Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Election Madness: Who says Hillary is the stronger candidate? (Part II)

The Case for Obama

Picking up the polemic where we left off, here's my thoughts on why Obama would be the stronger Democratic candidate. First, let's get a couple of negative factors weighing against Hillary out of the way:

(1) Hillary Hate

A lot of people in this country HATE Hillary Clinton (and I'm not talking about people like me who have only recently grown annoyed with her). Many conservatives would love to see Clinton nominated in August so that they can pounce on one of their favorite nemeses (Remember the "How do we beat the bitch" incident?). I think a major reason for this personal enmity is that Hillary can come off as condescending. Even in the debates, I thought that she sometimes sounded like a school teacher (not entirely patiently) explaining the details of her health care policy to a nation of slow students. Lately we've seen a little more personality from Hillary (some tears, her snarky parody of Obama's idealistic hope message), but a lot of people's opinions of Hillary became solidified back during her husband's first term of office. At any rate, I think that this ill will would severely handicap Hillary in her efforts to court swingy independents and Republicans.

(2) The Clintons are drrrty

Not only do they fight a dirty campaign, but a vague odor of impropriety pervades the air surrounding the political couple. Let's not forget, before Halliburton became a household word there was Whitewater and the Lincoln bedroom controversy. Unlike Obama, Hillary has rejected calls for her to publish a list of projects she managed to get funded with earmarked federal dollars while serving as Senator for New York. Likewise, Hillary has put off making the Clinton joint tax records public (to be fair, McCain is doing the same thing). This sort of thing makes people wonder what Clinton has to hide, and you can bet that it will come up in a race against McCain who likes to talk about government accountability and transparency.

Now that we've got that dirty business out of the way, let's discuss the strong points favoring Obama:

(3) Obama rocks the vote

As I mentioned in an earlier Election Madness post, Obama is a candidate who inspires supporters to get out and vote. In particular, he has mobilized a lot of young people and black voters to participate in the election process, two groups that skew Democratic and who are usually underrepresented on election day. Voter turnout is crucial given how close the last two Presidential elections have been. Shoot, if Al Gore or John Kerry had been better able to stir up enthusiasm and excitement, maybe more people on the left would have gotten off their asses and voted and things would have turned out differently.

(4) Don't underestimate Obama's appeal to independents and Republicans.

Obama is a statesman who instills pride and respect at a time when many people may have had their fill of executives who look like the kind of guy you'd want to toss back a beer with at a barbecue. Moreover, he talks a lot about putting aside partisan politics and coming together as a nation. I think this unifying and patriotic message appeals to a wide array of Americans across the political spectrum. When I was walking to Whole Foods the weekend before the Virginia primary, I passed a guy on the street who didn't look like your typical Obama supporter: a weathered, middle aged, blue-collar white guy (I want to say he had a mustache and was wearing a plaid shirt). He was holding up a sign that said "Veterans for Obama."

(5) Obama wins on symbolism

Obama is a fresh, young face in Washington and with his paradigm shifting campaign (talking about unity and hope while -- mostly -- staying away from mud slinging) he represents a potential new era in American politics. Hillary on the other hand seems to be asking us to look backwards. The Clinton era already took place (it's called the '90s), and while we may have reminisced about it fondly during the dark days of the Bush Administration (i.e. the entire Bush Administration), in this campaign the Clintons have succeeded in reminding us that it wasn't all one big bundle of roses. Moreover, you know if Hillary gets nominated we're going to have to hear people reciting the potential order of the country's four latest presidents (Bush, Clinton, Bush, Clinton) in an annoying singsong for months and months (it's almost enough to convince one that Nader was right about the political system). Whereas Obama's candidacy represents change, Clinton would arguably be the establishment candidate. Is that really going to get people excited enough to vote?

I found the above photo of Barack Obama on the web and it was uncredited.

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