Hearts and Minds

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The Gallup poll in New Hampshire yesterday said Obama’s going to win in a landslide tonight—with something like thirteen points over Hillary. As someone who was solidly in the Obama camp as recently as Friday, I can hardly greet that outcome (if it happens) as bad news. Yet I can’t help wishing it were closer. After decades of civic service making things better, Hillary doesn’t deserve humiliation.

But perhaps I only wish for a close outcome because a near-tie would mirror my own ambivalence. One day my heart cries out, “Obama!” The next day my brain says, “What are you thinking, man? Hillary.” There is no question an Obama presidency would make us all feel good. It would create a tsunami of hope. The question is, is feeling good what we should be aiming for? Or should we also be concerned about the decisions a President is likely to make, to the best of our ability to know what those would be?

I also fear that after 8 years of the horrible Bush, we are in danger of choosing a president just because he or she best embodies the AntiBush. That is a feel-good reason, but it is not a good reason. We should be acting, not reacting.

In any case, I am highly susceptible to arguments for Obama, and these two have come my way from friends. The first is from Joe DeVivo of Wilmette, Illinois:

I like Hillary. There’s a comfort level to her. If elected she will make a good president. I’m reasonably sure that whatever she does in office won’t be amateurish and stupid as it has so often seemed with the present administration. However, there’s this little thing in me that says if elected, much of what she does will seem pretty much the same, much like changing to a Democratic congress seems to not have made much of a difference. And that thing goes on to say that if I’m serious about the need for a change, I should look someplace else.

Obama seems to represent that big change right now. Yes, there’s a risk factor with him. But as I said a few emails ago, I know at the very least, he’s smarter than Bush. His goals seem right. He seems to have integrity. And I think he may be exactly what this country needs to instill the hope that you talked about back into the American persona. And pride. And dreams. His passion and eloquence are not to be so lightly dismissed as Hillary would like us to do. I haven’t made up my mind yet, but I have to wonder that if we don’t elect Obama, we’ll feel like we’ve let an opportunity go by. An opportunity to elect something more than just a good president.

And this comes from Jim Dyer of Chicago. It is also to be found in the comment section of my post of January 4, but I thought it deserved more prominence, so here it is:

My vision is that at a point during the Obama candidacy it’s just barely possible that some of us will begin to emerge from our burrows on each side of the great field and tentatively begin to walk toward each other across the grass. We’ll call out to each other, “Hey, don’t I know you?” and the other person will call back, “Oh. It’s YOU. I think we DID know each other back in the day.” And the barest, tiniest conversation will start. “Yeah. I think we used to be friends.” “Yeah. we used to talk politics. Argue some. Disagree. Then we used to laugh about it, put our arms around each others’ shoulders and go to the bar and have a drink.” “Uh huh. I remember that. How did it come to be that we began to hate each other?” “Yeah. I dunno. I guess we don’t really have to hate each other. I guess agreeing to disagree isn’t a bad place to start.”

If we can all just figure out how not to scream at each other in rage and hate, if we can figure out what our commonalities are, as well as our differences, the country will heal itself, and march on, as it always has.

This is the chance I believe Obama offers.

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