Marcus Tullius Cicero, the great Roman politician and fearless opponent of dictatorship, warned us against leaders who, in "their admiration for shrewd and clever men, take craftiness for wisdom." In his ultimate how-to manual for governing, called On Duties, Cicero told us what we should already know: That morality and judgment are not an impediment to success, but a key to it. That is why I am supporting Barack Obama for president.
In the last seven years, we have seen our constitution torn to shreds before our eyes. The writ of habeas corpus, once the cornerstone of our legal system, has been suspended on behalf of a war effort with no focus or end in sight. We have reached the limits of Orwellian speech, with a president speaking of a "war on terror," "victory in Iraq," and "your are either with us or you are with the terrorists."
Noticeably, Democratic politicians have failed to provide a contrast to President Bush's destructive record. In 2004, John Kerry's experience and self-proclaimed electability did nothing to allay fears that he was a flip-flopper -- a supporter of the Iraq War who co-opted an anti-war message to get the Democratic nomination. Then in August of 2004, as if reading from the wrong script, Kerry claimed that he would vote for the war again if he had the chance. The American people were perplexed.
To say the least, consistency has not been a trait of the Democratic establishment. Embracing a polls-driven approach pioneered by former President Clinton, Democratic politicians have a tendency to sound like Casablanca's Capt. Louis Renault who, rather than join the resistance, was happy to merely "blow with the wind." While the electorate might change its mind on a whim, voters expect their leaders to hold some personal convictions. With Democrats failing to understand the premium that Americans place on consistency, President Bush won reelection in 2004 despite a weak economy and a war that had already turned sour.
Today, despite controlling both houses of Congress, Democrats have little to show for their newfound mandate. Not only is the leadership's political expediency a recipe for eventual failure, it is an affront to our country and the system of checks and balances established by our constitution. It is an utter waste of political power to sit by and wait for President Bush to blunder his way into further Democratic victories, as if elections were an end in itself. Sadly, this is the course the Democratic establishment has chosen to take.
Barack Obama is not a typical Democratic politician. Consistently, he has stood his ground in opposing war with Iraq and Iran, and in focusing on weakening al-Qaeda and stabilizing Afghanistan. Despite what polls-driven politicians might think, Obama's convictions have made him a formidable leader, poised to comfortably win a general election.
A recent USA TODAY/Gallup poll found Clinton's unfavorable rating above 50%, while Obama's was only in the mid 30s. Beyond likeability, Obama fares better than Clinton in head-to-head match-ups with every one of the five leading Republican contenders, according to a recent Rasmussen poll. His appearance at an AIDS conference with Pastor Rick Warren in conservative Orange County, as one example, underscores Obama's commitment not to divide the country into red and blue states, but to lead a United States of America. Obama is not only interested in winning, he is interested in governing.
The leading Democratic insiders have strong credentials, but what they offer is no departure from the beaten path. Senator Clinton did not learn her lesson from Iraq, supporting a dangerous Senate resolution that can give the president cover should he decide to attack Iran. Unlike former vice-presidential candidate John Edwards, who also does great matched up against likely Republican contenders, Obama doesn't pit rich against poor while taking a paycheck from a hedge fund. Obama didn't support the war in early 2003 only to start denouncing it months later, once election season was underway. He didn't sit to debate Vice President Cheney, as Edwards did in 2004, only to go easy on the war's architect, saving his only memorable swipe for Cheney's daughter. Obama, with more legislative experience than both Edwards and Clinton, and with sound judgment to go along with it, is an agent of true change and a force to be reckoned with next November.
When choosing the most powerful political office in the world, we are reflecting our values as a people, and communicating our vision to the next generation and the rest of the world. Do we want to continue nominating John Kerry-like figures because in the spirit of "anybody but the Republicans" we forget what we actually believe? Do we not hold the constitution and the American way of life to be more precious than the daydream of an election victory by the shrewdest and most divisive among us?
Cicero told us that morals need not be separated from expediency and success. In Barack Obama, we have a candidate who will not only bring about a needed change of course, but in the process will show respect toward the vast and diverse political fabric of America. He will take on the task of governing with the kind of dignity we should expect of our elected leaders. Obama can win next November, and as Cicero would say, he can do so with honor. That is why I'm voting for Barack Obama.