‘Change’ your mind

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February 11, 2008

7:55 PM

p. In response to The Flat Hat’s endorsement of Illinois Sen. Barack Obama as the Democratic party’s nominee for president, I feel compelled to make a counter-argument in favor of New York Sen. Hillary Clinton.

p. My support for Clinton is based on what the Feb. 5 editorial “Obama promises change” marginalized: her abundance of experience relative to her opponent. However, since the editorial’s basis for supporting Obama is his platform of change, I will primarily address this subject.

p. What exactly is change? Is it the removal of an antiquated, dishonest administration? Is it a generational shift of voters and policies? Or is it simply having a new face in the White House, one that is potentially black or female? My curiosity is genuine: as a politics junkie and a sharp critic of the Bush administration, I too believe the time for change has come. But I’m nervous about Obama’s use of a concept that he has yet to define, much less explain how it will happen.

p. My argument probably isn’t popular, especially on a college campus. It may seem cynical or petty, making me the bad guy, the nay-saying foil to Obama’s stirring “Yes, we can” slogan. But those who look past the speeches-turned-music-videos and the celebrity endorsements — past the image and hype — will find that my skepticism is justified.

p. Obama’s inability to ground his soaring rhetoric in the realities of the political arena gets more disturbing with every day that he nears the nomination. As Democrats — and as Americans — there is too much at stake for us to put forth a contender whose charisma far outweighs his ability to articulate hard solutions to our equally hard problems.

p. To put it bluntly: Barack Obama owes us specifics. What will we change? How we will change it? When will change happen and how we will pay for these changes?

p. “Change” is a beautiful word and an inspiring idea, but unless we have a president who acknowledges the ramifications and costs associated with it, “change” is only that: a word and an idea.

p. Furthermore, Obama has benefited recently from a formidable wave of momentum as well as the unofficial endorsement of the media, inflating his perceived electability. A closer look, however, exposes flaws that will cost him the general election should he become the Democratic candidate.

p. Obama’s core support relies on notoriously unreliable and fickle demographics, 18- to 25-year-olds chief among them. His supporters are encouragingly diverse, but their record for actually voting in November isn’t stellar.

p. In addition, the inevitable exposure of Obama as the most liberal, most partisan Democrat in the Senate (per CNN’s 2007 rankings) won’t please the independent voters many believe he will take from Arizona Sen. John McCain, the GOP rival. Obama’s claims of bipartisanship are no doubt well intentioned, but misleading nonetheless.

p. The truth is that Clinton has a much stronger record of reaching across the aisle, and that her so-called “divisiveness” doesn’t threaten her steadfast core constituencies: single white women, Latinos and voters over 65.

p. The bipartisan candidate is Hillary; the electable candidate is Hillary.

p. I believe that Clinton and Obama’s nearly indistinguishable policy differences make their experience — their proven ability to bring about change — the most important distinction in this race. Clinton’s years of service to this country have given her a keen understanding of comprehensive national security; that is, a complete vision of what makes America strong and still a leader in the international community. This vision, combining universal healthcare, education reform, humane immigration policy, a strong economy and a rational understanding of military power, gives me hope as well as confidence in Clinton. Hope because she is a leader with the ideas and the compassion to heal and strengthen America — to seek change — and confidence because she has the experience to realize change.

p. __J. Alden Leonard is a senior at the College.__

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