Inspiration issue tops competence in making my choice
By Becky Lourey
Monday, Feb. 4, 2008
I have been a John Edwards supporter for years. I like his progressive message (but not his haircut). Now John is out of the race, and I have to make a decision between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama.
A dear friend, citing strong, valid reasons, almost had me talked into supporting Hillary. I respect her excitement. I, too, thrill watching a strong, articulate woman debate with such skill. It would be fun to listen to her for four years.
I first met Hillary in 1992, when then state Rep. Gloria Segal, chair of the Economic Development Committee, appointed me chair of the Subcommittee on Quality Workforce & Competitiveness. Hillary and Ira Magaziner had just published their book, “High Skills or Low Wages.” She was impressive, and enthusiastic. A star.
So, why am I not leaping on her bandwagon?
Thoughts buried deep keep nagging me. I have known women in politics who, because they have been there a long time and had to blaze the way, have become just like the “good old boys.” They threaten just like the established power, rather than use the negotiating skills that women are known to possess. These skills of finding common ground and creating win-win situations are often the very reasons women are elected.
Too many political women play the ‘tough guy’
But, when I look at Hillary’s stand on the war at a time when leadership and vision was of the utmost importance, I keep thinking that she wanted to look tough, like a man, if she ran for president. It’s not uncommon for women in politics to believe that they have to appear “tougher” than the guys, for fear they will be labeled as not strong enough to lead when America is under attack.
Then again, she would be so good on early childhood and education for all ages.
But then, doubts about her trade policies trigger my worries. NAFTA was Bill’s disaster. NAFTA and America’s farm policy have displaced 1.6 million Mexicans from their land — creating agricultural refugees. Dumping our corn in Mexico below the cost of production has caused an economic disaster that resulted in Mexican families and farmers not being able to grow their own corn and make their own tacos for an affordable price. This has led to an exodus from the land to the cities and to the United States — Mexicans looking for a way to feed their families — and added significantly to the immigration debate. Hillary served on Wal-Mart’s board of directors — the Arkansas connection. Where will she stand on trade? I wouldn’t want Bill advising her on that.
Cartoon captures the difference
Funny what makes you start looking at things differently. I saw a David Horsey cartoon with a middle-aged man representing older voters and a young woman representing young voters standing in front of the statue at the Lincoln Memorial. The man said, “Obama? How can you support an Illinois lawyer with only two years of experience in national office?” The woman said with a joyful smile and an eye on Lincoln, “Oh, it worked out pretty well last time.”
Hope isn’t enough. Talking about change isn’t enough. But the belief that America can again be honest with other nations is powerful, as is the belief that America can return to a fair tax and investment policy that reduces our national debt, our deficit, and invests in the ingenuity of the American people while tackling global warming. Belief, combined with hard work and determination, can make a difference.
Looking back at three decades of Republican idealism that held the neoconservative agenda together, I think it is only progressive idealism that can change the system. Barack represents that idealism. He has engaged all ages and made them feel included in his vision of the future. It helps that he is not divisive. Experience? Barack’s vision — partnered with experienced advisers and secretarial appointments based on knowledge, not cronyism — can do the job.
I think I will take the same chance the woman at the Lincoln Memorial is taking — Barack Obama.
Becky Lourey lives in Kerrick, Minn. She is a former state senator, former chair of the Health and Family Security Committee, a candidate for governor in 2002 and 2006 and currently executive vice president of Nemadji Research Corp. in Bruno, Minn.
Five reasons why Obama’s my choice
By Lynnell Mickelsen
Monday, Feb. 4, 2008
OK, so John Edwards was my first choice. Bwaaa. Boohoo. But I’m moving on. I’m a 50-year-old female who’d love to send a woman to the White House. I’ve seen Hillary Rodham Clinton in person. I like her. But at caucuses on Tuesday, I’ll be voting for Barack Obama. Here’s why:
1. Policy-wise, there’s really not a big difference between Barack and Hillary. She has the better health plan; he’s stronger on restoring our constitutional rights. I mean, she says po-tay-toe, he says po-tat-to. To-may-to. To-ma-to. No, we don’t need to call the whole thing off. They’d both make fine presidents. So I’ve had to look at other factors, such as . . .
2. Charisma matters. So does the ability to connect and inspire people matters. In the past, we Dems have chosen candidates based on our long grocery lists of issues and policies. We’ve also
deferred to the supposed wisdom of our Serious Professionals — party insiders, donors and pundits who anoint candidates based on who’s been waiting in line the longest and shown
up at all the same fund-raisers and parties for years and years.
It’s all very clubby. And it usually ignores the whole charisma thing. That’s how Democrats got saddled with (long sigh) Michael Dukakis, Fritz Mondale, Al Gore and John Kerry: all decent white guys who ran the standard, top-down, consultant-heavy, canned, uninspiring campaigns. For state elections, it’s also how we got stuck with Warren Spannaus, Skip Humphrey and Roger Moe.
Obama wins the ‘chemistry’ contest
This year, when it comes to chemistry — that admittedly irrational and mysterious ability to connect and inspire voters, Barack has it all over Hillary. But don’t take my word for it. Go to Youtube and watch Obama’s speech after winning the South Carolina primary last week. Then watch Hillary’s speech after winning Florida last week. Compare the two speeches and you’ll see the difference between the two candidates.
Obama is giving a soaring, secular equivalent of an altar call, asking people to transform their lives and their country. Hillary is giving a list of tasks to get started on. Which one do you think is more appealing? More inspiring?
3. The base will vote for the nominee, no matter what. So the question is: Who will be better at reaching beyond the Democratic base to bring in new voters?
Man, this one isn’t even close. In the early primaries and polls, Obama is attracting the biggest shares of new voters, especially younger ones who are the future of the Democratic Party.
According to CNN’s exit polls in South Carolina, Obama got 67 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old vote, compared with Clinton’s 23 percent. Among voters 30 to 49, he took 61 percent. In fact, the only age group where he lost to Clinton was those over age 65. Among those who attended church once a week, Obama got 58 percent of the vote, compared with Clinton’s 27 percent. Even white evangelicals seem unusually open to Obama because — oh, just cue up “Just As I Am” and be done with it — these people love altar calls.
Hillary brings competence; Obama, inspiration
No doubt, Hillary will give us competence. But Obama could also give us a movement, and we’re going to need one. It will take us years to recover from Bush’s damage to this country. According to studies, once people have voted for a party in two or three election cycles, they tend to stick with it. In order to turn the country around, we’re going to need a whole lot of progressive voters for a long time.
Now it’s true that many older women find Hillary inspiring, and the old girls (I’m 50 and peri-menopausal, so skip the protest e-mails) vote in droves. But we crones vote in droves no matter who’s on the ballot. I also have a two-word warning for my aging DFL gal-pals: Ann Wynia. There. I’ve said it. I’m sorry. I won’t bring it up again. (The young or confused can consult Wikipedia.)
4. After years of unity, the Republicans are falling apart. Plenty of conservatives and evangelicals — including Lord Vader James Dobson — absolutely hate John McCain. I don’t get their hostility, but hey, it’s not my tribe. I confess that after years of hearing about “weak and divided Democrats,” watching the Repubs hurl crap at each other brings me far too much pleasure. The only thing that could unify this broken-down bunch is their decades-long, over-the-top hatred of Hillary, “Hitlery” or “Billery,” as she’s known in their circles.
So why, in the name of all that is good and holy, would Democrats hand Republicans their only possible rallying point?
5. Finally, and I know this is petty, but I don’t think I can stomach yet another media narrative of St. John McCain, the Manly, Maverick Straight-Talking War Hero vs. The She-Devil in Pantsuit, the Power-Mad, Lady Hillary Macbeth and her conniving, out-of-control partner, The Clenis.
I’ve already accepted that the media will revert to its full-blown man-crush on McCain; I’m repeating the Serenity Prayer as I type. But an Obama candidacy would at least give us a different story line on the Democratic side.
I have no illusions about what the Republican Slime Machine, assisted by the press, will do to Obama. It’s going to be incredibly ugly. But then again, it always is. The Democrats could nominate Christ Himself and the Repubs would soon be foaming at the mouth, swift-boating the guy, demanding to cruci — oh, right, never mind, too late, old story.
Anyhow, that’s how I made my decision. Good luck with yours and see you all at the caucuses on Tuesday night.
Lynnell Mickelsen is a writer who lives in Minneapolis.
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