Democratic Primary 101

Hopefully it’s not too late for anyone reading this – even if Feb 5 (super ‘duper’ Tuesday) has come and gone, there is still time to vote your mind in the remaining primary voting states.

Been talking to many friends – most of my female ones, at least – and they seem to be on the fence whether to vote for a first potential woman leader of the free world or the first person of color?  A seemingly tough decision, but for some and personally for myself – it has nothing to do with either of these monumental moments at history’s doorstep (though I have to say, it does make it more exciting).

Obama for President 2.25My choice, is for Mr. Barack Obama – because I feel he will make a better leader based on his values (if you have read about his life – he has humble beginnings, a personal and living understanding of the world we live in, in addition to his early life struggles – he understands first hand, where the majority of America and potentially the world is coming from), his solid stance & clarity on policy and his ability to take leadership actions.  Most importantly, he has the gift of being able to inspire hope, provide a turning point amidst apathy towards politics and the current leadership’s stand on almost any issue.  Obama has character and a deep sense of humanity which he so effortlessly displays.  He has rallied young voters and has raised funds rivaling Hillary Clinton’s – despite lacking all the pomp and celebrity his oponents have been banking on.  The single most defining character statement for me, at least, was his clarity of judgement with his opposition of the Iraq war from day one – and not pandering to what was the popular thing to do as Hilary Clinton and so many others did – and now find themselves having to wriggle out and reinvent their reasons for their ‘for war’ vote.  In our world today, it is ever more important to mend the bridges which have been burned over the past 7+ years in international relations.  Having a keen understanding and sensitivity to the world beyond our borders will only make America stonger inside and out. 

My 7 year old daughter was asking me about the candidates (after constantly reading all the campaign signs posted around town) and also piping up when mom and dad were discussing dad’s volunteering this weekend to help her school-friend’s mother (the neighborhood precinct captain for Obama’s campaign) canvass our immediate neighborhood to garner support (and a nod for a vote!) for Barack Obama.  When telling her why her dad and I were supporting Obama, I found it a little difficult – as a graduate of a woman’s college & a mother talking to her young daughter – not standing up for a candidate who could potentially be the first women U.S. president…but then thought again to tell her why I felt Obama was the better one to be a leader of America.  (I told her in her mom’s native country, Pakistan, there already had been a women leader – a prime minister – several years ago, so that absolved some of my feminist guilt!). 

So back to why Obama?  I found an interesting piece comparing the democratic candidates (an ‘Election Guide’)  in the New York Times – ironically on the big policy issues, the positions on Health Care, Abortion, Climate Change, and Immigration were resoundlingly similar.  The big differences again were: 1) on his strong stance against going to war in Iraq from the onset and a comprehensive plan to withdraw from Iraq; 2) insistence upon  engaging in direct diplomacy with open communications with all world leaders to ensure America gets it right in foreign policy issues; 3) while both candidates are for repealing the Bush Tax cuts for households over $250,000, Hillary Clinton wants to ‘jumpstart’ the economy with a $70 Billion stimulous package, Barack Obama proposes a plan for tax relief (cut $80 Billion in taxes) for the middle and working classes and the elderly who make less than $50,000.  It boils down to the nitty gritty, of course, but I feel it is very important to believe in someone who sincerely believes in bringing about the changes and having the intellectual and practical ability to take a well thought out stand.  Just think for a moment, if Clinton wins the primary….and subsequently the role of president, we would have had the Bush and Clinton dynasty running America for 24 years (potentially even 28 years!) – Is this good for America?

While the road to becoming the nominee for the Democratic party is still up for grabs, polls (!) are showing a closing of the gap between Obama and Clinton – especially in the key states of California, New Jersey and Arizona as of February 4th.  Hot off the press (2/4/08): nationally, the USA Today/ Gallup Poll is showing a fierce dead heat competition: 45% (Clinton) to 44% (Obama).  So, there is time in case you are still undecided and have yet to cast your vote.  Interestingly,  while I was writing, I received a ‘taped’ phone message from actress Scarlett Johansson, urging me to cast my vote tomorrow if I am still wavering!  I have come across people who say, “Well, there isn’t a candidate who is worth voting for – I ask them candidly if they have actually spent the time to even read or learn about the policy positions each candidate has (I’ll admit, I’ve been brushing up on this more recently since the race tightened) –  or are they going with their gut?  I urge you to use the upper domain of your body and cast your decision accordingly. Please go and be counted and heard.  It is really empowering and gives you a legitimate license to either applaud or criticize what goes on in your country – without becoming one of those Monday morning quater-backers…

Note: As many know, it is the amount of Delegates the candidates pick up by state vs. winning by more votes.  For the Democratic Primary, it is not winner takes all…(more details below from the NYT):
 

Super Tuesday: Democratic Preview

As the candidates head into Super Tuesday, one of the main factors is how delegates are awarded in each state. There are hundreds of places for candidates to pick up delegates, since in many states delegates are awarded based not on the statewide vote, but rather on the result in each Congressional district. For the Democrats, delegates are won in proportion to a candidate’s percentage of the vote, making it difficult for Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to pull very far ahead.   Republican preview »
— Amanda Cox, Farhana Hossain and Ford Fessenden   

Oh, and if you’re registered as an Independant or Non-Partisan in California, you are able to cast a vote for your Presidential candidate for the Democratic Party.  Just remember to ask for a ballot for the Democratic Primary when you check in to vote! 

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Excerpt from Obama’s speech given in Springfield, Illinois (February 10, 2007) – announcing his decision to run for President of the United States.  I remember listening to his words and feeling moved and a sense of hopefulness for this nation…

All of us know what those challenges are today – a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren’t learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We’ve heard them. We’ve talked about them for years.

What’s stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What’s stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we’re distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

For the last six years we’ve been told that our mounting debts don’t matter, we’ve been told that the anxiety Americans feel about rising health care costs and stagnant wages are an illusion, we’ve been told that climate change is a hoax, and that tough talk and an ill-conceived war can replace diplomacy, and strategy, and foresight. And when all else fails, when Katrina happens, or the death toll in Iraq mounts, we’ve been told that our crises are somebody else’s fault. We’re distracted from our real failures, and told to blame the other party, or gay people, or immigrants.

And as people have looked away in disillusionment and frustration, we know what’s filled the void. The cynics, and the lobbyists, and the special interests who’ve turned our government into a game only they can afford to play. They write the checks and you get stuck with the bills, they get the access while you get to write a letter, they think they own this government, but we’re here today to take it back. The time for that politics is over. It’s time to turn the page.

We’ve made some progress already. I was proud to help lead the fight in Congress that led to the most sweeping ethics reform since Watergate.

But Washington has a long way to go. And it won’t be easy. That’s why we’ll have to set priorities. We’ll have to make hard choices. And although government will play a crucial role in bringing about the changes we need, more money and programs alone will not get us where we need to go. Each of us, in our own lives, will have to accept responsibility – for instilling an ethic of achievement in our children, for adapting to a more competitive economy, for strengthening our communities, and sharing some measure of sacrifice. So let us begin. Let us begin this hard work together. Let us transform this nation.

Let us be the generation that reshapes our economy to compete in the digital age. Let’s set high standards for our schools and give them the resources they need to succeed. Let’s recruit a new army of teachers, and give them better pay and more support in exchange for more accountability. Let’s make college more affordable, and let’s invest in scientific research, and let’s lay down broadband lines through the heart of inner cities and rural towns all across America.

And as our economy changes, let’s be the generation that ensures our nation’s workers are sharing in our prosperity. Let’s protect the hard-earned benefits their companies have promised. Let’s make it possible for hardworking Americans to save for retirement. And let’s allow our unions and their organizers to lift up this country’s middle-class again.

Let’s be the generation that ends poverty in America. Every single person willing to work should be able to get job training that leads to a job, and earn a living wage that can pay the bills, and afford child care so their kids have a safe place to go when they work. Let’s do this.

Let’s be the generation that finally tackles our health care crisis. We can control costs by focusing on prevention, by providing better treatment to the chronically ill, and using technology to cut the bureaucracy. Let’s be the generation that says right here, right now, that we will have universal health care in America by the end of the next president’s first term.

Let’s be the generation that finally frees America from the tyranny of oil. We can harness homegrown, alternative fuels like ethanol and spur the production of more fuel-efficient cars. We can set up a system for capping greenhouse gases. We can turn this crisis of global warming into a moment of opportunity for innovation, and job creation, and an incentive for businesses that will serve as a model for the world. Let’s be the generation that makes future generations proud of what we did here.

Most of all, let’s be the generation that never forgets what happened on that September day and confront the terrorists with everything we’ve got. Politics doesn’t have to divide us on this anymore – we can work together to keep our country safe. I’ve worked with Republican Senator Dick Lugar to pass a law that will secure and destroy some of the world’s deadliest, unguarded weapons. We can work together to track terrorists down with a stronger military, we can tighten the net around their finances, and we can improve our intelligence capabilities. But let us also understand that ultimate victory against our enemies will come only by rebuilding our alliances and exporting those ideals that bring hope and opportunity to millions around the globe.

But all of this cannot come to pass until we bring an end to this war in Iraq. Most of you know I opposed this war from the start. I thought it was a tragic mistake. Today we grieve for the families who have lost loved ones, the hearts that have been broken, and the young lives that could have been. America, it’s time to start bringing our troops home. It’s time to admit that no amount of American lives can resolve the political disagreement that lies at the heart of someone else’s civil war. That’s why I have a plan that will bring our combat troops home by March of 2008. Letting the Iraqis know that we will not be there forever is our last, best hope to pressure the Sunni and Shia to come to the table and find peace.

Finally, there is one other thing that is not too late to get right about this war – and that is the homecoming of the men and women – our veterans – who have sacrificed the most. Let us honor their valor by providing the care they need and rebuilding the military they love. Let us be the generation that begins this work.

I know there are those who don’t believe we can do all these things. I understand the skepticism. After all, every four years, candidates from both parties make similar promises, and I expect this year will be no different. All of us running for president will travel around the country offering ten-point plans and making grand speeches; all of us will trumpet those qualities we believe make us uniquely qualified to lead the country. But too many times, after the election is over, and the confetti is swept away, all those promises fade from memory, and the lobbyists and the special interests move in, and people turn away, disappointed as before, left to struggle on their own.

That is why this campaign can’t only be about me. It must be about us – it must be about what we can do together. This campaign must be the occasion, the vehicle, of your hopes, and your dreams. It will take your time, your energy, and your advice – to push us forward when we’re doing right, and to let us know when we’re not. This campaign has to be about reclaiming the meaning of citizenship, restoring our sense of common purpose, and realizing that few obstacles can withstand the power of millions of voices calling for change.

By ourselves, this change will not happen. Divided, we are bound to fail.

But the life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible.

He tells us that there is power in words.

He tells us that there is power in conviction.

That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people.

He tells us that there is power in hope.

As Lincoln organized the forces arrayed against slavery, he was heard to say: “Of strange, discordant, and even hostile elements, we gathered from the four winds, and formed and fought to battle through.”

That is our purpose here today.

That’s why I’m in this race.

Not just to hold an office, but to gather with you to transform a nation.

I want to win that next battle – for justice and opportunity.

I want to win that next battle – for better schools, and better jobs, and health care for all.

I want us to take up the unfinished business of perfecting our union, and building a better America.

And if you will join me in this improbable quest, if you feel destiny calling, and see as I see, a future of endless possibility stretching before us; if you sense, as I sense, that the time is now to shake off our slumber, and slough off our fear, and make good on the debt we owe past and future generations, then I’m ready to take up the cause, and march with you, and work with you. Together, starting today, let us finish the work that needs to be done, and usher in a new birth of freedom on this Earth.

Another poignant and moving speech earlier in the campaign given at Selma, Alabama (March 4, 2007)

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