richardson and the wealth of experience he brought to the race. But he is more likely to be the next Secretary of State, unless he has to wrestle Joe Biden for it.
So now, as a lifelong liberal who has been constantly disappointed by the Democrats, my choices are down to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. And due to the closeness of the race, the Vermont Primary has suddenly become meaningful and my vote suddenly has become important.
To me, choosing between Clinton and Obama is choosing between the probability that nothing will change in a Clinton Administration and the ever-so-slim possibility that some change might happen in an Obama Administration.
Don't get me wrong. Clinton and Obama are both infinitely better than John McCain or any of the other turkeys that chased the Republican presidential nomination. But if the choice is Clinton or Obama, my vote goes to Obama.
Yes, I think he's too young and too inexperienced. They said that about John F. Kennedy in 1960. Yes, it seems as if Obama is all charm and little substance. They said that about Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1932. Will Obama rise to the level of FDR and JFK? It would be unfair to compare Obama to either.
But I do believe that the overworked theme of the 2008 campaign, change, is not a merely a cliché. This is a watershed moment for America, one of those once-in-a-generation elections that may affect the course of our nation for decades to come.
The damage that President George W. Bush and his Administration has done to our nation is incalculable. Who is going to be the person to start cleaning up the mess?
With Clinton, I see a continuation of many of Mr. Bush's policies. We'll be in Iraq for years to come, and a war with Iran is not out of the question. Clinton has been virtually silent on the abuses of executive power by the President, which leads me to believe that she will likely embrace the expanded powers that President Bush has claimed for himself. She will continue the tradition of triangulating that her husband began. She is surrounded by the same hacks who killed the Democratic Party and have little use for people power and grassroots politics.
To me, the most hopeful part of Obama's candidacy is its inclusiveness and how it has captured the imaginations of younger voters. This is the fruit of DNC chairman Howard Dean's decision to makes the Democrats a 50-state party again and to send party money and resources to the so-called red states.
The Clinton hacks - Terry McAuliffe, James Carville, Harold Ickes and Mark Penn, among them - despise Dean, but Dean's strategy paid off in 2006, when the Democrats regaining control of Congress. The huge voter turnouts in states where Democrats haven't been competitive in decades is a tribute to Dean's idea of putting organization and attracting new voters ahead of shaking down fat cats for more money for tv ads.
Obama has the kind of connection with people that makes the Kennedy comparisons inevitable. After suffering through the inarticulate stupidity of President Bush, Americans seem ready to embrace someone who can think and talk clearly without a script in his hand.
But it's not just intelligence. It's using the words "we" and "us," instead of "me" and "I." It's speaking about hope and change instead of fear and anger. It's saying "Yes, we can" instead of saying, "Well, it depends."
On a personal level, it's also about a new generation taking charge. I'm 46, the same age as Obama. Born in 1961, I am - depending on how you do your demographic figuring - either at the tail end of the Baby Boom generation or the start of the much-maligned Generation X, the people born in the 1960s and 1970s.
The limitless abundance of the country that the Baby Boomers enjoyed was gone by the time I graduated high school in 1979. My world was a world of economic decline and hopelessness - where the working class I grew up in no longer had a future.
We grew up with a lack of trust in leadership, particularly institutional leadership - that's what you get when the first president to register in your consciousness is Richard Nixon, and when Kent State, Attica, Watergate and the fall of Saigon are part of your youth.
We grew up in a world of divorce and working mothers. We were the post-birth control pill generation, where children were something you took a pill to avoid having. We were the first generation to start getting shortchanged on education funding and student loans. I ended up joining the Army National Guard to pay for my last two years of college. We were the generation that didn't go to college to find ourselves. We went to find a way to get a job and learn how to survive in a world where the cream had already been skimmed off. We had to make our own way in the world.
Like it or not, it is my generation that is taking the stage. Tempered by years of economic insecurity and institutional rot, and fully accustomed to being lied to and let down by our leaders, we know that the only change that will come is the one we create ourselves.
Obama is part of my generation - a self-reliant and resourceful generation that had to find our own way and keep adjusting and reinventing as we went along. We are realists, but we are not afraid to take chances when necessary. And it is our time.
To me, Clinton represents the tired old politics of the Boomers and the refighting of old battles. She is the standard bearer for the worst instincts of the Democratic Party, as exemplified by the hollow shell the party became when Bill Clinton was president.
Obama represents new blood and new energy in the political process. Whether this energy will translate into action is anyone's guess, but again, it is the difference between the slight chance of seeing change and the near certainty of seeing the status quo continue.
I'm willing to take that chance. I'd rather be voting for Kucinich or Edwards, but to me, the best of what's left is Barack Obama.
Randolph T. Holhut has been a journalist in New England for more than 25 years, and was recently named the best editorial writer in the state by the Vermont Press Associaition. He edited "The George Seldes Reader" (Barricade Books). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.