I’ve been a Gore 08′ dreamer until futility hit late in ’07. With my “DraftGore 08” bumper stickers having only just landed in my mailbox, the DraftGore.com grassroots movement posted an announcement coming to grips with the reality that Gore was simply not running. My reasons for supporting Gore were simple. He knows how fundamentally serious climate change issues are to humanity’s future and would lay out a societal wide plan to get us on a truly sustainable path. Also, unlike in ’00 he’s inspired now, a campaign would not be about ambition for him, and that would actually make him an excellent candidate. It is simply much more authentic to be inspired than to be ambitious.
In the absence of a Gore ’08 campaign, I’ve followed the primaries wondering who I would vote for. Obama’s campaign is inspiring as well. The whole tone of the campaign is refreshing. You’ve all heard that before I’m sure: the Obama campaign’s has vision, inspiration, and grassroots enthusiasm. The New Yorker wrote a nice piece on how Obama and Clinton are so different in this regard (transformative vs goal achieving). I’d like to take few moments to speculate on why that might be, relating from a personal perspective.
As the NYT’s week in review comments on today, Obama’s campaign is not overtly partisan, and has taken flak for it from the Clinton campaign (their criticism of his comments about Reagan being a transformative president for example). From my perspective as another mixed race individual I can see some interesting parallels that give insight to this. Much of the discussion about race so far as been the focused on the Black vote and again the Clintons’ not-so-subtle comparison of Obama to Jesse Jackson. But Obama is mixed-race, a Kenyan father and a Kansas mother. (Although if pressed he identifies himself as African-American). I’m a Japanese-Scottish American citizen, and have only occasionally thought about what being mixed does to one’s personality. Generally there is very little to say about it, I am not wholly Japanese or Scottish, to many people’s significant disappointment. And the few times I went to meetings for mixed raced individuals in college (called “The Bridge”), all we notably had in common were our differences to others (and each other).
Yet living as a mixed-race person has all kinds of interesting and unintended effects on one’s personality. It requires one to reflect on one’s own identity frequently (usually subconsciously): who am I? I always wondered at the annual Japanese family picnics being the painfully obvious odd one out. Obama has written remarkably candidly about his own thoughts on this. Mixed race identity fosters an ability to see issues from multiple sides. After all, one is born in two multiple cultures with different perspectives: simply nothing can be absolute in that variable landscape. I can see this in Obama’s writings, and words, and others have too: he has been called a “concillator” by the New Yorker. It offers such an exciting future out of our hyper-partisan landscape. His comments about Reagan’s presidency could be considered extending an olive branch to all the Reagan Democrats out there. This is smart politics, the Reagan Democrats likely became the Bush Republicans, but are now seriously disillusioned with the Iraq war and the economy.
A quote from one of many articles about this (this one from the Chicago Tribune):
As much as he may have felt like an outsider at times, Obama rarely seemed to show it. Throughout his youth, as depicted in his first book, he always found ways to meld into even the most uninviting of communities. He learned to adapt to unfamiliar territory. And he frequently made peace–even allies–with the very people who angered him most.
For many political partisanship has become part of our identity: “blue” states, even the very title of this blog reinforces it, and certainly the media revels in creating such distinctions. But from my days in the Midwest I met many people who didn’t identify primarily with a party (as both parties would like them too), and flipped between Reagan, Clinton, and Bush. There will always be the partisan leaders (and followers) trying to create a political base by getting voters to be angry at someone else using wedge issues. Hillary, has been caught up in this, usually as the target, for fifteen years. Obama is everyperson’s everything. He is midwestern yet international, black yet white, intellectual yet street-smart and inner-city, and academic yet grounded. And he didn’t become all of those things trying to craft a political career. He was born into that confusion and had to forge his own path through it and find his own integrity.
On the environmental front, there’s no love lost between the Clinton campaign and Al Gore. However, Obama was effusively complementary about Gore last summer when discussing the possibility of a Gore ’08 campaign. The respect for Gore is clearly evident. Many Draft Gorer’s dreamed of a Gore/Obama ticket. It’s easy to imagine an important role for Gore’s leadership on climate change in an Obama campaign. It’s pretty much impossible to imagine something comparable in a Clinton administration. Do we need Gore involved to have productive change on climate issues? Perhaps not, but he is the strongest advocate and the most visionary activist on this matter in the US now. It is simply hard to imagine how an effort without him could be more successful than one with him.
To close, I recently had a short correspondence with my favorite author about environmentalism, Jeanette Winterson that relates nicely to the themes here, where she wrote:
It is too late for factionalism and clubs – we are in this together now, arts and science, or all out and lost.