Barack Obama was my third choice for Democratic presidential nominee. I was, and still am, a hard-core John Edwards supporter. Edwards' primary focus -- economic equality -- is my primary social concern for our nation. I strongly believe that most of the rest of our nation's ills follow from the radical imbalance of wealth in this country, and the lack of protection of the basic needs of those on the bottom of the economic landscape. Edwards' message, sadly, never penetrated far enough into the public consciousness to make him a candidate to rival either Obama or Clinton.
Once Edwards withdrew, I threw my support, after much consideration, behind Clinton. Among my relatively young, liberal peer group, I (and my wife) were outliers. We both had our reasons for supporting Clinton over Obama -- for me, the preference was largely on two fronts: I am a single-payer healthcare advocate, and I feel Hillary's mandated healthcare policy was a step closer to universal coverage than Barack's. Second, I believe that turning this ship away from the course on which it has been set for the last almost eight years is going to be a lot harder than anyone realizes, whatever the will of the people or the outcome of this election, and I think Clinton is simply a tougher, more seasoned fighter than Obama, at a time when we need a president who is simultaneously compassionate and has a spine of steel. I worry Obama's first term will be like Bill Clinton's, where the first sixteen months or so are lost to simply proving his mettle to the Washington machine, and establishing the levers by which he will be able to wield his presidential influence. Or, worse, like Carter, he may prove to be a man of deep conviction and right-mindedness who is simply too, well, nice to do what needs to be done to lead this corrupt battleship of a government, and his entire presidency will be a loss (I doubt this will be the case, but hold it remains a possibility).
All that said, I have read both of Senator Obama's books, and I admire the man greatly. While I hesitate to pin the mantle of Bobby Kennedy on him (as many of his more rabid supporters have done), I do think his message of hope and his ability to inspire our better natures is a great positive. And I think he has the potential to be, not just a good president, but a great president. I wish he were more aggressively liberal on social policy, but I prefer his take on foreign relations to Clinton's. The point is, I will aggressively support Obama's candidacy for president, not because Hillary told me to, but because it is the right course of action for a progressive voter in this election. Hillary supporters who say they will vote for McCain in the general election are, in my estimation, crazy. It is probable such voters are fewer in number than the controversy-seeking media has made them out to be, but such voters do, by all appearances, exist. Assuming they do exist, at the very least they are not committed progressives or, let's face it, even centrists. John McCain is, according to his campaign speeches and actual voting record over the last decade, a near lock-step supporter of the current administration's policies, foreign and domestic, and not the media myth of the maverick which he somehow manages to maintain. Hillary supporters who declare their support for McCain are doing so for petty, petulant reasons. Such statements betray a voter who cares not about the policies of his or her supposedly beloved candidate, but about exacting revenge on those who chose, for whatever reason, Barack Obama.
McCain has stated (during the Republican candidate debates) that he "will try to find clones of Alito and Roberts" to fill vacancies on the Supreme Court. McCain's campaign website states, plainly and clearly, that he believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned. He recently voted against a bill which provided more support for our troops returning home from Iraq, and in 2007 adopted President Bush's position on "extreme interrogation" methods (torture), despite decades of opposition to torture. Could true progressives who really believed in Hillary's policies ever vote for a candidate like this? Progressive Punch sums of the rest of McCain's "maverick" credentials -- I've highlighted some of what I feel to be key progressive issues below:
John McCain is no "maverick." He's a Conservative Republican. In fact, the current John McCain is among the most conservative members of the Senate -- a February 2008 study by study by political scientists Keith Poole and Jeff Lewis ranked McCain, based upon his voting record, eighth most conservative member of the current Senate (110th), second most conservative of the previous senate (109th) and fourth most conservative of the 108th Senate.
The reported 25% of Hillary supporters who say they may vote for McCain, again, assuming they exist, need to pull their heads out of their asses. The only reason to vote for McCain is if you support the continuation of the policies of the eight cataclysmic years of the George W. Bush presidency. If you were a Hillary supporter who actually understood and supported her policies and her ideals, you must support Barack Obama against McCain and the right-wing machine. You can try to push Obama and his team toward the policies on which you felt Clinton was stronger -- I certainly will. But people who think a vote for McCain is anything other than explicit support for the continuing right-wing destruction of the social fabric of our nation are fooling themselves.