Just to Make Things Official About This Election: Obama for President

By this point it should be obvious to anyone who’s read this site for more than a day, but just in case it’s not:

I endorse Barack Obama for President of the United States and will be voting for him on Tuesday. I heartily encourage you to do so as well, if in fact you have not voted already.

I’m going to vote for him because I believe he is what I think a president should be: Smart, informed, engaged, practical in ideas and in the execution of those ideas, deliberative and as we have seen in this campaign, someone who keeps his head while all those around him are losing theirs.

Also, look: Dude came from almost nowhere and torpedoed Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and barring something close to a massive violation of both natural and political laws, is going to torpedo John McCain in the general election Tuesday. Clinton and McCain are (or were) two of the most popular politicians around: Clinton among the Democratic base and McCain among the general population. Obama got help from economic, national and world events, and from Clinton and McCain both running bad campaigns, but at the end of the day, the dude simply out-performed, out-strategized and out-campaigned the both of them.

He’s not where he is now because he got lucky. He got there because he worked for it. I mean, holy God, people: He’s a black man named Barack Hussein Obama. Think of what you have to do just to get beyond that here in these United States. I joked the other day that it was a verifiable miracle of St. Obama, but in the real world, it’s no miracle. The man earned being where he is today, and likely where he will be at the end of Tuesday night.

I’m voting for Obama, but I’m also voting against both the Republican Party and John McCain, and voting against both for the same reason: Outside of a drive to win and be in power, there’s just nothing there. It’s in fashion for Republicans to kvetch and moan that George Bush has trashed the Republican brand, and of course there’s something to that, because when your standard bearer for the last eight years is the single worst president in the history of the nation, save for the one who actually presided over the dissolution of the United States, it’s hard to come back from that.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Bush is the standard bearer for the GOP because the GOP wanted him. He was (in what will likely soon be more than one sense of term) the ultimate president for the modern GOP: a genial figurehead for the general population to have its figurative beer with while the “smart guys,” rather less attractive (no one wants to have a beer with Karl Rove), do their thing in the background. Bush was what the GOP wanted him to be and did everything they wanted him to do. Its problem is not that Bush wrecked the GOP brand, but that through him the modern GOP became what it was always going to be, in the end.

The tragedy of John McCain is that he thought the modern GOP had another round in it, and bought into the program. In one sense you can’t blame him, because it had flattened him in 2000, and in the end he wanted to be president, and he decided to go with what he’d personally seen work rather than trying to do his own thing. This was half smart, since it got him through the primaries. But then came the general, and it failed him, because 2008 is not 2000 or 2004, and this year it’s not enough to be president of just the Christian fundamentalists and the Limbaugh/Hannity fan club. To be sure, McCain had a hard road this year no matter what. It’s hard out there for every Republican. But it didn’t help him that he ran a campaign that Obama’s folks saw coming from miles away.

I was never going to vote for John McCain, but of all the GOP primary candidates this year, he was the one I would have had the least problem with eventually becoming president. But he lost me with his campaign, which was substanceless, stunt-driven and more focused on trying to scare voters from Obama than on making the case for McCain. I wanted to feel like if McCain won that there would still be enough of a break between his administration and the Bush administration that we wouldn’t continue the downward spiral we’ve been on — that McCain at least would be there at the controls, trying to yank the flaps into a “climb” position. Instead all I got from his campaign was that McCain’s a maverick, and Obama hangs with terrorists and probably wants to eat my children. You know, I’m not stupid. I know when someone’s trying to distract me with handwaving from the fact there’s no there there.

And then there’s the Palin thing, which exposed the bankruptcy of both the McCain campaign and the modern GOP. No one in the world believes that the Palin pick was anything more than a spur-of-the-moment choice, a sop to the GOP base and a transparently cynical bid for the Democratic women still smarting from Clinton’s loss in the primaries, an estimation by McCain’s camp that Palin’s possession of a vagina outweighed the fact that she shared not a single policy with that presidential candidate. That failed, at least; about the only Hillary supporter McCain picked up is Lady de Rothschild, to whom he is most welcome. The rest were understandably insulted.

But the Palin pick did firm up the support of the GOP base, a fact which should terrify anyone with a working brain. Palin is indisputably the single worst major party candidate for high office in living memory, a proudly ignorant political automaton whose only notable qualities are a pretty face, a sufficient lack of awareness to blind her to her own incompetencies and a quality of ambition that can only be described as voracious. The GOP base should have been insulted that this was all it was given by the McCain campaign; instead it embraced her and has declared her a frontrunner for 2012. Which tells you that the GOP base has learned nothing in the last eight years; Palin, in every way that matters, is nothing more than Bush with boobs. The GOP base doesn’t want a president, it wants a mirror.

It’s appalling that the GOP base holds up Palin as the sort of person it wants as president of the country, and it points to the sort of intellectual and moral vacuousness that party has that the rest of us simply can’t afford anymore. McCain’s decision to pick her as his running mate is something politics wonks will discuss for decades, one of those credibility-destroying moments that in retrospect simply defies belief.

As for how I felt about it personally, let me put it this way: before the Palin pick, I was going to vote for Obama. After the Palin pick, I was also and most emphatically voting against McCain. The only way Palin should be in the White House is on the public tour. Shame on McCain for proclaiming she’s competent to actually be president. He deserves to lose for that single decision alone. I suspect he may.

So: I am for Obama. I am against McCain. And I believe the GOP deserves what is very likely to come it, this Tuesday. My vote that day will reflect all three of these.