So it’s not a secret that I supported Obama in the Democratic primary race for president. What’s not as well known is how I came to that decision. I’m not one of these women who hated Hillary Clinton because of how she handled Bill’s philandering; nor am I someone who hated her for being ambitious and having designs on the top office back in ’92; I’m not even someone who hated her for how the two seemed to come together. Nope, I came into this race completely neutral. (Okay, that’s not quite true. I did know I wasn’t going to vote Republican-I’m not brainwashed, I’m just not stupid. More on that later.) I happened to see Obama’s speech when he announced his campaign back in February 2007, but it wasn’t part of some grand plan; I was just being lazy, flipping through television stations in bed and I stopped, intrigued by the crowd noise.
It wasn’t until I was researching a piece for my day gig that I picked my candidate. The task was to outline the platforms of the 15 major candidates (this was last fall) as they related to education, healthcare, economics, the war and immigration. In the course of my research, it became clear that while I respected the hell out of John Edward’s stances and agreed with many of Clinton’s views and should probably vote for Kucinich if I didn’t mind throwing my vote away, Obama’s well-thought-out issue papers and right-on-the-money sensibility made him the candidate for me.
Understandably, I’m excited that he’s now the presumptive nominee. Trust, there’s been lots of crying and goosebumping and carrying on in our home. But I’m not too excited. Not because I don’t think he will win; no, he has this one in the bag (claim it!). It’s because I fear that folks will make a hopemonger out of my boy yet.
The problem is that many of us get swept up in the excitement, the sexiness of the presidential election and overlook the other races that are important to getting things done. What other races? There are tons, but let’s focus on the congressional ones, as they are pretty darn crucial: Democrats currently outnumber Republicans 235 to 199 (there’s one vacant seat for you fellow nerds out there) in the House, and every one of those seats is at stake this fall. Turning to the Senate, the parties are tied at 49 each, plus two Independents. Twelve of the Dems’ and 23 of the Republicans’ seats are up for grabs. (This site has a great rundown.)
Why does this matter? Well, I’ll have to draw on my AP American History classes from high school, but basically, Congress is the legislative branch, one of the three bodies that control our federal government. They (supposedly) work with the Supreme Court (judicial branch) and the president (executive branch) to check and balance each other’s power. If they all toil together for the greater good, this country could be amazing, but we live in the America of the political party and the filibuster, and that makes the process much more difficult.
That means that it’s not enough to simply vote Obama into the Oval Office. We have to surround him with lawmakers who support his dream, his vision; our dream, our vision. If we don’t vote wisely, Obama’s promised legacy could prove to be only a shadow of the greatness we have thus far only glimpsed, the man reduced to a lame duck elected by the will of the people, but unsupported by his peers.
To that end, it’s also not enough to just vote Democratic down the line when you close the curtain on November 4th. Party labels are easy, yes, but they don’t give enough insight into the real policies and methods of the candidates who hide behind them. Seriously, just think about the ocean of difference between Clinton and Obama, two folks from the very same party. Do us all a favor and read up a little bit before you pull the lever, whether it’s a Senate seat or the county commissioner post at stake. The only way to be sure your vote isn’t wasted is to do your own research and make your own decisions, eyes wide open. Hop to it.
If you like Kenryaâ€™s opinion, check out the rest of her posts here.