Sunday, January 20, 2008

Democratic Primary Endorsement: Sen. Barack Obama

Florida’s Democratic primary, to be held on Jan. 29, will be playing second fiddle to the hotly contested GOP race featuring newly minted Floridian Rudolph Giuliani. The Democratic National Committee harshly penalized Florida Democrats for moving their primary from its traditional March placement. DNC Chairman Howard Dean stripped Florida of all its delegates to August’s National Convention in Denver, and all major Democratic candidates signed a pledge to cease campaigning in the primary. Nevertheless, there is still an election being held on the Democratic side. Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York is the likely winner, as she has held a steady lead for months. And with the amount of transplanted New Yorkers residing in Palm Beach County, it should not come as a surprise that she enjoys a comfortable margin. However, I still take my vote seriously – and that is why I am choosing to support Sen. Barack Obama.

Obama is the only candidate who can effectively carry the mantle of change. Critics charge that Obama is too inexperienced to seek the presidency. The problem with this argument is that the longer one stays in Washington, the more they become part of the problem and not the solution. Obama is smart to take his shot at the presidency now. As we saw with Sen. John Kerry in 2004, more Senate experience does not equal success. Kerry’s voting record was torn apart, as every minute detail was exploited by the opposition for political gain. The most Senators in the 2008 race, Joe Biden and Chris Dodd, never gained any traction and withdrew after Iowa.

The real question should be whether Obama has the acumen to handle the job of the U.S. presidency. Clinton stated recently that we shouldn’t elect a president who needs on the job training. This argument falls hollow, considering that no amount of training can truly prepare one for the job. All presidents come to the job needing on the job experience. Serving as governor of Arkansas, as former President Clinton did for nearly 12 years, certainly wasn’t “on the job training”. Obama’s most positive trait in this election is his ability to bring the country together. After two decades of Bush/Clinton rule, most people agree that it’s time to put this era of division behind us. Obama has the ability to build a national mandate to enact positive progressive change. It’s unfortunate, but Clinton is already too polarizing to fully bring this country together. If she were to be elected, we’d likely see the same partisan gridlock that occurred during the 1990’s. This country doesn’t need another Gingrich v. Clinton fight.

Obama’s trump card is his judgment. For all his “inexperience”, he had the judgment to oppose the Iraq War from the beginning. While Sen. Clinton and many of her colleagues were voting to authorize force in Iraq, Obama publicly stated his case against the war. Even when many establishment Democrats were quick to ally with President Bush, Obama saw the impending folly and was vocal in his opposition. Clinton has made the judgment that her vote was still correct – even when presented with evidence that the intelligence was incorrect.

For all my misgivings about Sen. Clinton, she would be a much better president than the current occupant of the White House. Despite the flaws that I point out, I would gladly cast my vote for her in the general election. However, her candidacy equals the most risk combined with the least reward for Democrats. She would enter the general election period with almost half of the country not open to supporting her. Convincing Republicans in upstate New York to support her is no comparison to trying to win votes of fence sitters nationally.
On Jan. 29, I urge Democrats in Florida to vote for Barack Obama. Even though there may still be bitterness about the fight between Florida Democrats and the DNC, the chance to support a candidate like Obama should be reason enough to take the time to vote in this “meaningless” primary.


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