Election prediction: Obama ’08

J.B. Sivanich

In my January 25 column, “A Closer Look at Obama,” I detailed my reasons for believing Obama to be a candidate of change in terms of modern American political history. While I mainly focused on foreign policy during that column, this week I will elaborate on other differences I see between the two Democratic candidates.
The biggest accusation thrown at Barack Obama is his lack of experience. While Obama certainly has less experience than some of his rivals, the issue bears more implications than it is normally made out to have.
As shown by the various bills that Obama has sponsored and helped pass, on issues ranging from ethics to aid for the Congo, it is clear that he has the ability to draft reasonable legislation and garner enough support to enact it into law. I also think that not enough respect is given to his prior experience as president of the Harvard Law Review, a community organizer in Chicago, and a constitutional law professor at the University of Chicago. It should also be remembered that Barack Obama will be 47 when he takes office, if he wins the election, which would make him a year older than Bill Clinton was when he took office in 1992.
Hillary Clinton is obviously a seasoned politician, but when speaking of her “experience,” one needs to take into account how this has formed her outlook and positions. I used this example in my last editorial but will expand upon it to make my point.
At the height of the Cold War in 1989, George H.W. Bush passed legislation that allowed the opening of T.V. Marti. It is a T.V. and radio station that broadcasts from a balloon to Florida to Cuba in hopes of adding to the only three television stations that Fidel Castro’s government allows. It has come to represent, however, America’s bloated soft imperialism efforts. Restricted by international broadcasting regulations, it is only on air from 3:30 to 8:30 in the morning. This, coupled with the Cuban government’s jamming of the signal, has led 997 out of 1,000 Cubans to say that they did not watch T.V. Marti during the past year and that only nine out of 10 have even heard of T.V. Marti, in a 2001 survey conducted by the Broadcasting Board of Governors. Obama opposed funding for it, while Clinton, aware of the powerful anti-Castro Cuban lobby in Miami, voted for its continuation.
The way Clinton runs her campaign also shows her political instincts taking over. After coming in third place in the Iowa caucus, she gave a victory speech saying that voters want change, though she was joined on stage by three figures from the past: former President Bill Clinton, former Sec. of State Madeline Albright, and former Gen. Wesley Clarke. This is the woman who changed her strategy to focusing on taking questions during campaign stops only after she lost in Iowa. Clinton and her husband are now engaged in conducting an almost Good Cop/Bad Cop style of campaigning.
There is much debate over who should be the new candidate of choice for supporters of the former Edwards campaign. I think the answer is quite simple. Barack Obama, who started out after law school as a community activist and a lawyer defending discrimination and voters’ rights cases, is a much more logical choice to inherit the populist role than Hilary Clinton, who sat on the board of Wal-Mart for six years. Even at a face value, there is a clear difference: Obama is worth $2.5 million, at high estimates, while Clinton lent her campaign $5 million in the build-up to Super-Tuesday. Obama is not the wealthy politician, but a real, experienced citizen.
When George Bush leaves office in 340 days — for those of us who are counting — he will leave his successor with a long list of things to fix. Troops remain in the broken countries of Afghanistan and Iraq, 47 million Americans have no healthcare, national debt is reaching the $10 trillion mark, 10 percent of this debt is owned by China, our nearest economic competitor, the country is “divided,” and we are ill-prepared to face the coming climate crisis. A change from “politics as usual” is the best “hope” we have of breaking out of this rut.