The Reality-Based Argument for Barack Obama

Some of Barack Obama’s support naturally comes from people who generally vote Democratic, but Obama is also receiving the support of independents, as well as many conservatives, who are looking beyond the left/right battles of recent years. The goal is to have a president whose views are based upon reality, and who we can have confidence will make the right decisions based upon what is good for the country as opposed to what fits into an ideology from either extreme. Humorist John Hodgman has some very serious comments on why Obama is the better choice for reasons which transcend ideology and partisanship in an interview at A.V. Club. Here is a portion of the interview:

AVC: Lately you’ve been blogging and Tweeting very earnestly about the election in support of Barack Obama’s campaign. What has made this election so compelling to you? Is it just the desire to have someone new in office or is it the particular dynamic of this race?

JH: The thing that I find so compelling is that right now Obama’s whole campaign strategy is simply [to] speak to people as though they were adults and trust that the truth of the world situation will be evident to them. For him to be attacked as a friend of a terrorist, for “palling” around with terrorists and to simply go back and say, “No, I’m not”? That was such a refreshing political moment. It’s like he’s saying, “Oh, you know that’s not true. You know what’s happening here.” So much of the past eight years in politics, whether you’re a Democrat or a Republican, you have to acknowledge is based on what the Bush people to themselves have described outside the reality-based community. That the words they were speaking had no basis in reality and they felt no compulsion to exist in a real world. They were creating a world of their own imagining. They were writing their own book of fake trivia and that’s a fine way to make a living, but I don’t know that it’s a very productive way to run a country. And I think we are seeing the results of that right now. So from a very selfish point of view, I’m enchanted by the idea that a politician can come along and speak simply and clearly and truthfully to an electorate as though they are grown-ups and to feel the electorate respond to that. I’ve found that to be astonishing and especially now that we are in the end game and you see basically the McCain campaign has nothing left but conspiracy theories to throw at Obama. It really has become a fight between fantasy and reality, and although I don’t make my living off of it, I endorse reality.

AVC: It seems that the truth is really what’s at stake in the election, in a way.

JH: McCain had a reality-based argument for why he should be President. It did not rely on magical thinking in any way. It was simply that Barack Obama was too young and inexperienced to be President and McCain is old enough, certainly, and experienced enough to be President. You may not agree, but that’s what we need. You may not like McCain, but that’s reasonable. That makes sense. In choosing Sarah Palin for whatever benefit you might get from it politically, he’s throwing out his whole argument about experience. He negated his only reasonable argument to make and instead put him on what we now see is a disastrous path—potentially disastrous, at least, of pure magical thinking. That is I think exactly what people are tired of with regard to the Bush Administration. This idea that the Bush Administration… That if I say black is white, then that makes it so. If I say Sarah Palin is tried, tested, and ready to take the national stage and is going to save my campaign on the sheer energy of her enthusiasm and rhetoric, then it will happen, but not really.

I have nothing against Sarah Palin. If anything, I think it’s sort of tragic. She was clearly a Republican up-and-comer who, if they lose the election, her career has been dealt a very severe blow. We might think that’s a good thing, but I’m just saying she was called up too early. She simply had no experience. Never mind whatever her thinking might have been on national issues, but she had never taken a position on a national stage before and she had no experience with the national media and that’s what ultimately did her in. She didn’t have the training. She’s a quick study, obviously, but she’s doesn’t have the experience to talk to national reporters over and over and over again in a way that could make her seem confident and I think it really undid her. And just because John McCain wants her to be great in his campaign that doesn’t make it so, anymore than just because John McCain wants to believe that if he suspends his campaign and makes serious faces in Washington that the economic crisis will be averted. That’s magical thinking. It doesn’t make it so just because you want something. Just because John McCain wants to be President does not mean that it must happen. That’s the same magical thinking that really undid Hillary Clinton. It was like, “I don’t need to put forward a compelling argument for my candidacy. My candidacy is a compelling argument for my candidacy. I want to be President. Obviously, you all know it’s time. Let’s get this over with.” That wasn’t good enough to go against somebody who I think really has looked at the reality of election, saw all the opportunities where he could make gains, saw that she was totally neglecting the caucus states, saw that that was a place where he could take an advantage, planned for it, took the advantage, and won. That’s science. Do you know what I mean? That’s reality triumphing over magical thinking.

Do I like Obama, personally? I do. Do I think he’s got good policies? Look, I’m like everyone else, I hope so. They sound good. They sound like something I believe in, so I think based on his performance and the way that he has run his campaign, I feel that it is reasonable to feel confident that he is going to take the same discipline and smarts and lack of drama and apply them to the very serious issues today and I think that makes him a good choice for President. Do I think that his candidacy is historic? Sure, that’s exciting too, but what I think it’s really amazing that he exists in the same world that I also inhabit and no other political candidate lives in that world right now. They live in a made-up world that is not reality. I think that that’s why you see Obama surging right now. It’s that the people like the fact that Obama lives in the world that they live in.

It is a sad commentary on the state of the Republican Party that to simply have his views based upon reality makes Obama a far better choice than anyone the Republicans have to offer. Of course this is why so many Republicans as well as independents are backing Obama. The rational Republicans realize that the old party divisions of the past are over. Whether you supported Barry Goldwater or you have been a life-long Democrat, the Democratic Party is really the only game left, while the Republicans have been taken over by an extremist group which is morally bankrupt, wrong on the issues from the perspective of serious members of both parties of the past, and out of touch with reality.

A major problem with the manner in which McCain has been campaigning is that he is arguing not against Obama’s actual views but against a set of beliefs that the McCain campaign has invented. Anyone who is not out of touch with reality realizes that Barack Obama is not a socialist, not a terrorist, and even is not a dangerous tax and spend liberal. Claims that Obama supports infanticide, and rants about creations of the right wing like partial birth abortions, no longer sway many votes. Right wingers can continue with their rants which are increasingly sounding like conspiracy theories on William Ayers, Jeremiah Wright, and ACORN, but that is not what voters care about. This only makes the remaining Republicans sound like Birchers and McCarthyites. Most voters, regardless of their previous political affiliation, have realized that when it comes to solving problems Obama has the wisdom, judgement, and temperament to make a rational decision which John McCain and the others remaining in the Republican Party lack.

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4 Comments

  1. 1
    HuckleBuckJr says:

    The most telling point is BO saying, “No, I’m not.” We are to just believe someone because they say something. It’s a good thing we didn’t do that when Nixon said, “I am not a crook,” or Clintion when he said, “I did not have sex with that women.” Never mind that any documents that could show his statement to be correct are under lockdown, and he won’t supply the key. Sort of like Watergate. My, how we’ve grown as an electorate.

    Oh yes, someone already did follow this new form of trusting without questioning – the folks who brought you the Iraq war.

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    John Hodgman is taking artistic license when he writes that Obama said, “No, I’m not.” Obama has provided far more information to contradict the smears than this.

    We are not to believe someone just because of their denial, but that does not apply in this case. The evidence has been overwhelming against the right wing smears against Obama–to the point where Hodgman realizes that any thinking person should reject them.

    You have the wrong analogy in comparing Obama to Nixon, Clinton, and the supporters of the Iraq war. In this case it is the people who practice politics based upon unsubstantiated smear whose arguments should not be trusted without questioning.

  3. 3
    Texan says:

    Well written!  Bravo!  I’m sick and tired of the ever-increasing polarization of our political parties, but based on the arguments being made in this campaign, its no wonder that we are polarized.   
    I am a scientist, and an intellectual, and I do not blindly follow a politician or party without careful thought.  But as of late, the Republican party has been fighting a civil war against intellectualism, against any religious beliefs that are not their own, against common sense, and as stated in this article, against reality itself.  They are fighting to keep the world “the way it used to be” (or at least the way they THINK it used to be) instead of moving ahead into the future.  The extremist factions of the Republican party are frightened of the future because it renders extinct many of their old beliefs and values.  As we move farther into the 21st century, these old remnants of the past will become even more strained, and they will fight even harder to preserve their existence.  They will ultimately lose, and we will continue forward into the future, but until the last exposed nerves clinging to the past finally snap away, we will probably see more of the Republican tactics such as those seen in this election — until they finally die off or become so irrelevant that they no longer inhibit progress.

  4. 4
    Trish says:

    First time to this site, I really appreciated your well written post! I’ll be back…

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