Democratic pollsters Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen recently wrote a piece calling for Barack Obama to step aside and allow Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to represent the Democratic Party in the 2012 election. I wrote the following four years ago in October, 2008 just prior to the national elections. I will not vote to reelect the president.
Seven months ago, in the Democratic primary, based on my belief in his potential, I voted with enthusiasm for Barack Obama. I presumed that he would be required to answer the questions arising from his past associations and actions and explain in detail his vision for the future. Unfortunately, since then the media has not subjected him to the same critical scrutiny that it routinely applies to other candidates. In this respect, in my estimation, they have done him and us a disservice. He remains, at a time of great uncertainty, unexamined and unexplained - a man with a gaping disconnect between his past and his promise, his words and his deeds.
Every four years, analysts tell us that this is the most important election of our lifetime. Like a broken clock, this time, they might be right. Given a degree of economic turmoil unseen since the Great Depression, responses by government will have serious long term consequences. In the 1930's, these gave rise to Communism, Fascism, Socialism, and Dictatorship in parts of Europe and Asia. In contrast, the United States responded with a series of discrete, pragmatic policy adjustments that preserved and strengthened our unique political and economic system.
At that time, there were also in America many admirers and advocates of Fascism, Communism, and Russian style socialism and central planning. Fortunately, based on his personal history and experience, newly elected President Franklin Roosevelt was no ideologue or political extremist. He was imbued with a positive vision of American exceptionalism. As a member of one of America's most prominent families, cousin of a President, Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy, and Governor of New York, he did not see America as a problem. He saw it as a solution. He did not seek to change the American system of self government and free enterprise, rather to preserve and protect it.
The recently passed "federal bailout" is not the end of this fiscal crisis, nor is it the beginning of the end, or even the end of the beginning. The next President will make a series of decisions that cumulatively will determine the future shape and nature of our political and economic system. Will he like Roosevelt, tinker with the specifics but remain committed to our historic way of life? Or will he attempt to impose wholesale another vision based on a different set of values, experiences, and ideology?
Based on what I know of his personal history and experience, I am unwilling to take a chance on Barack Obama. This is as much because of what I don't know as what I do.
What do I know? Barack Obama has had an unprecedented and meteoric rise to the threshold of the American Presidency. He built his career on the South Side of Chicago, a fiefdom of the powerful Daly machine. It is doubtful that he or anyone could have risen as he has unless he was a smooth cog in that machine, and there is no evidence that he ever challenged the "Chicago Way". His famous call for the U.S. not to intervene in Iraq occurred while he was a State Senator during an anti-war rally in his district. He first worked in that district as a community organizer for an organization modeled upon the principles of the socialist Saul Alinsky. His local Congressman was Bobby Rush, the former Black Panther. His pastor was the radical Jeremiah Wright. His earliest political sponsor was his neighbor, William Ayres, the former radical weatherman. One of his financial patrons was convicted local slum lord Tony Rezco. Say what you may, this is a far cry from Roosevelt's Hyde Park.
During his brief stay in the U.S. Senate, Senator Obama earned the highest rating by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Other than voting with his party, he has left no material footprints in the U.S. Senate just as he left no notable legacy in the Illinois State Senate where he appears to have often voted "present" when confronted with politically controversial decisions. As a law lecturer, he wrote no legal articles, and by his own admission in his two autobiographies, his efforts as a community organizer had little material effect. He has already backtracked on promises made for this campaign that he would limit himself to public financing, participate in an extensive series of town hall debates, and engage in a different type of politics (his campaign tactics while not worse are certainly not any better than others). Senator Obama has talked about "change" and talked about "bi-partisanship" but has yet to actually do much of either since he left law school.
What I don't know and question: Can a man who has never had to make executive decisions and take responsibility for their consequences and who has never been faced with vetoing extreme legislation proffered by leaders of his own party lead our country through a crisis, preserve our system of democratic capitalism, and free himself from the ideological tethers of the big city Chicago ultra-liberal machine that elevated him?
When queried about his past associations and unprecedented rise through the labyrinth of Chicago politics as well as their possible effects on his views as a decision maker, Barack Obama dismisses them as irrelevant. Yet, his stated positions on unrestricted abortion, green energy, government mandated and funded health insurance, elimination of the secret ballot to encourage unionization, restriction of school choice, wealth redistribution, trade, and expansion of government are neither new nor imaginative. They are the standard litany reflecting the world view espoused by one end of our political spectrum. While they garner near universal support among Hollywood and urban elites, organized labor, the mainstream media, the more liberal elements of the Democratic Party like move-on.org, and European social democrats, they hardly seem a plausible basis for the Senator's promise of bi-partisanship. It is axiomatic: An Obama administration will either disappoint his supporters on the left or those attracted as I was, by his professed commitment to bi-partisan and therefore centrist government.
I believe that our country and our way of life are constantly threatened from extremes whether on the political left or right. To me, both are equally dangerous particularly at a time of economic instability. I am concerned that Barack Obama resides on one of those extremes. I hope that I am wrong as it appears that he will win in November, but under the present circumstances, at this critical time of transition for our country, I cannot advocate taking the chance and supporting him.