Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Democratic Impressions

While some of us would like to think that we know presidential candidates personally, the reality is we don't. What we have are impressions about their person and character as well as ideas about what they stand for and could achieve. Among the only things we can claim as facts are basic biographic details, rehashed anecdotes, and perhaps even bills sponsored (but how many of us can honestly say we keep track of legislation?).

Impressions solidify through time as people see, hear and think more about a politician and her actions. Some Americans have the impression that McCain can get cantankerous but is nonetheless a patriot and a maverick. Others have the impression that Bill Clinton is slick but was able to set the economy right. There are those like myself who think that Hillary, while not warm and fuzzy, is a hard-working and experienced person.

What about Barack Obama? Undeniably he has made a very strong and positive impression on millions of Americans, but the novelty of this first impression has faded. And it has become apparent that we "know" him not. He seems like an intelligent man with values and aspirations most of us appreciate. But with a little than over two months to go, a whole lot of Democrats and Independents still ask who he is. Too many people, too many voters, do not have a solid enough impression of the man.

Let me make it clear: I passionately believe that it is time for change. It is time to put government back into Democratic stewardship. It is time to reclaim the values that bind us together. It is time to clean up the mess created by the present administration and set things right again.

But I am anxious. I am concerned that it might be too late to change impressions.


1 comment:

Tom Esch said...

An interesting question, Erwin. One might argue that only by their fruits shall we really know them, and we can only know their fruits once they try on the office of President of the United States (or whatever) and react to its demands. This leads to the never-ending quest for a candidate "whose values we can trust," i.e. someone who will behave predictably once s/he is in office. If such a person were to exist, I fear that s/he would be discounted and discarded by the media (and our own psyches?) as "stale," and/or that someone that comfortably settled no longer has the energy to run for high office. For example, you could predict fairly well how Ted Kennedy or Jimmy Carter would perform as President, but you couldn't get them through the primaries. Conversely, an Obama can emerge victorious from the candidate selection process and excite people, but then they begin to ask the hard question you have posed.
I suppose we all end up trusting something we see in candidates, whether it's a single issue or (for me) what their statements and positions indicate about their thought processes (intelligence and wisdom, yes, but also values/biases/inclinations). Could the issue you perceive be that even Barack Obama may not have a clear idea of who Barack Obama would be as President, or (perhaps more to the point) that he would be honest enough to admit this, at least to himself? If so, how do you weigh that?