RI Populist endorses Obama

My friend Matt Jerzyk, an occasional Phoenix contributor, has weighed in with his endorsement of Obama:

Judgment matters.America has woken up to this sober reality after being led down a path of international and domestic turmoil by some of the most "experienced" politicians in Washington  DC. 

The Iraq War has bankrupted our treasury and stretched our armed forces.  China is in the strategic position of holding a mortgage on the American house.  American political and moral authority around the globe has waned.  And more and more Americans have less and less income: losing health care, losing their home, losing hope.

These are perilous times, indeed. 

After 18 months of researching, listening, thinking, debating, I have reached a conclusion: Barack Obama should be the next President of the United  States.    

His judgment in opposing the Iraq War from the beginning is impressive.  Remember back in 2002 when most Democrats were caving in to George Bush?  Not Obama.

Here is what Obama said in October, 2002:

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism.

What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.  What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression. 

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

I trust Obama's instincts on the issues that matter.  And judgement matters.   

Something else that matters is leadership. Americans under 35 years of age have longed for a Martin Luther King, for a Bobby Kennedy, for any leader to believe in.  Connected by cell phones, text messaging, email and Facebook, we have become disconnected from the political process.  We don't believe that politics - or any institution for that matter - can make our lives better.  

Barack Obama has changed that.  He has built a campaign that has inspired a movement.  Tens of thousands of people turn out to rally with Obama everywhere he goes.  The same number are volunteering to doorknock or make phone calls to voters in early states.

Obama has raised over $80 million in small donations from all over America.  No one thought he could compete with the Clinton fundraising machine - especially when he announced that he would reject PAC money and lobbyist dollars.  But, he has even surpassed the Clinton fundraising.

In the center of this movement, Barack Obama has been an inspiring leader.  And, yearning for a leader in these troubled times, America has turned to Barack Obama.  

Leadership matters. 

In reading parts of his two books, The Audacity of Hope and Dreams of My Father, I was  filled-up once again with a belief in the power of change, the power of hope.  Similarly, when Obama speaks he weaves policy wonkishness, engaging anecdotes and political philosophy together in a way that draws everybody in.  He is the public intellectual that will guide our nation through some of its worst times ahead.  

I largely agree with the Boston Globe:

THE FIRST American president of the 21st century has not appreciated the intricate realities of our age. The next president must. The most sobering challenges that face this country - terrorism, climate change, disease pandemics - are global. America needs a president with an intuitive sense of the wider world, with all its perils and opportunities. Senator Barack Obama of Illinois has this understanding at his core. 

On a personal level, I appreciate his choices to be a community organizer, to go to law school, to practice in the field of civil rights.  I have made similar choices.  Throughout his life, Obama has shown an understanding that change only happens when you fight for it - not in the ivory tower - but with the people.  He also has shown an uncanny ability to bring people together - one of the most important tools in fighting for social justice.      

Let me turn to some of the other candidates that I considered:  

I have come close to supporting John Edwards on several occasions.  His turn in the last few years to economic populism and his support of the labor movement is attractive.  His rejection of the Iraq War at Riverside  Church was powerful.  I admired his campaign kick-off in New  Orleans.  Indeed, if I was supporting a president solely on their policies, I would probably be supporting Edwards.  However, I question his vote on the Iraq War when millions of Americans were urging the Senate to reject the Bush Administration’s rush to War.   I also question Edwards' decision to take public financing that would put his presidential campaign in a dangerous position before the Democratic convention. 

Hillary Clinton certainly knows how to get things done in Washington.  After twelve years in the Arkansas Governor’s mansion, Clinton spent eight years in the White House and seven years in the United States Senate.  Her rolodex is undoubtedly immense.  But experience in Washington has a way of suffocating political imagination.  Having been a lobbyist, I have seen how troubling the machinations of back room deals are.  Another one of the benefits of her campaign is the nostalgia for the Clinton years.  Yet, as someone who protested President Clinton in Seattle in 1999, I am not eager to return to the years when the Democratic Party stabbed labor and environmental groups in the back with NAFTA and the WTO.  It was Bill Clinton, after all, who introduced Wall St. to the Democratic Party and shifted the priorities of the Party from the working class to the upper class.    

Click here to read the entire endorsement.

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