As I was riding to work Wednesday morning I heard the lovely call of a cardinal, the sun was shining brightly and even delivering some heat, and I saw my first "urban" bald eagle of the season. I felt a flush of bliss as the long winter was turning to spring (admittedly a short term sensation, since the sun soon went behind a cloud and a 15 mph breeze hit me in the face). However short lived, this surge of optimism made me think of . . . politics.
I've been closely following the major party nomination process (somewhat proudly, just like like Michelle Obama) and it seems to me that each of the three remaining candidates will at least try to lead us in a better direction (talk about damning with faint praise. Apologies to Mike Huckabee, but I think there is general agreement that he cannot win the Republican nomination since he needs to win something like 137% of the remaining delegates. Plus, one litmus test issue for me is a basic belief in the scientific fact of evolution - even if that belief is overlaid with religious beliefs that appear inconsistent with evolution. So I'm calling it three remaining candidates).
I've listened to the last two Obama/Clinton debates. Even they admit that their substantive positions on most issues are very similar. It's almost painful to listen to sixteen minutes of debate about minor health care position differences when you consider that either's position will require a pretty radical change in health care delivery in the U.S. - which says to me that if the change happens there will be plenty of compromises and the differences between Obama and Clinton will have long since ceased to be very relevant.
It seems to me that the essential question in deciding who to support is one of optimism. Obama speaks of a movement, of a "yes we can" coalition that brings to my mind the anti-war movement of my youth. Clinton chides his approach, joking that Obama awaits the moment when the "skies will part, a bright light will come from heaven, and we will all work together."
Parts of me sympathize with both positions. Life does teach you that the number of times when that bright light comes down and we all work together for a common good are few and far between. In some ways that is why I'm much less "cause" oriented than I was when I was younger. I've concluded that I will most likely change the world in a small way, one positive interaction after another, day after day, year after year. But presidents of countries have a real chance to make change that isn't small or incremental. The more interesting point to me, made by Obama, is that governmental change of the type they are discussing is facilitated by and probably requires active involvement by "the people." So coalitions and "yes we can" movements of inspired people really do matter.
Peter and I had a number of interesting discussions in the run up to the Iowa caucus about Obama. We agreed he was and is an inspiring speaker. Oddly, it was me - the old guy - who was saying how important that ability to inspire is to leadership. I was pleased and somewhat surprised that Peter was a Joe Biden supporter (clearly an "old fart's" candidate), based on what Peter perceived as Biden's better thought out substantive positions.
The more I listen to Obama, the more willing I have become to join "the movement." For me it's more of a toe in the water than a dive into the lake. I think Obama has a much greater chance of effecting the change I would like to see than the more polarizing Clinton. There is always the risk that any politician will try to be all things to all people. Or will lead based on polls rather than principles (one of the things I really like about McCain is that he appears to be principled. Of course, the same argument can be made about our current president. It does matter which way the knee jerks).
Ultimately it seems to me that optimism is the better approach. Of course, I am hard wired as a "glass half full" guy. But I do believe that change can be for the better. And that it's hard work. So I find myself knee deep in Barack Bay of Lake Obama. The water is clear and the sun is shining from the heavens.