Saturday, February 16, 2008

A big Lone Star endorsement for Obama

By Michael J.W. Stickings

The latest polls have Obama trailing Clinton in Texas by an average of about 10 points, with the hybrid primary/caucus contest (or "precinct conventions") set for March 4, but, on the plus side, Obama has won the endorsement of the largest newspaper in Texas, the Houston Chronicle. Some key points:

  • "The presidency of the United States is a powerful bully pulpit. The occupant of the White House must not only issue orders, but also inspire and advocate for all Americans. Of the two finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination, the Chronicle believes Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois is best-qualified by life experience, skill and temperament to be the standard bearer for his party."
  • "Obama is both the epitome of the American Dream and well-positioned to reach out to an international community alienated by recent U.S. go-it-alone policies."
  • "Obama vows to reach out to independents and Republicans with a message of inclusion and cooperation. He offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground. Those who insist on vitriol and obstructionism would be marginalized."
  • "The passion and excitement that Obama has brought to the race can only stimulate more citizens to participate in the electoral process."
Let me examine the third point: I have been critical, in the past, of Obama's "unity" message. It is all well and good to reach out to independents and Republicans, but seeking compromise with the GOP can also mean selling out core liberal, progressive, and Democratic principles. After all, a few exceptions here and there notwithstanding, Republicans continue to support the disastrous war in Iraq, want to bomb Iran, support the use of torture, reject diplomacy and internationalism, advocate theocratic social policies, care little for environmentalism and even less for the climate crisis, promote tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, defend unbalanced executive authority, notably with respect to the conduct of so-called war on terror, including domestic espionage, and so on and so on.

It is one thing to reach out to disaffected Republicans, and there are many who simply no longer feel welcome in their own party, quite another to try to find common ground with a party that not only opposes core liberal, progressive, and Democratic principles but that is deeply and unabashedly partisan and, in some ways, rotten to its own core.

I trust that Obama would not -- as president -- sell out our core principles. I am confident that he would not. But it is nonetheless true that he "offers a historic opportunity to elevate national political dialogue to a higher ground," as the Chronicle puts it. What Obama offers, I believe, is a capacity for greatness that Clinton lacks but that America sorely needs.

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