Not Spencer: My Evolution on Presidential Politics

Today’s Not Spencer submission is from fellow blogger Howard Hall.   Unlike his regular blog,, today he gets to speak in more than a Haiku.


There was a time when I supported John McCain. I even voted for him in the Republican primary. But that was eight years ago. Both John McCain and I have changed quite a bit in the interim. Or maybe we both just discovered who we really are.

As for me, I’ve long since changed my voter affiliation to independent, even though most of my core ideas have remained the same. I guess I just realized how poorly the Republican reality matched my ideas.

For years I took for granted the rightwing assertions of rampant tax-and-spend liberals. But then I started to wonder why conservative heroes like Ronald Reagan and, more recently, George W. Bush were such prolific contributors to the national debt — while a Democrat named Bill Clinton has been the only president in my lifetime to balance a federal budget. So when Barack Obama suggests returning to Clinton-style fiscal policy, I see a higher likelihood of competence and fiscal responsibility in him than I do in his opponent, who pledges to emulate the policies of the current administration.

Coming from a working class family, I have always paid attention to issues that affect working class people. And these are issues that Obama seems to care more about than McCain. Several analyses have concluded that working people will see greater tax relief from an Obama administration. This doesn’t even take into account McCain’s resurrection of a Bush initiative to treat employer-based health care as taxable income, which strangely, sounds like a tax increase.

And on the topic of health care, I also happen to agree with a Wall Street Journal opinion piece calling Obama’s proposal better than what McCain has to offer.

While my choice for this election is broadly based on issues, I believe that one much-maligned item on Barack Obama’s resumé also plays a role: his experience as a community organizer.

When Sarah Palin joked in her acceptance speech about community organizing, and went on to say the world “doesn’t just need an organizer,” it was clear to me she had no concept of what she was criticizing. For generations, community organizers of all stripes have been the best, if not only, way to kickstart meaningful reform and educate regular people about their rights and responsibilities. After eight years of a President who told us to go shopping while he immersed us deeper into war, there are few qualities we need more in a leader than those possessed and practiced by a community organizer. And judging from a campaign that’s registered unprecedented numbers of new voters, it’s clear Barack Obama still knows a thing or two about community organizing.

Which brings me to one last idea my conservative parents have ingrained in me: real change has to come from the people. This year I’m choosing a candidate who not only talks about grassroots change, but also knows how to cultivate it.

Howard Hall

9 thoughts on “Not Spencer: My Evolution on Presidential Politics

  1. Welcome to the fold. :) Seriously, great piece, Howard. You — unlike what seems like most Americans — have given it some real thought and feel confident about your choice now. You should send this to the Obama people.

  2. Welcome to my side of the boat. I’ve always been a Democrat, and a liberal one at that. I prefer the term progressive. I think it’s a shame that Republican party doesn’t have a place for people who aren’t aligned with the ultra-right of their party. There are a ton of people that aren’t fully Democrats, but that would never support the policies of the Republicans.

    That said, I think that Obama provides reasons to vote for him – not simply against McCain. He is a singular candidate compared to anyone we could have had a choice of.

  3. I agree that Obama provides reasons to vote for him. While every election is essentially about a comparison, I find Obama attractive in sort of the same way Christopher Buckley does. Essentially, I want a smart, capable leader, and Obama capsulizes those qualities. Some may see that as an intangible reason, but it’s as good a set of criteria as any on which to choose a president.

  4. Good points all around, especially about the importance of the “organizational” skills. Seems like we’re coming from a similar place in the political spectrum. And indeed, the “smart, capable leader” intangible is what I was trying to bring up as well. It is somewhat of a visceral gut observation, but an extremely important one at this time given our country’s recent history.

  5. Obama has shown an outstanding ability to be both motivational and positive at the same time when he chooses (which is quite often). I think its one of the underplayed reasons why he has the widespread support he has; and why he managed to pull ahead from Clinton in the primary. If elected I hope he continues to channel this even more in office.

  6. The thing that would most disappoint me would be if Obama doesn’t hold to his promise of being a uniter. I know a lot of politicians say this, but very few make it the core of their campaign. It’s time to forget the differences between us – we need to just fix what’s broken.

  7. It seems like in today’s Washington there are forces much greater than one man that can divide. If Obama takes the office, he will immediately have jackyls all over him doing public and underhanded things to undermine him. It seems like today’s legislators will harm the country in order to one-up each other. I hope he can staff his administration with good armor.

  8. While I have doubts that any mere human could overcome the divisive climate of recent political times, I hope for the unity Obama promotes.

    I firmly believe the only way to overcome the divisiveness is by mobilizing a significant portion of the public to create a more positive atmosphere. This may be where the mentality of a community organizer would be most useful.

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