My Diatribe on the 2008 Democratic Candidates

A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I traded "my candidate won NH," "barely," "if you call winning by x amount barely," "yeah well my candidate won ID" jabs over IM. Our adult version of the children's "uh-huh, nuh-uh" argument ended when he asked me to explain my reasons for supporting Hillary Clinton over his choice, Barack Obama.

I told him I'd have to get back to him. It wasn't that I didn't know, wasn't sure, or was dodging the question, but rather because 1) It would have been too long and drawn out for a conversation over computer, and 2) Although I had my reasons and sort of knew what they were, I didn't feel they were very well grounded. I wanted a chance to sit and think about the question and to give it the proper thoughtful response it deserved, instead of jumping in whole-hog not having my reasons and convictions lined up and tethering me.

That being said, I'm going to talk about three reasons why -- at this point in time -- I support Hillary Clinton for Presidency. I will be honest with you -- I don't know much about the other runners. I have heard a lot of good things about Edwards and some of the other candidates, but since I get my information from past experiences and the news (New York Times mostly), and Obama and Clinton are all you ever hear about, they are the ones I'm most familiar with. Does this make me a bad voter? Probably. Am I an under-informed voter? No doubt. Knowing this will I shoulder my civic duty and research the other candidates? You find me the time and yes, I will.

Moving on. As you can't help but be aware, the slogan of this presidential campaign is "change." Change from old-style politics. Change from old-style thinking. Change from old-style policies, procedures, and practices. Change. As far as I'm concerned, if your name isn't Bush or Cheney, and you aren't in some way related to either one, that in and of itself is change.

But, and I think rightly so, people wonder if going from a Bush, Clinton, Bush and back to another Clinton would be a good thing for this country. After all, it begins to sound a little like a dynasty when you say it out loud. However, given the fact that I won't vote republican, and given the choices I am being offered (Clinton, Edwards, Gravel, Kucinich , and Obama), I feel she is the best choice for the job -- despite her last name.

There is the 35 years experience she has under her belt. Yes, eight of those years were spent in the White House, but (quoting a friend of mine), "she was the most politically active First Lady besides perhaps Eleanor Roosevelt." While other First Ladies have spent their time picking out the china, hosting Easter egg hunts on the front lawn, and providing a lovely backdrop for their husbands during press conferences, she was out there fighting for women, and children -- no matter what country you lived in, no matter your economic status, etc. Poor, homeless, foster care kid, out of a job? She fought for you. For me, when people talk about change and Clinton being a part of the "politics as usual" crowd, I don't see that. Despite the fact we are all sick and damned tired of hearing about the precedent having a woman (or Black man) in office will set, the fact remains, her being a woman is what sets her apart -- it is what will provide the change from "business as usual."

Think about it. How often do we read magazine articles, scientific and social research that tells us men and women approach the same situations differently? Remember all the "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus" books and articles? Although I think that is played up, there is some factual basis. Given any situation, men and women will respond differently. To me, the greatest change Americans can give themselves is someone who doesn't have the Straight Protestant Well Educated Middle/Upper Class White Male Perspective. You want change? Put a woman in charge for once (or, a Black man).

Another reason I support her is that, yes, like half of all registered democrat women who aren't lesbians, I love Bill Clinton. Yes he cheated. Yes he lied. Then again, who wouldn't when charged with adultery? Any man, hell any woman -- and I don't care where you are from -- would lie about that if they thought they wouldn't be caught. After all, the fact that someone caught you and is tossing out this accusation means 1) You need to clean up your act and 2) You (hopefully) learned your lesson. Given that, and a desire to protect your family, their (and your own) reputation from over eager, vicious, sound-bite driven media outlets, I ask you again: Who wouldn't lie?

Why do I love Bill? He brought the United States out of a deficit (or more so than presidents before him). He made relations with African Americans one of his priorities. He did what he could, at the time, with the options available to him to improve military opportunities for gays and lesbians. He stood for the poor and under-privileged. Health care and education were important to him. In short, I trust him. And yes, by extension, I trust Hillary. Is that so wrong?

However, my trust for Hillary Clinton is not only derived from her husband. What I am about to say may sound strange and contrived to some, but to me, with my educational background, is as fundamental as steroids in baseball is American. Although I have only a BA in English under my belt, I consider myself a rhetorician. For those of you unfamiliar with the term rhetoric, rhetoric is - when broken down to it purest elements -- the study of persuasion. How does person X persuade person Y (or group Y) to think, feel, and act in a certain way. The cynics translation: Rhetoric = Manipulation. How does person X manipulate person Y (or group Y) to think, feel, and act in a certain way.

My study of the methods of persuasion has led me to become extremely wary of those who would use my emotions against me. Remember Dr. Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech? His speech wasn't as powerful and provoking as it was because he was logical and reasonable (although he was), but because he grabbed a hold of his audiences emotions, and through their emotions, led them to a new way of thinking, led them to want to share in his dream for the future, led them to follow him with more certainty and conviction than mere logic and reason could ever have done. Dr. King was the master of emotional appeals.

When I first heard of Obama, I heard of him in respect to his phenomenal speech giving abilities. One article I read quoted a woman as saying she cried when she heard him speak. As a rhetorician, I was interested. Although I am not a connoisseur of speeches, a generally known fact is that today’s political speeches (or any speech for that matter) do not rival those of previous generations. To hear of someone who was actually able to connect with his audience so fully as to engage not only their minds, but their emotions too? I had to know more.

And when I listened, I cringed. Yes, no doubt, Barack Obama is a wonderful speech giver. And that is what leads me to not trust him. Why trust King but not Barack? After all, Dr. King "manipulated" the emotions of his audience. However, when Dr. King spoke out for a greater good, he spoke of things he knew about, things he was directly involved in changing, things that, if the nation put its mind to, could be resolved. When I listen to Barack's talk of "change, dreams, unity" etc., I don't see a man who can follow through. I see a man who I have no doubt will try his damnedest, but I also see a man wrapped up in his dream; a man so wrapped up that he has lost sight of reality.

I agree. America needs change. But there needs to be responsible change. I agree. America needs to remember the dream she once had for the future and for her children. But that dream must be realized in the limits of reality. I agree. America needs greater unity among her people and political persuasions. But that unity must not be gained at the price of loosing our willingness to stand up and fight for our individual beliefs -- even if those beliefs result in partisan separation.

In comparison to Obama's smooth talking feel good speeches, Clinton is direct and factual. She doesn't try and finagle my emotions -- she tells me the facts, she tells me her plans, and leaves it to me to make the choice. Part of the problem with this approach is that it turns people off. They feel she isn't emotionally invested, that she is distant and cold. But to me, it is a breath of fresh air. Instead of trying to manipulate (persuade) me to side with her, she trusts that I will make an informed choice based on the information provided to me. I like that. I trust that. A candidate that trust me to make a choice.

Finally, my third reason for supporting Hillary Clinton is that she has plans. We here in America have had eight years to figure out new plans and new ways of doing the things this current administration has managed to muck up. When I watched the NH debate, I watched and listened closely -- I wanted to know where the candidates stood on issues and what their plans for the future were. When Barack was asked about his plans for foreign policy, the environment, health care, education, etc., for some he had a plan; for others he had an idea of a plan; and for others still, he had nothing but pretty speeches.

When Hillary was asked about all of those same issues, she responded with detailed plans. So detailed in fact, some wanted to tune her out because they weren't ready to handle it. As I see it, day one of the new presidency, I don't want someone who is still figuring things out, coming up with ideas, and designing new plans. I want someone who has a clue. I want someone who has more than an idea, but a ready plan of action. That plan of action my change, other ideas will be presented, discussed, and perhaps meshed with the original, but the fact is: we weren't starting from ground zero. Some serious thought had already gone into the future. Talk about change, dreams, and unity are all well and good, but in the end, I want someone who has already has a plan.

In conclusion, I want to state that, despite all the qualities I admire in Hillary Clinton, I do not by any means think she is perfect. She is, first and foremost, a politician. She has been investigated for wrong doing several times for different things. During debates she has and Obama have traded "political tidbit" jabs since the beginning. She's taken, as Edwards is so fond of pointing out, money from various groups who would like her to if not turn a blind eye to their practices, at least not set out to actively stop them. But a friend of mine said something I liked and think applies to all the candidates -- no matter how clean they try and come off. He said he knew "there was no way politicians like Obama, Hillary, Edwards, etc. get to where they are without having a few skeletons in their closets."

I also want to reiterate that I have not totally set my hat on Hillary Clinton (although the NY Times just endorsed her as their Democratic candidate -- McCain as the Republican). However, if given the choice between Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Barack, I will with no hesitation vote for Hillary. She has the experience in foreign and domestic policy we need, she is a definite change from "politics as usual" by her difference in outlook, and I trust her because she trusts me to make a competent decision without involving my emotions. And yes, because I think Bill Clinton will make a wonderful First Husband.

Note: I have great respect for the First Ladies who came before Mrs. Clinton despite whatever tone my comments may have suggested. Many of the women who held that esteemed position used their position to help others and to shed light on matters dear to their and their husbands hearts.

Note 2: Someone asked me why I stated in the beginning why I won't vote Republican. I won't because I do not agree with their politics or policies. I'm a Democrat only because the Independents can't make a convincing push in our (flawed) two-party system.

***
Although this essay was my personal reflection on the two leading democratic candidates, some research into their political and speech history was involved. My information was gathered from the following sites:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hillary_Clinton
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_Clinton
http://www.barackobama.com/2007/11/07/remarks_of_senator_barack_obam_31.php

And if any mistake or incorrect information is detailed, please inform me via comments. Thank you.

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