U.S. Sen. Barack Obama said Tuesday he is taking a first step toward running for president next year.
“I will be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee,” the Illinois Democrat said, adding that he will announce his final decision February 10 from his hometown of Chicago.
He made the announcement in a video posted on his Web site.
“The decisions that have been made in Washington over the past six years and the problems that have been ignored have put our country in a precarious place,” he said in the video.
In addition to citing “the tragic and costly war that should never have been waged,” Obama mentioned health care, pensions, college tuition and “our continued dependence on oil” as issues that need work.
But he said it is the “smallness of our politics” that most bothers him.
You can see the announcement on his website as well. As a political blogger, I suppose I’d be remiss if I didn’t say something about it. But, to be honest, the best I could do upon hearing the news was to stifle a yawn. If that counts as commentary, great, because I don’t have much more to say that I haven’t already.
Well, maybe just a little more.
If I ever wondered about the direction of the Democratic party, and believe me I have, Obama’s candidacy and it’s likely popularity just confirms a drift I felt happening over six months ago, when Obama reiterated his religious message for Democrats and began his evangelical outreach well ahead of the 2007 election. At the time I voiced concerns about just how the dance between church and state might play out, and how much daylight might remain between them in the future.
As far as the Democrats are concerned, Obama’s candidacy serves to narrow the gap. And as far as the future is concerned, it seems inevitable that the church/state tango will end up with the two in bed together. In fact, aren’t they already? There’s a whole list of evidence that suggests the only honest answer is “yes.” Even the Democrats are shying way from so much as talking about the separation of church and state, if it means winning over voters who believe the two belong in bed together; and even if it means that the very phrase “separation of church and state” may disappear from our political discourse, if one major party doesn’t appear to believe there should be a separation and the other has been been cowed into not even talking about it.
Given all that, if/when government and religion do end up in bed together, the best we (those of us who shudder at the thought) might be able to realistically hope for is that they will at least abide by the “one foot on the floor” rule from the old days of movie/television censorship in the 1940s and 50s. It’s a meager hope, at best, but I fear it’s the best we can expect.
There’s also the choice of Harold Ford to head the DLC.
Young, black, and good-looking, Harold Ford is the kind of comer that the Democratic Party latches onto. But last November, after losing the closest Senate race in Tennessee history to Republican Bob Corker, the 10-year congressman suddenly found himself out of a job. So, many wondered, where would he end up?
Radar has learned that Ford has been offered the chairmanship of the Democratic Leadership Council, the centrist think tank founded in the mid-’80s by Al From and other New Democrats as a tool for cultivating like-minded candidates, particularly at the presidential level.
According to a draft memo that sources provided to Radar, Ford has agreed to replace Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack as chairman of the influential organization. Vilsack, a centrist with little national name recognition, recently announced that he would run for president in 2008. After interviewing a number of high-profile candidates for the job, DLC honchos decided that Ford would be the ideal choice to run the group. In the Jan. 8 memo obtained by Radar, Ford seemed to eagerly anticipate the prospect. “I have enjoyed our conversations and am excited about becoming the Chairman of the DLC,” Ford wrote to Al From, the DLC’s CEO. “Your stewardship of the organization over the years has made the DLC one of the premiere Democratic think tanks.”
The same Harold Ford, who didn’t shy away from going anti-gay, to the point of invoking same-sex marriage in his congressional campaign ads, and suggesting that religious faith automatically means opposition to equality for families like mine. Does that put him in the same boat as Obama? On that issue, perhaps it does since Obama also bases his opposition to same-sex marriage on religious belief. It definitely puts them in the same category of appealing to voters the Democrats either want to win over or retain: evangelicals who (at best) would rather just not talk about gay issues, and African American voters who are (at worst?) outright hostile to very subject.
Of course the question remains whether or not same-sex marriage is a progressive issue in the first place, or even equality itself for that matter. And beyond that, are there any progressives running for president yet? In a field that includes Tom Vilsack, John Edwards, and Barack Obama among the already-announced candidates, and Hillary Clinton as the all-but-announced candidate, my answer thus far is “no.” At least, not one I can get excited about, as I said before.
As the 2008 presidential field shapes up, I’m remembering a little advice my dad once gave me about voting: “If you can’t find somebody to vote for, find somebody to vote against. But vote.”
While my dad’s intention was probably just to encourage me to take part in the political process, I think 2008 is going to be one of those years when I can’t find anybody to vote for, with any sense of enthusiasm anyway, and will have to settle for finding somebody to vote against. It will come down to the difference between thinking “I want him/her in office” or simply deciding “S/he’ll do.”
And as it looks like Barrack Obama is morphing into the Democrats Great Black Holy Hope for 2008, I guess I should start now working my way up to a rousing, enthusiastic, heartfelt, “He’ll do” Maybe.”
Given the likely choices, when ’08 roles around the Democratic nominee will very likely receive my vote, but at this point I can’t imagine he or she will receive my enthusiastic support, or that I’ll be inspired to volunteer, donate, or do much more than pull a lever to support him or her. I said in my previous post on Obama:
Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure Obama or any one of the above would be a better choice than just about anyone the Republicans could nominate. But once, just once, I’d like to have the audacity to vote my hopes — to borrow from the title of Obama’s latest book — and have it actually mean something.
I’d still like to have the audacity to vote my hopes, and have it actually mean something. But, whether Obama ends up the nominee or not, it doesn’t look like 2008 is going to be the year for that.