Saturday, January 5, 2008

Why America needs Obama

Why America needs Obama
January 5, 2008
by: Deval Patrick
I AM proud to be a Democrat, but sometimes Democratic politics can be tiresome.

For years, candidates have appealed to voters by arguing how they can win or why any Democrat would be better than any Republican. They miss the fact that voters are more interested in why Democrats should win than how we will. They mistakenly believe that discontent with Republicans will assure a Democratic victory, when in truth most of us aren't buying 100 percent of what either party is selling. So, election after election, we end up with the same old debate and commentary about competing electoral tactics rather than a vision for the future.

We have a chance this time to choose a different kind of candidate, a different kind of president.

Barack Obama is the only candidate in the field who has demonstrated the ability to unite people across differences around common cause.

From his work in Chicago neighborhoods, to the Illinois Senate, to the US Senate, to his success in campaigning for other candidates in so-called red states like Missouri, Nebraska, Tennessee, and Virginia, Obama has shown an uncommon ability to work across differences and get meaningful results. Applying that talent to a vision for a better, safer, more just, and more prosperous American future could not come a moment too soon.

We face profound challenges. The Bush administration has been ineffective in foreign policy and absent in domestic policy. While our troops are performing well abroad, their mission was poorly conceived and their exit strategy nonexistent. At home, the poor are in terrible shape and the middle class are one month away from being poor. Healthcare and college costs are getting further and further out of reach, roads and bridges are in disrepair, and a lot of the people in power have spent more time denying climate change than trying to defeat it. Everyday people are anxious, and their anxiety knows no party.

America needs Obama.

He has comprehensive plans to end the war in Iraq, provide universal healthcare, lift up schools, and to save the planet. I like many of his ideas. But frankly most candidates in the race - Democrat and Republican - have a couple of good ideas. What I want, and what I sense the American people want, is more than good policy. We want great leadership.

This is where Barack Obama rises above the field. Instead of calculation or connections, he has risen on convictions. Instead of stoking partisan anger, he calls on our common aspirations. Instead of the right and the left, he is focused on right and wrong. At a time when so many of us - Democrats, Republicans, and independents - are tired of petty division and desperate for change, Obama makes a claim on all of us to join in restoring the American dream. His leadership is about articulating a vision and motivating others to reach for it.

That is why Obama consistently polls higher with independents and Republicans than any other Democrat. That is why he is greeted by crowds made up of every kind of person, from all kinds of backgrounds. That is why he won the Iowa caucuses on Thursday. That is why he has received more than 750,000 donations, mostly from small donors, and signed up a half-million supporters from all age groups, states, races, and political affiliations - many of them involved in the process for the first time. When people try to imagine the kind of leadership they want and know we need, the image that comes to many minds is Obama.

And here is where the wise guys and gals come in. The political commentators and self-appointed experts start telling us that we can't have what we want. I heard that throughout my own campaign. I ask the people of America to do now what I asked the people of Massachusetts to do: take a chance not so much on a candidate, but on your own aspirations. If we do, then Obama wins - and so do we.

Once in a generation, a candidate comes along who is committed to more than succeeding at the partisan food fight in Washington. Once in a generation, a candidate comes along who is both book smart and street smart, who is equally at ease with the meek and the mighty - and perhaps most especially with himself. Once in a generation, we get the opportunity to take a quantum leap forward in our politics. Barack Obama is that candidate and this is our opportunity. I don't care if it's not his turn, because I know in my head and in my heart that it is his time.

Deval Patrick is governor of Massachusetts.

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