I cast my vote for Barack Obama at 8:10 am this morning, here in Indiana. I arrived at my local polling place at 6:30 am, my three children in tow. After waiting in line, I showed my ID and stepped up to the voting booth where the electronic voting machine waited for me to make what I hope will be a history making choice for change.
I let my oldest son, Noah, press the button for Obama, to participate in this moment. I snapped a picture of my vote, to record it for posterity, whatever the outcome.
After 2+ years, this campaign is coming to its fateful conclusion. The nation, indeed the world, will wait with great anticipation for the decision of the American people as we confront war abroad and economic crisis at home.
George Bush's presidency was challenged early by the most catastrophic attack on the US homeland since Pearl Harbor, arguably more so as the WTC was a civilian target, not a military one. While the methodology of this administration taken as a whole to address the threat of the Al-Qaeda terrorist network can be questioned on tactical, strategic and even moral grounds, one core measure of its effectiveness is clear: the US homeland has not been struck again since 911. Further, it is clear at this point that the capability of Al-Qaeda to carry out a strategic strike on the US homeland has been destroyed. George Bush has kept America safe since 911, and he has largly eliminated the danger of another high level attack on US soil. He leaves office having faithfully discharged his responsibility to protect the citizens of the United States.
The protection of the United States has come at a cost. Expansion of government surveillance power, diminished moral authority among other nations, a damaged economy, a trillion dollar deficit, continued energy dependence, Washington gridlock and the loss of over 5,000 of America's finest men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan, with over 30,000 wounded. Add to that the numbers of dead and wounded civilians in those countries and the lives forever altered, and the cost in blood and treasure to America alone is staggering.
History will be the continuing judge as to whether the price we have paid and continue to pay for the decisions made by this administration were justified. My judgement is that this republican administration has protected the United States from attack from without, but has sacrificed our strength within to do so. The republican party, in its current form, is not worthy of another term of control of the White House. Conservative values and the policy initiatives that spring from them are superior on many subject areas in comparison to liberal approaches. Republicans have failed to communicate or implement effectively these ideas. We have been corrupted and seduced by power for its own sake and failed to do the people's business as we should. It is proper that there is accountability for that. I did not much care for Gore and with Kerry I did not think there was value to switching horses in the middle of a war. But eight years later, we are militarily overstretched, geopolitically vulnerable, economically fragile and wracked by cultural and ideological division within the body politic.
I voted for Bush twice. I am a reluctant republican and a moderate conservative, but John McCain did not earn my vote. I believe him to be an honorable man. His service in Vietnam and subsequently in our armed forces is laudable. Above all, I have a lot of regard for his consistent championing of the issue of fiscal responsibility and for reforms in areas such as campaign finance. Even if you did not agree with his approach, you can respect the reformist impulse that motivated him.
But reformer or not, he is a republican and part of his party. The case he needed to make for me was that he would be a different republican, less bound by the strictures of idealogy, more flexible and inclusive. Perhaps he is, but that was not the message of his campaign. The negative campaigning, the selection of Palin to pander to the party's evangelical & cultural base, disregarding her lack of readiness to be president if callled upon. Palin is a competent politician, and I'm sure that the judgement of Alaskans was correct in electing her, but she was called up for the majors too soon and mishandled. He did not render himself as distinct or different in type from Bush in the pursuit of his economic or foreign policy. He was more than willing to embrace a campaign vocabularly of division, pushing a narrative of who is American and who is not and using the racial undertones present in the electorate to fuel criticism of his opponent. In the battle of policy ideas, he was perhaps ill suited to make the sale on the crucial issues of the economy beyond the ideological mantra of lowering taxes and when he did, it was to tack clumsily to the left with big government ideas that were clearly reactionary. In the end, for me, his campaign fell short of the biography that inspired it.
So today, Obama is my choice. I believe he will win. He is a risk. We cannot truly know if the potential for greatness in him will be realized at a time of great trial for our nation. Should the electorate vote to make him President, it would reflect a decision to reach a little further, dream a little bigger and take a bet on our own future. Despite the doom and gloom espoused by his detractors, the fact is that America will survive Obama as it has survived presidents good and bad before. So today, as we perhaps usher in a historic selection of the first black American to the Presidency, let his prayer at the Wailing Wall be our prayer as well.
"Lord -- Protect my family and me. Forgive me my sins, and help me guard against pride and despair. Give me the wisdom to do what is right and just. And make me an instrument of your will."