November 1, 2008

U.S. Presidential election - I support Barack Obama

Readers of this blog must have guessed it by now that I support Senator Barack Obama to become the next President of the United States. If not, here is my unambiguous support for his candidacy.

The 2008 U.S. Presidential election, and the last 21 months of campaigning by the two major parties, has been truly historic for several reasons. Millions of voters participated in an unprecedented Democratic party primary. And now, history will be made irrespective of who wins the election on Tuesday, Nov. 4th. We'll either have the first-ever African-American President in the U.S., or its first-ever female Vice President.

The great news is that even if the Republican candidate Senator John McCain wins, which is looking increasingly unlikely, we'll be better off than the last eight years of his party's U.S. presidency under President George W. Bush.

I guess candidates during every U.S. Presidential election claim that "stakes are the highest," but I truly believe it is true this time. While I support Obama's candidacy for several reasons, here are the three most important ones:
  • Foreign policy: Today we live in a global, connected village, where several aspects of our daily lives can be impacted by decisions taken thousands of miles away in countries on the other side of the planet. The ongoing global financial crisis provides a perfect example of this phenomenon. Senator Obama's foreign policies, temperament, and deliberative approach are the best hope for America to regain the admiration and leadership this country enjoyed throughout the world before September 11, 2001. There were always differences on specific issues, but overall, U.S. enjoyed a very positive image globally, which unfortunately has taken a severe beating during the last eight years of President Bush's administration. America remains the sole super power on the earth, and is also its largest economy. It therefore has the opportunity to be a global leader on critical issues whose impact go beyond national boundaries. With leadership and power, however, comes the responsibility. Even though Senator McCain has better foreign policy credentials and clear advantage in experience over Senator Obama, it's Obama who got widespread endorsements worldwide, not just by global leaders but also by the masses. I believe Obama is the better candidate to heal relations and be the real change agent the world needs at this crucial hour when we're going through a severe global financial crisis, energy shortage, rising food prices, spreading terrorism, and an environmental catastrophe.
Senator Obama addressing a rally in Berlin, Germany on July 24, 2008. Almost ~200,000 Germans showed up. Photo: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press
  • Economy: Senator Obama's economic policies, in my opinion, are more progressive and will achieve a greater balance in creating opportunities and wealth for everyone. Relying solely on the free markets to affect the trickle-down economic benefits has simply not worked. U.S. is the richest country in the world, but while the growth in the U.S economy over the years has been impressive, the fruits of this wealth have not benefited everyone equally. There is now almost an universal acknowledgment that our nation (and planet) are pulling apart economically. The divide between rich and poor has been growing dramatically over the past several decades. By some measure, in real-terms (adjusting for inflation), poor have actually become poorer. If we look at the total wealth, the richest 1% of U.S. households now owns 34.3% of the nation's private wealth, more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90%.
Source: Economic Policy Institute, State of Working America 2006-07, Table 5.1, citing Wolff (2006).
  • Stronger American democracy: The right to vote is probably one of the most important fundamental rights for citizens in a democracy. This is one time when they get a chance to ensure that folks setting and administering policies in their society represent its citizens' interests. However, almost half of the total eligible voters in the U.S. typically do not vote. They don't feel their politicians work for them anymore, and have somewhat lost faith in their government. Senator Obama has energized the masses and provided hope to millions of citizens across the country like not seen in decades. We've witnessed massive surge in new voter registrations all over the country. The picture is especially encouraging amongst young voters, who represent the country's future, and had historically been more dis-enchanted with the electoral process. Higher voter turnout during elections will ensure that the elected President and Congress members represent a greater proportion of our population. This will go a long way in strengthening the U.S. democracy even further.

I lived in the largest democracy in the world (India) for over twenty years before moving to the most effective democracy in the world (U.S.) thirteen years back. This country has provided me tremendous opportunities, and I proudly chose to become a U.S. citizen last year. I am looking forward to casting my first vote in America on Tuesday. I want this government to work for me. I'm sure you also want the same. I therefore urge you to go out, and cast your ballot on Tuesday. If you don't, you lose your right to complain if your leaders disappoint you in how they run the country.

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