I have already voted. In the critical Florida battleground. For Barack Obama. While holding my nose.
It was a tough call for me, not least because I consider a Florida vote to be more influential than most others. In my mind, McCain lost it more than Obama won it. His self-destruction included his early, cynical decision to court the religious right despite his prior rejection of it; the failure to put forth a coherent vision for America beyond earmark reductions; and the Sarah Palin decision. It seems these were decisions made by political realities pertaining to the Republican party and its ever-demanding, socially conservative base. I cannot and will not ever agree with people who see the world like they do. Unfortunately, none of this has to do with my main political desire to see a limited federal government and business-friendly, pie-expanding policies. But it has never been clear to me that McCain would fight for these either. It is my sincere hope that the Republican party bifurcate fiscal conservatives from the social right wing. These strange bedfellows have not served America well.
Obama is a risk, perhaps a big one. He could potentially damage our economy severely--above and beyond Bush/Cheney's greatest hits ("deficits don't matter?!?"). And I lay awake at night fearing a world in which he, Pelosi, Reid, Frank, et al. are pulling the strings with no recourse. However, there is something about the man that appeals to my gut. I agree with his cultural views. He is calm, cool, collected and, yes, "presidential."* He is inspiring. He is pro-intellectual, pro-science, and pro-common sense. He positively transforms the image of America in the eyes of the world. He could single-handedly transform race relations in this country (or at least put Jackson/Sharpton out of business). I respect very few people more than Colin Powell and few publications more than the Economist; he has their vote.
It's too bad that our country has gotten so out of whack that we have to resort to hoping for a messiah-like figure to come in and save the day. Time was when the actual person in the presidency didn't matter so much because the ingenious system of shared power and checks-and-balances ensured that the most enlightened ideas won the debate and the popular vote. To me there are structural problems with our interpretation of the Constitution and monetary policy that are leading us off the cliff. Obama or McCain are not going to fix the problem. To those of you Obamatons out there, expect a let-down, a winner's curse. Let's hope he, and we, can rise above it and get our collective groove back.
* One might call him the "Jason Campbell of politicians": brown, inexperienced, calm, very few mistakes, a winner, (potentially) at the helm in Washington.