Why Voters Aren’t 100% Sold On Obama

Most polls report that 11% or so of the populace remains undecided a week outside the election. I don’t believe it. People have decided alright–they’re just afraid to say it. Have you ever seen so much peer pressure to vote a certain way?

Smart, nuanced, enlightened, informed, hopeful, and “with it” people vote for Barack Obama. He is the change everybody who’s anybody believes in.

There is much momentum for Barack Obama. He is the physical, visual representation of change: he’s young, multi-racial and an able communicator. He is the literal ideal that the Civil Right’s era Baby Boomers fought for. And all Americans (well, nearly all) are thrilled that Barack Obama has done well. He symbolizes the idea that the American Dream is possible for ANY ONE. That’s a lot of peer pressure to vote for him.

Still, the polls are close. So close, in fact, that Barack Obama wants to seal the deal by persuading the electorate via a 30 minute boring video that emphasizes how boring and dull and reliable and dependable and intelligent and middle class and just-like-you Barack Obama is. And Barack Obama’s form is just like me. I don’t doubt it. He has a wife and kids and went to (a black supremest) church and lives in a middle class (million dollar) home and has a (Harvard) college education and believes in economic “fairness” (redistribution) and had his political career launched by a (former terrorist) college professor. He looks like you and me, he just has some rather intense personal views. His form is just like me. His substance….

Let’s face it. It’s a relief listening to Barack Obama. He doesn’t have the verbal ticks of George W. Bush. He looks good coming off a plane. He has that je ne sais quoi Kennedy cool thing going. And frankly, it’s tiresome defending a president when it’s painful to watch a press conference or see a big government policy pour forth from a supposed-conservative. Why not vote Obama?

That’s just it. Even in HD, substance matters. Barack Obama looks and sounds good but his substance counts. These are troubled times.

The economic problems of the world will come back around. Or, stupid policies will continue the implosion. But the problems are too big for any one person to handle. Heck, they’re too big for Congress to handle. The world economy has a life of its own. If the President had such control, he could have lowered oil prices six months ago to head off the economic tightening, but he couldn’t. Just as he couldn’t control the sell-off of oil today. It’s beyond the President to manipulate such things as much as we’d like to imbue our leaders with that power.

The president does, however, control our response to military attacks. He will decide how and when to bring troops home. He will see the movements of our enemies and ostensible friends and make decisions based on what he sees. He will have to cut through the cacophony of voices and make a decision. In fact, in this fraught world, he’ll make many of them. And the decisions will come from a storage of life experience. And in this world, it comes down to trust.

While the press and pundits kvetch about economic turmoil, the reality of geo-politics looms as a backdrop. I remember the economic damage 9/11 did all the way here in Texas. There were empty parking lots as people sat home, afraid. It is absolutely ridiculous to be so near-sighted as to ignore this fact.

I don’t think Americans ignore this fact. This concern bubbles underneath all the “it’s the economy stupid” talk. And it’s why the race isn’t over yet. Americans want a president who has an instinct to self-sacrifice for the country. For McCain, that instinct isn’t theoretical, it’s real. And, it matters.

Here is something that I have not doubted about Reagan, Bush I, Clinton and GW Bush: they adore their country. Jimmy Carter? Well, I’m not so sure he likes America so much. That love covers a multitude of sins. Disagree with policies or appointments or other executive decisions, but if Americans believe that the president loves America, much can be forgiven.

Does Barack Obama love America? It seems like he feels that America has potential but is a fixer-upper. A little tweak here, a big tweak there and America can be a great country…one the world will finally love and one he can finally delight in. Here’s what leads me to this conclusion:

The change rhetoric reveals much. America is wrong and must be changed to be correct.

The fairness rhetoric reveals much. America is unfair and must be forced to be fair.

The neighborliness rhetoric reveals much. America is un-neighborly and greedy and needs to be more sharing.

The hope rhetoric reveals much. America, the way it is, is hopeless.

The legislative justice rhetoric reveals much. America is unjust and must be coerced to be just.

The words come from a heart of beliefs and none of them extol American virtue. Rather, the words belie an unease with America.

These turns of phrases flit in the back of voters’ minds. The idea seems to be foment discontent and focus on the worst in order to create an environment ripe for a savior. It tastes good to blame rich people, Wall Street, and those people, whomever they are, making a person’s life difficult. It tastes good going down, but there is an aftertaste. A person has to accept that America is bad and needs to be fixed rather than America is great and can always get better.

These subtleties are difficult to articulate, but they’re there. And that’s why voters aren’t sold on Obama. At least, it’s part of the reason.

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