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Americans want things to be different

Fri, Jun 20th, 2008
Posted in Commentary

The Presidential contest has begun. Not that there are "official" candidates, but we all know who they will be. Yet undecided of course, are both the Democratic and Republican nominees for Vice-President. Even though Election Day is months away, I suspect many folks have decided for whom they will vote. The comparisons between the two candidates could not be more striking. A young, articulate, energetic African-American promising to bring change to the way government operates versus an older, established insider steeped in the traditions of the way things have always been.

Mr. McCain allows himself, and in fact, revels in the maverick label (whatever that means) applied to him. To be sure he has on occasion not gone along with the Republican position on several issues. In fact, he has sponsored legislation that was seriously opposed by the power structure of his party; the McCain-Feingold Act regarding campaign finance reporting being the best example. In contrast, he wishes to continue tax breaks for the most wealthy sponsored by President Bush and voted into law by a Republican congressional majority, and he vigorously opposed legislation that would increase benefits for armed forces veterans, while at the same time wishing to continue a massive military presence in Iraq.

Those supporting Mr. McCain speak to his life experience and his knowledge of how things work inside the beltway. While experience is perhaps one of the best of life's teachers, it also shapes our thinking and even can narrow our views. Perception and interpretation form our personal reality. Mr. McCain's personal reality, filtered and shaped by his experience, does not match the reality of today. He refuses to understand or accept the overall damage to our country brought on by six plus years of war in Iraq. He cannot see that continued public intransigence regarding discussions with those with whom we have issues will continue the status quo rather than bring about a better understanding between us and them. It's not his motives I question; I have trouble accepting the methods by which he suggests we deal with the problems before us

In speaking of Mr. Obama, we might as well put the race issue right out front. Either one accepts the possibility that an African-American can be the President of the United States, or not. The programs and ideas offered by Mr. Obama warrant careful consideration. Let us not reject them just because he is an African-American.

So, with race aside, what does he offer? Most polls show that the majority of Americans want things to be different. Most people want our fighting troops to leave Iraq; most want fair and equitable tax relief; most want a government that is responsive to our needs without being in our way; most want dialogue with our adversaries, not harsh words, saber rattling, or war. Mr. Obama offers all of this. His personal reality reflects what the majority of people are concerned about and want to see changed. He understands that our government must be willing to speak with those with whom we have disagreements.

This is not the same as appeasement. He understands that government's role is to help people, all people, not just some, such as the super rich or oil companies. As evidenced by his campaign for the Democratic nomination he has surrounded himself with a team of people and advisors who know what today is and what tomorrow should be. Leadership is said to be a team sport. The best leaders are creative, collaborative, rational and practical. And, they are able to assemble a team that will carry out the agreed upon goal. Mr. Obama has clearly demonstrated his abilities as a thinker, an organizer and a leader.

William F. Buckley, Jr., writing about Ronald Reagan in 1967 said that some people were calling into question Mr. Reagan's accomplishments even though Mr. Reagan's rhetoric was what conservatives of the day wished to hear. Mr. Buckley then went on to say that "...the rhetoric is the principal thing. It precedes all action. All thoughtful action." This too can be applied to Mr. Obama. His rhetoric and his personal reality can bring about the change needed now.

Alan Lipowitz lives in Peterson.

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