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July 23, 2008

Why Obama, by Alina Simone

Why Obama is a series of guest essays by musicians and authors, where they share their support for Democratic United States presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama and offer arguments why we need him elected.

Alina Simone is a singer-songwriter living in Brooklyn. Her latest album, Everyone Is Crying Out to Me, Beware, is a collection of covers of Russian singer Yanka Dyagileva, and is out August 5th.

In her own words, here is Alina Simone's Why Obama essay :

I liked Obama. I voted for him in the North Carolina primary just before moving to Brooklyn. But I didn’t get really excited about him until he started “flip-flopping.”

Stephen Colbert, in his hilarious, dead-on indictment of George W. Bush at the 2006 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, said, “When the president decides something on Monday, he still believes it on Wednesday -- no matter what happened Tuesday.” Eight years have proved that the stubborn ability to ‘stay the course,’ in the face of compelling and contrary factual evidence, is not actually any kind of virtue. I want a president who will consider what happened on Tuesday when deciding whether to go to war on Wednesday. Especially if no weapons of mass destruction were found on Tuesday. So when Obama said he was considering changing the Iraq troop withdrawal timeline he had originally suggested because of recent changes in what is sure to remain an extremely unpredictable and volatile situation, I thought that made sense. If, in 2009, sticking to THAT exact 16-month withdrawal plan is simply not safe or feasible, and ultimately leads to a far larger number of dead and wounded, who among us will be happy that at least Obama ‘stayed the course’ he outlined during the primary fight? Not me.

Some Democrats were disappointed when Obama reversed his decision to accept public campaign financing. I wasn’t. Maybe it would have been more gentlemanly of Obama to forgo what is predicted to be a substantial financial advantage over McCain going into the race, and stick to his original plan. I’m glad he decided not to be gentlemanly, but instead decided to win. Al Gore already served as that sacrificial lamb, offering the ultimate noble and sportsmanlike finish to the 2000 election, bowing out with a rousing speech and sparing the country a nasty and protracted battle over chads. The warm glow of Gore’s eloquent departure lasted, tops, about nine seconds before the reality of a Bush presidency set in. I wish mightily he hadn’t of been so fair and balanced; I am positive that Hillary would never have gone away so quietly, and now I am happy to see some proof that Obama is in it to win it too.

Let me diverge for a sec and get a little wonky here. Behind the strong ideological ‘axis of evil’ justifications for the war in Iraq, and despite the sad headshaking on the part of Republicans over the necessity of running up the largest deficit (in absolute terms) in history, there is another motive here. The Republicans, through a combination of tax cuts and war spending, are driving up the deficit in order to curb future government spending and ultimately reduce and retire existing ‘entitlement’ programs like social security. This isn’t a conspiracy theory. It’s a well-known conservative economic policy best articulated by David Stockman, the head of Ronald Reagan’s OMB, as ‘starving the beast.’ In other words, the Republicans are extending a war most Americans don’t want in order to drain the hope and resources for health, education and welfare programs most Americans do want. It’s a grim and amoral and irresponsible policy, and it’s been our reality for almost eight years now. I find less and less nuance in the situation each day, fewer shades of gray and not much to quibble about. So some may fault Obama for changing his mind for matters of political expediency, shifting the weight of the policy pendulum from the caucus-voting liberals to the undecided middle-Americans. But in this election, political expediency, for better or worse, is just as weighty a fact to consider as all the others because, in policy terms, we are facing a zero sum game. I believe Obama is the candidate who can end this war, curb our deficit and start investing in programs that address the most heartbreaking gaps in our social welfare programs. He has proven that he is smart and articulate, and now he is proving that he is a savvy, bare-knuckled fighter. And that is exactly the kind of Democratic candidate America needs now.

Alina Simone links:

Alina Simone's homepage
Alina Simone's MySpace page
Alina Simone's MOG page
Alina Simone's Largehearted Boy interview with Eugene Mirman
Alina Simone's Largehearted Boy Note Books essay

Barack Obama links:

Barack Obama presidential campaign website

also at Largehearted Boy:

other Why Obama essays
Book Notes (authors create playlists for their book)
Note Books (musicians discuss literature)
guest book reviews
musician/author interviews