I have been undecided for a long time. But alas, as the Illinois primary approaches, I decided it was time to jump off the fence.
The three viable Democratic contenders are pretty similar on the issues. Clinton is running on experience, Obama is running on inspiration, and Edwards is running on populism. And, while I don't agree with any candiate on every single issue (and admittedly would prefer a viable Green Party candidate), I think that any of the Democrats will be better than a Republican. (By the way, where are all the non-white, non-male Republican candidates?).
My reasons for Obama?
1. On the issues, my beliefs align with Obama's more than any other viable candidate. On what I believe are our nation's most pressing issues: Obama is for expanding health coverage and ensuring access to care, restoring human rights in the context of war, increasing social security taxes on the very wealthy to help "save" social security, reducing the Bush tax cuts to help pay for health care, immigrants earning a path to citizenship, and gradual withdraw of troops from Iraq.
On "moral" issues, Obama favors a woman's right to choose, supports stem cell research, supports benefits for same-sex partnerships (I think he should support full marriage equality, and perhaps in time, he will), wants to get rid of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell," opposes the death penalty, and opposes an absolute right to gun ownership.
On environmental issues, he supports investing in alternative sources of energy and has sponsored legislation to improve energy efficiency.
As I said before, my beliefs also closely parallel those of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards. What tips the scales in favor of Obama are the following criteria:
2. Obama's speeches and campaign are, by far, more inspirational than any other candidate's.
3. Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Obama is democratically and "in America anyone can grow up to be President" more appealing to me than Bush-Clinton-Clinton-Bush-Bush-Clinton.
4. On a similar note, he represents more of a change in Washington than does Clinton. I don't see his "lack of experience" as a liability, but as more of a refreshing change.
5. While all candidates are over-eager to prove their Christian street cred to the masses, he is adept at handling Christian bullying.
When, during his Senate campaign, contender Alan Keyes claimed that "Jesus Christ would not vote for Barack Obama," Obama articulately responded,
"...[W]hen [liberals and progressives] ignore the debate about what it means to be a good Christian or Muslim or Jew; when we discuss religion only in the negative sense of where or how it should not be practiced, rather than in the positive sense of what it tells us about our obligations towards one another; when we shy away from religious venues and religious broadcasts because we assume that we will be unwelcome - others will fill the vacuum, those with the most insular views of faith, or those who cynically use religion to justify partisan ends.
In other words, if we don't reach out to evangelical Christians and other religious Americans and tell them what we stand for, then the Jerry Falwells and Pat Robertsons and Alan Keyeses will continue to hold sway....
Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion-specific, values. It requires that their proposals be subject to argument, and amenable to reason. I may be opposed to abortion for religious reasons, but if I seek to pass a law banning the practice, I cannot simply point to the teachings of my church or evoke God's will. I have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths, including those with no faith at all."
Amen to that.
To conclude, I would have loved to for our nation to have its first female Commander-in-Chief (and perhaps Clinton will win the nomination). But ultimately, I have to go with the candidate who inspires me, who represents change, will stand up to fundamentalist Christian bullying, and whose beliefs on major issues best align with mine.
Here's to a Bush-free (and optimistically Republican-free) Presidency in T-minus 355 days.