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It should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with Metro Times that we would endorse Democratic Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for president over Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
However, if you are tempted to view our support of Obama as knee-jerk progressive dogma, consider this: At least 25 newspapers that endorsed George Bush in 2004 have crossed lines and are now urging their readers to vote for Obama. Included in that number is The Chicago Tribune, which, in its 161-year history, has never before seen fit to back a Democratic presidential candidate.
With the likes of Gen. Colin Powell, a Republican who served as George Bush's first secretary of state, and billionaire investor Warren Buffett — along with 65 scientists awarded the Nobel Prize — also endorsing Obama, it is clear that his candidacy has broad appeal that transcends party lines.
Given this paper's progressive editorial bent, our biggest debates when it's come time to endorse in the past have been whether to back a third-party candidate, such as Ralph Nader, over a mainstream, moderate Democrat, which is what we consider Obama to be. If anything, our concern is that Obama has steered his campaign too close to the middle of the road.
This time around, however, no one from the left of the political spectrum is mounting anything even approaching a viable campaign, and so the choice comes down to a mainstream Democrat who offers the opportunity to make a clear break with the policies and tenor of the last eight years, and a self-described maverick who wants to continue along an economic and foreign affairs path blazed by a failed president rightly considered to be among the worst in our nation's long history.
Simply put, George W. Bush has been a disaster, both on the domestic economic front and in foreign affairs, squandering the good will generated following the terrorist attacks of 9/11 by using a foundation of lies to lead us into a disastrous war in Iraq. And, lest we forget — and in-depth discussion of it during the campaign has certainly been lacking — there is also our war in Afghanistan that, by all accounts, is going badly.
Because of these two wars and an economic crisis that has many fearing we're on the verge of a second Great Depression, America is at a place of peril the likes of which we've not seen during our lifetimes.
Add to this frightening mix the now-irrefutable dangers posed by global climate change and it is clear that the next president will assume office besieged by an array of threats unmatched in history.
We face extraordinarily difficult days ahead, and to navigate our way through them we need an extraordinary leader. Barack Obama is, without question, the candidate most likely to measure up to the challenges that await the next occupant of the Oval Office.
Unlike McCain, the son and grandson of Navy admirals and the husband of an heiress who helped finance the launch of his political career, Obama did not achieve what he has with the powerful assistance of a family pedigree and conjugal wealth. His climb to the pinnacle of American politics has been made possible only by virtue of his own intelligence and character.
Obama's journey to this point is testament to the man: the biracial son of a single mother, a community organizer in low-income minority neighborhoods, a graduate of Harvard Law School, an outsider who succeeded in the bare-knuckled world of Chicago politics. No one should ever mistake his calm civility for a lack of fortitude.
Moreover, Obama's promise of being a bridge builder willing to reach across party lines to achieve results rather than being an intransigent partisan is more than empty campaign rhetoric. Listen to the people who knew him well during his days as editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review — people occupying places on both the right and the left — and you will hear testimony that Obama is someone for whom consensus-seeking, inclusion and appreciation of diverse opinions and views is an intrinsic part of his nature.
In fact, if we have any concerns about Obama, it is that he has moved too far toward the middle, and in the spirit of cooperation will be too willing to sacrifice progressive ground to a Republican Party that has ruthlessly been shoving its right-wing agenda down America's throat for the past eight years as weak-willed Democrats ceded without a fight.
We've seen where that kind of submission has gotten us.
Which is why — even though McCain has essentially conceded Michigan and its 17 electoral votes to Obama — it's important that we as a state avoid complacency and turn out en masse to support not just the candidate at the top of the Democratic ticket but deserving, competent members of the party up and down the ballot. It is vital that Obama come to power with all the political capital possible. The more he has, the less likely it will be that he encounters substantive resistance from the right, be it on ending the war in Iraq, instituting true health care reform, dealing with climate change or pursuing policies that will help us recover the economic catastrophe engulfing us.
And what we've seen in recent weeks — a steady Obama and an increasingly erratic and desperate McCain — has only underscored the profound differences between the two men and the policies they'd bring to the White House. This is especially important in terms of the Supreme Court nominations the next president will make. You need look no further than John McCain's disparaging air quotes regarding women's "health" when discussing Roe v. Wade to gauge the distressing direction in which a McCain presidency would take the High Court.
Another critical factor in Obama's favor that cannot be discounted is his race, and what his election will do for — and say about — America. We would not advocate casting a vote for a minority candidate simply because he is a minority any more than we would advocate voting for a woman simply to bring long-overdue gender equity to the top level of American politics. Given what we know about her, Sarah Palin is the sort of fire-breathing, backward-thinking, intolerant Christian conservative that, if anything, would be even more of a disaster than George Bush if something happened to the 72-year-old McCain and she were to assume the presidency.
But what we've seen in Obama — a man of mixed race who, as demonstrated in his soul-searching and soul-stirring speech on the subject in Philadelphia — is a person who understands the complexities and nuances of race in this country as well as anyone in public life, and who can help us in the understanding and healing that must occur for this country to truly be the beacon to the world we all want it to be. A country willing to engage in difficult debates with a spirit of openness and tolerance both at home and abroad, a country that vigorously pursues peace and cooperation, both among ourselves and with the world community. A country that will be stronger and more prosperous and more respected tomorrow than it is today. A country far more enlightened than this one has been for the past eight dark years.
We face extraordinarily difficult times ahead, and need an extraordinary leader to help us get through them. There is no guarantee Barack Obama will be that person, but given what we have seen of him to this point, there is much reason for hope.
YES ON PROP. 1
It is a plant, and a lot of people say it helps them deal with medical problems such as glaucoma and chronic pain and the nausea that results from chemotherapy. Works better, in fact, than any prescription medicine theyíve tried. So, whatís the problem? The plant is marijuana, and using it in any way is a crime in Michigan. But now we have a chance to provide a measure of comfort to the afflicted by passing this entirely reasonable amendment to the state Constitution. Twelve other states currently allow the use of pot for medical purposes. Regardless of the distorted attacks coming in large part from those who profit from the so-called war on drugs, there is no good reason why we shouldnít become No. 13.
YES ON PROP. 2
Donít be fooled by the propaganda being spewed about Proposal 2, a much-needed measure that would greatly enhance the ability to conduct embryonic stem-cell research in Michigan. Opponents of the measure have falsely claimed that its passage will cost unwilling taxpayers millions of dollars. Thatís simply not true. Neither is the outrageous claim that approval of Prop. 2 would lead to the cloning of humans, a practice thatís clearly illegal, and would remain so. Hereís the real deal: Groups opposing this measure on religious grounds know they canít persuade the rest of us itís immoral to conduct research that could lead to cures of such malevolent afflictions as diabetes and Parkinsonís disease as well as devastating spinal cord injuries. So they create bogus arguments in an attempt to scare citizens into voting against a measure that will benefit Michiganís struggling economy while at the same time offering hope to many that there will someday be a cure to an array of maladies that ruin lives and spread heartache. Opponents would rather see unused embryos produced by fertility clinics discarded instead of used in research. These arenít the Dark Ages. Let the light of science spread for the benefit of all.