As Super Tuesday is upon us, the arguments over which prospective Democratic candidate should be chosen has grown steadily more heated here in the United States. Along with the candidates themselves engaging in pointed sound-byte rhetoric (all of which seems to come down to Hillary’s “experience”, and the massive parcel of baggage that said “experience” has earned her), citizens all across the country have also begun to dig in on each side of the contest. Predictably, much of the “reasoning” tossed around by the loudest and most adamant of the supporters on both sides is really nothing more than baseless emotional appeals and inflammatory muck. It is time we got past such nonsense and got down to the real two questions in this election: what are the meaningful differences between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, and could either of them survive the general election to gain the chance to put their ideas into action?
Dismissing With Nonsense
The fact that we have a contest between a woman and a black man is a wonderful demonstration of how much prejudices are being eroded in this country. And the facts that Hillary is a woman and Obama is black have nothing whatsoever to do with their qualifications as a leader. It may have some bearing on their ability to withstand the general election, but they are equally at a disadvantage there, so it is well past time we stopped focusing on those external differences and got down to more important things.
Likewise, we can and should refuse to listen to inane babble such as how Obama is secretly Muslim and is therefore going to hand us over to the terrorists. Such childish slanders are beneath playground children, and they are certainly beneath us.
The fact that both Obama and Clinton have changed their position on issues over the years is not a sign of weakness or lack of leadership on either of their parts. It’s a sign of intelligence, a mind that reevaluates situations once given more information. A characteristic not present in our current President, much to the detriment of our nation over the last seven years. So stop harping about it, and pay attention to what they are saying they want to do now.
It’s time we stopped discussing “experience”. Senator Obama has served in his federal legislative position for three years, and Senator Clinton has served in hers for seven. Before that, Obama was an Illinois state senator for seven years, and Clinton was First Lady for eight. Neither of them has much experience, and neither of them has any experience being in the position of President of the United States. It is true that Senator Clinton lived in the White House while her husband was President, and it is true that she worked in a diplomatic capacity while First Lady and undoubtedly talked with her husband about many of the issues current to that time. This does not equate to having experience making those decisions. The whole experience argument is ridiculous, and best let rest when we are comparing two junior Senators and their qualifications for the Presidency.
The Real Differences
Senator Obama and Senator Clinton have remarkably similar positions on most issues. Much of the grandstanding on their differences is hogwash. Their stances on abortion are the same, their stances on climate change policy are very similar, their stances on illegal immigration are nearly identical (excepting Obama’s willingness to give illegal immigrants driver’s licences). They have similar approaches to improving the economy. At this point they are both opposed to the war in Iraq, and both have plans to slowly get the troops out. Obama would talk with the Iranian President and the leaders of other nations we “don’t like”, Clinton would not (or at least, not at first), though they both claim that they would engage in diplomatic talks with Iran before ever considering military force.
There are some significant differences in the Senators approaches to technology, in that Obama has presented a carefully-crafted plan which covers a broad range of tech-related subjects, including net neutrality, increasing the reach and speed of broadband, protecting children vs. First Amendment rights, and using modern technology to increase transparency and citizen participation in government. Senator Clinton’s plan looks sort of weak by contrast, particularly her support of the Connect America plan, which has come under fire for being based on the controversial Connect Kentucky plan which has been alleged to be a sop to Telecom lobbyists. If your life centers around the Internet (not that anyone reading this could possibly fall into that category, then Obama is a better choice.
Just a couple of days ago, Senator Clinton came out and said she would be willing to consider garnishing the wages of the uninsured, in order to get health insurance to all. It’s one solution to how she can make health insurance mandatory for all United States citizens. Senator Obama’s plan, by contrast, is an opt-in system, based on his idea that if insurance were affordable, people would not willingly choose to be uninsured. Your choice here basically boils down to how you feel about health insurance being mandatory.
If you are deciding your vote based on the candidates platforms, however, you can probably support one if you can support the other. It will not be the details of their disagreements which decides this election.
The real difference between these candidates is whom do you believe can and will carry through with their promises?
Obama has sworn not to take donations from federal lobbyists, whereas Clinton continues to do so and says she doesn’t see a problem with it. Obama’s “pre-politics” history is one of defending principle, while Clinton’s is largely one of defending corporate interests, with some charity work on the side.
Throughout the primaries, Clinton’s campaign has used steadily dirtier tactics in attempts to distort Obama’s history and message. She has been called on it again and again. As for Obama, he was accused of making underhanded attacks when he brought up Senator Clinton’s history sitting on the Wal-Mart corporate board, but this was a true statement, as far as it went, and a far cry from the blatant falsehoods being espoused by Clinton. Comparing the list of dirty plays, Senator Obama just comes up way short.
There is also the question of who would be the most effective and inspirational leader, and in this regard Obama wins hands down. Senator Clinton began this race as a polarizing figure, and her choices while it proceeds has only served to deepen that rift. We have lived through seven years of a deeply divided nation, no one wants to live through four more.
Lastly, let us consider who can actually win against a Republican candidate in November. Has anyone really forgotten the years of the Clinton Presidency? The controversies and scandals that were put down, rather than resolved? They will be back in a heartbeat, should Senator Clinton receive the nomination. They will take her down eventually, even if it’s just because the strain of withstanding them causes her to cry on camera a few too many times. The sympathy vote will only last so long, and sooner or later it will be recognized that she is simply too encumbered by ethical issues to serve as our President. Obama, however, has a remarkably clean slate thus far. While the Democrats are busy choosing which candidate to back, Republicans are already beginning to cross the aisle in support of Obama.
Where You Cast Your Vote Matters
Despite misgivings over the voting system, the message you send with your vote is deeply important. In casting your ballot, you choose between a known quantity — that of Hillary Clinton and all the good and bad which she represents, or an untested option — that of Barack Obama and what his promises might bring. It’s not enough to say that Washington is corrupt and there is no hope anywhere. You are still making a choice, and whether you believe the spiel of either candidate, your vote represents what you want to see happen in this nation. It is a message which will be read and understood, and with enough effort, it is a message which may yet make a difference.