Whatever your opinion of Obama as a man and a politician may be, you have to admit that he’s not same old, same old. Obama and his team have brilliantly used the Internet and saturated grassroots organizing to bring millions of new people into the political process and have successfully raised millions of dollars, largely in small contributions from a huge base of everyday people. Is this not the essence of public financing? I’ve no doubt that there are some individuals and Special Interest Groups with big bucks and none-too-hidden agendas who are investing in Obama, but the lion’s share of his campaign war chest is made up of scads of tiny investments from ordinary folks with little money and much affection and enthusiasm – and there’s a lot more where that came from. When Obama originally advocated public financing (that $1 we all check off on our tax returns), he had no idea his efforts would unleash a torrent of broad scale support. Now that he knows he can fund his campaign by his own efforts and without relying on major contributions from a handful of bigwigs, why shouldn’t he? This is a good thing, isn’t it? So why is he getting such flack for successfully emerging as the People’s Candidate?
As for Obama’s outreach to Evangelicals, who number 30–50 million in this country: this is not pandering, this is smart politics aimed at getting at least a portion of a massive voting block that prides itself on not thinking outside the Biblical box to take a deep breath and entertain a new thought – like maybe someone other than a Conservative Republican can share a few of their core values, chiefly the importance of family and religious faith as key ingredients of the Good Life. Obama is not pretending to be anti-abortion/contraception, or to disavow the theory of evolution, he’s just trying to wrest some of the Values Vote away from the Red Team, which has been masquerading as the sole party of morality since the creation of the Reagan Democrat.
Obama is also unwilling to tie up his campaigning options by agreeing to McCain’s request for countless joint Town Hall Meetings. Unlike McCain, Obama can draw and galvanize huge crowds; it’s McCain who prefers the smaller, more cozy gatherings. Why should Obama agree to be restricted by his opponent’s limitations? He’ll participate in a few such gatherings – then he wants to go back to working in the Big Top. It falls to McCain to rise to the greater challenge.
In addition, we’re hearing new “outrage” about Obama’s past illegal drug use. Where was this outrage about Dubya’s boozing and tooting; he claimed to be Born Again so all was forgiven (and look where that got us)? Obama came of age in the 1970s, when anyone with an ounce (or even a gram) of smarts and hipness tried to feed their heads, at least a little. He acknowledges he did this – and that he’s left it behind. Personally, I don’t quite trust anyone age 60 or younger who’s never gotten high on anything except liquor and rage. If Obama makes it to a second term, perhaps he’ll advocate the decriminalization of marijuana, thereby freeing up millions more in public funds to fight a meaningful Drug War against truly dangerous drugs (remember heroin, crack and meth?).
Maybe if we stop nitpicking, stop being small and stupid and literal and so eager to make campaign mountains out of political molehills, we’d have a chance to believe in the change we can believe in. Believe me, I’m ready for something new. Aren’t you?