After much deliberation, careful consideration, and discussion with my closest advisers (thanks, Mom), I have determined that it is time for me to finally come out of the closet.
...As a Barack Obama supporter.
Now, as a forward-thinking, left-leaning, artellectual (yeah, I made it up; artist+intellectual in case you were lost) young black man, it would seemingly be a no-brainer that I would be an Obamaniac- but even though I'm announcing my full-throated support for him now, don't think I'm some sort of fanatic. In fact, it was the stereotype that a person of my social location, taste, political leanings, socioeconomic status and race was all but certain to support the Illinois Senator's bid for the highest office in the land that made me hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. In short, I have been in no hurry to conform to the expected behaviors of a nonconformist.
But now I feel that I must, and not merely because he has endeavored so admirably as to succeed in becoming the first black person to win the nomination of a major party for president. Despite what you hear on message boards, in blog comment sections and on Fox News, black people are not so impressed with the blackness of others that we would unanimously vote Snoop Dogg into the White House if he mounted a campaign. That would be a sacrilege, and the implication that we would do so is insulting, to put it mildly.
Nay; everyone knows that blind, ignorant unconditional support for a fellow black candidate is an honor we would only reserve for a better rapper - like Jay-Z.
I have yet to encounter any politican who I have not been at least moderately suspicious of, and there are very few I find impressive. A guy in a suit behind a podium reading from a teleprompter sets off every inkling of a spider sense I have, and politics as a general rule seem inherently superficial, divisive and woefully removed from the plight of the people to my admittedly biased 21-year-old punk rock kid sensibility. But I have been following the presidential campaign very closely since late last fall, and gee golly, I like Barack Obama. Even given this, I have been less than eager to throw my complete support behind, because as far as I can tell, I am utterly pre-disposed to like a candidate like him. In many ways, when I see this guy, I feel like I'm looking at a version of me, or at least someone who could plausibly be my dad. Hear me out-
Obama is constantly derided by critics as being all talk and no substance; soaring rhetoric that offers no tangible solutions. This is something I wholeheartedly relate to because as far back as I can remember, I have constantly weathered mockery, jealousy, or flat out distaste for my way with words, a phenomenon I find particularly dispiriting because I think verbal skills are inherently linked to the strength of one's ideas. So naturally, when I see a guy who I find eloquent and inspiring being excoriated for what I perceive as a powerful asset, and when this public criticism has been carried out in a way that is remarkably consistent with my own experiences, my first inclination is of course going to be to defend the guy I really can't help but identify with.
I tried to empathize with Hillary Clinton. I really did. I played devil's advocate with myself over the issue for a long time, but it's hard to stick up for someone who makes casual allusions to the possibility of Obama's assasination as a reason to continue to pursue the Democratic presidential nomination, hard to believe in a candidate who seemed to suggest that only she could connect with "hardworking Americans- white Americans", against my constitution to buy into the rhetoric of someone who stressed her credentials over Obama as a doer and fighter for and of the middle class when she raked in nearly 110 million dollars on her 2006 tax returns. If she'd won the nomination, however, I'd have voted for her in a heartbeat over John McCain of course. (Did anyone else notice that the thing the Hulk had to fight in the final battle of the film kind of had John McCain's face? I half-expected the creature to challenge the Hulk to a series of town hall meetings.) But every time she gave an address, all I could think about was how much she physically resembled and had the speech cadences of all of the middle-aged white ladies in pantsuits who were the Junior High administrators that gave me detention all the time. And if you think I'm eager for them to have influence over my life again, you're crazy.
More than that, unless the favorite in a given competition is the St. Louis Cardinals, I'm for the little guy; I will all but invariably pull for the underdog. And Obama came into this race about as resolutely the underdog as was possible, especially in the mind of someone like me, who thought the prospect of a black commander-in-chief was severely implausible for the forseeable future. I honestly believe that the fact that he is the last remaining Democratic candidate is a testament to his campaigning acumen, his ability to see the less visible weaknesses in the competition, his embrace of technology as way to galvanize the common man's ability to effect change on the political landscape, his conscientious decision to take on a message likely to resonate with a broad coalition of Washington-weary voters, his shrewd placement of talented and efficacious advisers and aides on his team, and an innate durability and determination that allowed him to weather the might of one of the most powerful political machines in history. Plus, the guy's got balls! I would be profoundly deterred from running from President as a black dude in America not just because of the immensity of the Clinton influence but the mere possibility of Redneck Clem being pissed off by my audacity in challenging the white political establishment and pumping my skull full of lead. The thought of that is enough to make this progressive black dude want to stay home and watch TV, so I have a fairly appreciation for the fortitude it takes to circumvent that.
Pretty much all of that is indicative of the kinds of qualities I would want in a president- and that has little to do with the fact that his physical appearance is not altogether different from anyone I might see at the next family reunion. Snoop Dogg's isn't either, but give me break- I don't even own a single Snoop record.
I can admit my bias; black or no, Barack Obama is precisely the kind of candidate I would be inclined to find appealing, and as such I was particularly suspicious of him, but I've come to see that his obvious appeal may make my endorsement predictable, but it doesn't make it any less necessary.
Let's send the right packing this year. Obama '08.