Observations on Election 2008

Betsy wrote:

If you don’t mind taking a little break from the market, what’s your take on the presidential election?

I don’t like to reveal my voting inclinations, but I’ll be happy to comment on the course of the election so far:

  • The curtain went down on Mrs. Clinton when Bill Clinton came out strong in January. Prior to that, people questioned whether a second Clinton administration would be a Hillary presidency or a Billary co-presidency, but had no answer.

    When he hit the stumps and she started referencing things he said, the question was answered: it would be a co-presidency. Almost immediately, her numbers began to drop.

  • Mrs. Clinton’s main opposition to Mr. Obama, that he’s inexperienced, has fallen on deaf ears for two months and yet she hasn’t changed it. As he said in response, on the most important foreign policy decision of recent times, whether or not to invade Iraq, he showed wisdom by opposing it. She did not.

    Another obvious sign that he’s better prepared to lead is the brilliance with which his campaign has been run, and the ramshackle operation that’s been hers. No plan beyond Super Tuesday? Come on. Even the greenest of politicians would have prepared a back-up plan in case they hadn’t won by then. She didn’t. That shows a pretty limited view of the future, and turns to pap her claim that she’d be ready to lead on day one.

  • Mr. Obama’s being black and Mrs. Clinton’s being female are non-issues, exciting only to those who don’t pay attention to history.

    From the list of black leaders prior to Mr. Obama: Frederick Douglass; W. E. B. Du Bois; Martin Luther King, Jr.; and Nelson Mandela. From the list of female leaders prior to Mrs. Clinton: Corazon Aquino, Elizabeth I of England, Golda Meir, Angela Merkel, and Margaret Thatcher.

    While the election of either Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton would provide a first for the U.S. presidency, it’s hardly needed to show that blacks and women can lead.

  • Similarly, Mr. McCain’s age is a non-issue. From the list of leaders who proved their mettle later in life: Konrad Adenauer, Winston Churchill, Charles de Gaulle, and Ronald Reagan.

    One of Mr. Reagan’s most famous quotes came from his second debate with Walter Mondale in 1984: “I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent’s youth and inexperience.”

  • We don’t know much about the real platforms yet. Candidates usually stick closer to party lines during primary campaigns than they do in the general election.

    The reason is simple. Primaries are for building a base constituency. The general election is when it becomes critical to nab people sitting on the fence, the independents and moderates that often decide the winner. So far, we’ve seen only preaching to the choirs on separate sides of the aisle.

    What a Democrat tells a Democrat is different than what he tells an independent, and what a Republican tells a Republican is different than what he tells a libertarian.

    Both Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain will likely move closer to the center after being officially nominated. Mr. Obama will not be able to talk as much about spending on new programs. Mr. McCain will not be able to talk as much about keeping taxes low for the wealthy.

  • New blood in the White House is needed. The 4-year cycle of Bush, Clinton, Clinton, Bush, Bush, and now Mrs. Clinton trying to keep it going has seen a severe drop in U.S. prestige around the world.

    A fresh perspective is a start. Should Mr. Obama secure the nomination, we’ll be guaranteed that new day in Washington regardless of whether he or Mr. McCain prevails.

Finally, I’d like to make the general comment that America is such an exciting, vibrant country!

Here in Japan, where almost every politician looks shipped straight from the morgue, more has been said about U.S. candidates than I ever heard about candidates in Japan. I asked several friends why and they said it’s because nothing ever changes in Japan, and regular citizens don’t vote on the prime minister, anyway. How depressing.

Appreciate the debates, the close media scrutiny, the variety of personalities, and the potential for change. It’s not like that everywhere.

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