When choosing a leader to take us into the next four years, there are a litany of interests to account for. Who would best command us out of Iraq? Who would succeed in leading us away from harrowing economic turbulence? Who would repair our national image to the greatness generations before us have sacrificed so much to maintain? Which candidate could guide our nation into a stronger position in the global economy, creating jobs, and elevating the level of education, all while placing us on the right track to eliminating our national debt?
It would seem there are an overwhelming number of problems facing the next administration, and a campaign aimed at wholesale replacement of a broken down office and a fragmented public trust might best operate with a foundation of negative campaigning and pointed fingers. This would be an all-too-easy sell for a campaign strategist to pitch her or his candidate, and an angry and bitter electorate would likely follow willingly.
What if instead, against the odds, a nation of patriots decided to embrace a system that had disappointed them, disgusted them, and abandoned them. Some who felt betrayed long ago and abdicated faith in democracy, others who were only discovering it for the first time. Rather than cynical indignation, these Americans chose hope, hope that instead of pinning the responsibilities and challenges of a country on an individual, they could unite as Republican and Democrat, independent and apathetic, to influence change together. This is how Sen. Barack Obama has run his campaign. He is change personified both historically and politically. A vote for Obama is an endorsement of the concept of a clean slate and a justified faith in the democratic ideal that together we can achieve anything but divided, we will achieve nothing.
Sen. John McCain has told us Obama is not qualified to be president because he lacks sufficient experience, but the Republican discounted this argument with his choice of running mate. The McCain/Palin ticket mocks the inspired hopes of millions of Americans as a falsely placed belief in the unseen, yet bases its positions on abortion, gay rights, and abstinence education largely on faith. The McCain who earned the label "maverick" was lost with the all-out assault of negative ads, slanderous accusations of sympathy toward terrorists, and warnings about his opponent's alleged "socialist" beliefs. McCain's military and congressional service to the country are admirable and not without merit. Unfortunately, the brand of conservative beliefs that he has based his policy proposals on are cut of the same tattered cloth that has left our economy in shambles, our infrastructure crumbling, and our schools lagging behind those of our international peers. His outline for our country's future too closely resembles that of the Bush administration, which is why his hijacked message of "change" didn't stick on the campaign trail, instead echoing hollow in the nation's collective ear.
When support for the invasion of Iraq was convention, Barack Obama had the courage to stand in the face of scrutiny and speak the truth, a truth most of us had yet to realize. It is this same leadership and judgment that is so desperately needed to responsibly get us out of Iraq and end the long drain it has had on our blood and treasure. Much as our involvement in Iraq has dominated the American political landscape for years, it must not deter us from a growing problem in Afghanistan or the encourage the complacency that has befallen the search for Osama bin Laden. Stability in the region must be a top priority for the next administration in order to re-establish diplomacy and advance toward world peace and America's own interests.
McCain's continued focus on more oil as the answer to both our long- and short-term energy needsis na've and short-sighted. His aggressive offshore-drilling proposals are not the solution, and unfortunately, Obama's idea that limited offshore drilling as part of a larger energy solution forgets the one truly unlimited resource we have: American ingenuity. It's time for our country to lead again, lead into the 21st century by boosting technological innovation, eliminating corporate handouts, and realigning industry to better compete in a global economy. Real solutions are needed on health care, tort reform, tax reform, global warming, and gay rights. Many of the struggles that lie ahead of us will require joint solutions from Congress and the Oval Office, but effective compromise will be borne only from uncommon leadership.
The game of American politics has sullied our taste for compromise and driven wedges between us for too long, but a return to global leadership and a bright future lies not in those differences. It lies in ambitions for a better republic. Together, we have forgotten that ambition is also the foundation of the quintessential American dream - to rise from mediocrity and overcome adversity in order to establish that higher goal. What better example is there of ambition than a young black child growing up in the '60s, his name not conceived of traditional American political stock, dreaming of becoming leader of the free world? Understanding where Obama has come from helps us to comprehend where we have come from as a nation.
The circus spectacle of campaigning has dragged on for two long years. Never in our history have we so focused our attention on a race to embrace such a difficult job. Our differences have been stretched from one side of the political spectrum to the other, our ideologies have never been greater or more stark in contrast. But at our core each of us has the same intentions, the same wishes for a better-paying job or a cheaper college education, a more peaceful globe and one more environmentally secure. After a historically unprecedented battle, in terms of finances and candidates, we step into the next four years with an urgent need to reassemble as a body politic. President Lincoln once said, "The dogmas of the quiet past are inadequate to the stormy present. The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew, and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country." The enormous challenges ahead of us are only as great as our discord, but it is imperative that we transition away from thinking as left, right, and in between. It is critical that we now come together to solve our nation's problems. President Barack Obama is what this country needs to do just that.