Okay, here's the thing: I was probably going to vote the Democrat ticket in this year's presidential election no matter who it ended up being. It's a choice I made back in the primaries, when Hillary was still running. Even though I had great reservations about her, I felt it was time: the country needs to be shaken up now and again, and it was time to do that.
But here's why I'm happy to vote for Obama: it doesn't come down to the issues, though they're important. It comes down to what Obama has - and what McCain doesn't. Of course Obama is a political opportunist - he's running for President, after all - and he'll say and do whatever he has to to get there. I'm not naive, and I don't believe everything either of them say. BUT. Obama is smart. Not just booksmart, either, which is denegrated for some reason in our country; it's more important to have "common sense" than "book learnin'." But he also knows people, and he knows how to get to them.
The entire Obama campaign has been proof that his strategy works. Look at his list of donors. Look at the speeches he's been giving. Look at the debates. He has made himself a brand name, a poster child, for the calm and collected intellectual. He manages to simultaneously calm and sooth worried individuals while awakening enough passion in those same people to believe that, hey, this is a representational democracy, and I am part of that. He has people knocking on doors, calling their neighbors, donating money, attending rallies, and even making homemade ads for him on that simple idea: that the voters matter.
Obama has, through either deft knowledge of sociology or very good advisors, tapped into the unrest and ennui that were the hallmark of American voters and turn it around. He's smart, he's clever, he's well-spoken. "Regular people" aren't supposed to distrust that. But they do. The media has been known to say things like Obama's been annointed, or that a messiah complex is running rampant his campaign - only Obama can save you from that terrible, cold world out there. And it's true that it feels like the campaign steps on that particular lever a bit too often. But it's working.
Selfishly, I want to see it work. There are not a lot of things that a President Obama could do to change the overall way I live my life. I have a steady job, a home I can afford, and a lifestyle that, if not opulent, is comfortable. Things like tax breaks and stimulus checks? Well, I think I got some dental work done with the last one, but if I hadn't gotten it, it wouldn't have mattered much - I would have waited a little bit longer, and that's about it. Tax breaks? I pay my taxes, and I don't really feel a pinch from it. I don't build the roads, or maintain all the agencies that do all those things that require a government. So that's okay. I'd like to maybe be able to move someday, and that requires selling a house that I wouldn't be able to sell right now, but that will clear up with time - with or without government mandates. About the only thing he could do was allow me to get married, but I don't think he can do that yet.
What can he do, then, that McCain can't? He can keep people involved. He can continue stirring up emotion toward reaching out, talking to people, and making community. He can prove, at least for a little while, that smart can win. And I want to support that. Let's face it - he's got, at most, 8 years. While we've seen what 8 years of disastrous policy can get us, at worst, Obama would be disastrous in a whole new way.
I'd like to think it's time for the smart, the eloquent, the determined, the clever to finally win one.
(Oh, and any Minnesotans that are reading this: I'm not voting along party lines. In fact, I'd like to urge you to keep Norm Coleman in office. He's a good guy, with a good clear vision. And Al Franken is just scary.)