Why I'm Voting for Obama

With Super Tuesday fast approaching I thought it would be good to share some of the reasons I’m voting for Barack Obama in the democratic primary. But before the details I think it’s important to explain my end goal.

I want to be happy. And some of the basic things I think I need to be happy are:
  • A safe environment to live and raise my kids
  • The ability to put healthy food on the table
  • Economic opportunity and stability
  • Access to affordable health care

Regardless of political leanings most people agree that they want these things but they often differ on the best way to get them. My take is that the tenets of happiness are all connected and policies around economics, education, foreign interactions, investment in technology, health care, and freedom of speech (to name a few) are critical to the attainment of happiness.

So why will I vote for Obama? Because since I started following him in mid 2006 everything I’ve learned about Senator Obama has shown me that he is by far the most effective decision maker of the candidates. Moreover, he understands and acts on the connection between the issues that effect overall happiness and the future of our nation and planet.

Here are a few specifics...


Experience and Decision Making Ability

The point of having experience is to improve ones decision making skills. The premise is that experience gives a person time to learn, make mistakes, improve and make better decisions in the future.

I keep hearing people say that Obama doesn’t have experience. While I agree that Senator Obama has not had the experience of stewing in Washington DC for 20 years it is clear to me that he has exactly the right experience for today’s challenges.

Senator Obama had a diverse background where he lived in different parts of the world, and got first hand experience with different cultures. My guess is that that experience was a major contributor to his opposition to the war in Iraq.

But let’s be specific. In 2002 the majority of politicians (including Clinton and McCain) voted to give the president permission to attack Iraq. And we can’t just blame them. The majority of Americans and the media were extremely supportive of war as well. I remember thinking that war wasn’t a very good idea, and yet the majority of the population and media coverage were so supportive of war that I remember feeling the palpable pressure to keep my mouth shut. And I did… And so did almost everyone…

Obama didn’t keep quiet (video). At the same time the administration was claiming that a war in Iraq would last days or weeks, Obama was opposing the war and describing the exact conditions that would occur years down the road. His accuracy in predicting the future is stunning.

Watch this 3 minute interview from 2002 and make sure to keep reminding yourself that he made these predictions before the first bomb was dropped.

That is the kind of experience I want from my president.



Network Neutrality and Free Speech

To most people Network Neutrality is not a big deal. If for no other reason, than it doesn’t translate into something people understand. Abortion… People get abortion… But what is Network Neutrality?

It’s pretty simple… Network Neutrality is the idea that the Internet is a level playing field. Whether you are a guy with a blog (like me) or Rupert Murdock, everyone can access your content. People who oppose Network Neutrality want to levy a charge on content providers (that would be me and my blog) in order for me to make their content available. Effectively opponents of Net Neutrality are attempting to put monetary barriers on the single greatest step forward in freedom of speech since the printing press. How is that a good thing?

Obama understands the link between free speech and Network Neutrality and is an aggressive supporter of Network Neutrality. He talks about it here in this podcast which itself is a great example of how Obama leverages the freedom of the internet to share ideas.

That’s the kind of technology leadership I want from my president.


Government Transparency

Most of the deals in Washington are being driven by money behind closed doors. Obama pushed the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act of 2006. It basically makes the information about what the government is funding (including pet projects like the bridge to nowhere) easily accessible.

This isn’t a question of "Did he or did he not" support transparency in government. He didn’t just support it, he lead a change toward greater transparency in our government.

That’s the kind of leadership and transparency I want from my president.


Health Care

Our economy and overall well being is tied to our citizen’s ability to access health care. The US currently spends ~16% of our GDP on Health Care. That is staggeringly large compared to all other countries especially considering what a mess our health care system is. The point of having universal health care is so that people can have a sense of stability and security and are able to improve their quality of life instead of struggling to pay medical bills.

There are two approaches to “Universal Health Care” on the table in the democratic primaries which I’ll refer to as Clinton and Obama since they are the ones making the proposals. The one major difference between the Clinton and Obama plans is how they get people health care.

The Clinton plan makes it a law that people have to purchase health insurance. If you don’t purchase it you get fined... They are doing this in Massachusetts now. I have health care, but it didn’t make me feel any better when I got a postcard from the MA government saying that if I didn’t make sure I had health care by this year that I was going to be fined.

So yes, this will get people to purchase health insurance, but does that really help people that don’t have it? If they didn’t have the money before how is that going to change? To me it sounds like a great way to put more money into Health Insurance company pockets.

Obama’s plan is focused on reducing the costs of health care. No fines for people that can’t afford it. Instead of making people give more of their money to health insurance companies he’s focusing on reducing the costs.

And can he get it done? At his talk at Google he described how he’d get it done and I am very impressed. Jump to the time index 57:02 in this video and stick around for how he ties it back to health care legislation (~4 minutes total)

So I find Obama’s approach to health care much more realistic. Instead of creating new fines and tax code to make sure people buy health insurance from health insurance companies, he’s addressing the core problems of heath care which is the cost and level of care and he has a way to do it.

This is the sort of nuanced understanding of the issues that I want from my president.



The Environment

The concept of global warming, sustainability and the environment doesn’t make sense to a lot of people. When you compare the need to eat and get heath care with something as abstract as global climate change, food and health win every time...

I’ve invested a lot of time into learning about my ecological footprint and taken some steps to become a more environmentally friendly citizen... But the best thing I can do, even better than changing light bulbs, recycling, or eating locally is to vote for Obama.

The reason is because individual environmental action is a useful thing, but in the end we will only be successful in creating a planet we can live on in the future if we break the connection between energy, consumption and fossil fuels. As long as coal, oil and natural gas are the way we get energy, all the good-will and eco-nuts in the world won’t make a dent.

India and China want. Really want... They are much bigger than the US. And just like the US, they are willing to burn fossil fuels to get what they want.

We need our government to step up investments in sustainable energy production. If we can break the connection between energy and pollution then it will be possible to satiate growth while creating in a sustainable environment and a place to live and be happy.

Obama votes and is planning for an aggressive investment in clean energy technologies. It's exactly this sort of investment that is needed to break the bond between fossil fuels and energy. And it has the added bonus of stimulating a new sector of the economy where the US can lead!

Quite simply, he gets it and acts on it. And that’s the kind of leadership I want from my president.



Obama Inspires People To Take Action

Frankly, I want to be inspired and I want to be challenged. When things get tough I don’t want to hear that I should go shopping. I don’t want to hear about fighting republicans. I want to be challenged. I want to work with people towards something. I want to strive for a better world.

When I listen to Obama, when I dig into the details of his past behavior, and when I watch how he challenges and galvanizes people to strive for something better I’m inspired. There's a vision of a better future, a way to get there, and a leader that can focus people on a common goal.

For all those reasons and a bunch more, Barack Obama is the leader I want for my president.