I'm pretty excited about tomorrow's Maryland primary. I've never cast a meaningful vote in my life: grad school in New York, postdoc in California, 8 years in Massachusetts... not exactly the most hotly contested states in American politics. I'll be voting for Barack Obama.
That isn't because of any horrible flaws in
Hillary Clinton. She strikes me as a solid, hard-working and deeply
intelligent woman who would make a fine President. She has
perservered in the face of decades of the most repugnant, dishonest
attacks - which I've been sorry to see many Democrats embrace in the overheated primary season. She's above the bar. But Obama is a potential superstar.
Obama impresses me not simply because of his early criticism of the Iraq war at a time when this was politically risky. He impresses me because he genuinely seems to understand the reasons why Iraq turned into a fiasco, the reasons why the Bush administration's foreign policy more broadly went so disastrously awry. He really seems to understand why America's indefinite commitments in Iraq are counterproductive and debilitating, while thinking carefully about how to disengage. Where Clinton essentially proposes to tinker at the edges, to do the same basic things more professionally, Obama offers a genuinely different approach to the core problems of world politics. The early exchange over dialogues with our strategic rivals like Iran really captured it: Clinton's approach was politically safe but strategically wrong, while Obama courageously fleshed out a politically risky but strategically much savvier stance.
I think that Obama will be by far the stronger candidate in a general election against McCain. But I don't really know. I'm voting for him because is a genuinely inspirational figure, because his approach to foreign affairs is fundamentally sound, and because he has the chance to fundamentally transform the American and international political landscape. I know perfectly well that others disagree, and I respect their reasons (well, most of them - in some cases, their criticism of Obama only strengthens his appeal). I really don't want this site to get dragged in to domestic political battles. But I'm excited to have the chance to finally cast a vote that counts for the first time in my life, and for that vote to be for some about whom I'm genuinely excited.
UPDATE: ... well, I voted this morning along with a surprising number of other people (my wife said that it was empty when she went in half an hour later). I cast my vote for Obama, but since it was a touch-screen machine with no paper trail, I have no idea whether the vote actually counted for Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Hugo Chavez or Buffy Summers. It's the American way.