Thursday, October 23, 2008

Republicans for Obama - in their own words

There's a wonderful piece in HuffPo today by Eric Hirshberg, who has been making a documentary project called Conservatives for Change. I'll let him explain a bit about the project:

There are a number of people in my life -- some family, some friends, some colleagues -- with whom I have never agreed upon anything political. Ever. These are my political opposites. My bizarre-o twins. And they have been my adversaries in countless debates; the kind nobody ever wins, but nobody ever seems to tire of, either...

...But over the last few months, something unprecedented has happened. Almost all these folks have told me that, for the first time ever, they are voting for the same candidate I am: Barack Obama.

Now, these are not casual conservatives. These are people who, each in their own way, are deeply committed to their conservative beliefs. For most, this will be the first time they have voted for a Democrat in their entire lives. And when taken as a whole, they represent a fair cross section of the Republican Party. Some younger, some older. Some fiscally driven, some culturally driven. But almost all, up until now, have been intractable. Yet here we all are, staring down the barrel of a remarkably nasty presidential election, all in a rare moment of agreement. I figured this simply could not be an anomaly. Perhaps this was a groundswell.

I started asking around and found a number of my liberal friends were having a similar experience. So we asked these folks if they would appear on camera and share with the world why they changed. It seemed to me that the most convincing argument a conservative on the fence could hear might not come from a liberal, or even from Obama himself, but instead, from one of their own; a conservative who had crossed over. So we turned on the camera, and they did the rest.

I find this such a moving piece of video.

Hirshberg is right when he says, "these were more than interviews. These were confessions." These are unscripted pieces, by real people, talking about what it is about McCain that has made them decide not to vote for him - and what it is about Obama that has made them decide to cross over (many for the first time ever) and vote for him instead. It makes for very powerful and emotional viewing.

Seems to me that Obama may be the prefect man at the perfect time.

If Bush hadn't been such an unmitigated disaster, things might have been different. McCain was always going to have an uphill battle to try and distance himself from Bush when he's running for the same party - and has voted with Bush 90% of the time.

But that 10% could have made a difference, particularly with McCain's whole POW/hero/maverick thing going on. And for a long while many Republicans (and some independents and Democrats) seemed to be cool with that, and appeared to be feeling positive about McCain.

But then the McCain campaign seemed to take a wrong turn, and then another, and another.

The Palin pick was an obvious - and enormously important - turning point for many people I think. She's so extreme, and so completely inexperienced, and her part in the campaign has been so mean, and so nasty, that I think it stopped a whole swathe of moderate Republicans, independents and Democrats-for-Hillary in their tracks, and made them think very seriously about the consequences of their vote.

But even then things might have worked out for McCain. After all, Palin had energised the base, and brought the fundamentalists and the neo-cons back into the fold. But then came the economic crisis - and really, that's just about the absolute worst crisis that McCain could have faced, seeing as he's famously said on more than one occasion that economics is not his strong suit.

Continuing that whole "fundamentals of the economy are strong" schtick on the day that Lehman Brothers went belly-up, Merrill Lynch had to be rescued by Bank of America, and insurer AIG went under was a huge mistake in retrospect - and his ridiculous "campaign suspension" to rush off and save the economy (which of course he conspicuously failed to do) was the final nail in the coffin of the people's trust in McCain with regards to all things monetary.

But even with all this flailing around and falling apart of the McCain campaign in recent weeks (including the increasingly negative tone it's been taking), there would still have been (and still are) an enormous number of Republicans supporting him. Because he's the Republican, and that's what you do - you support your guy.

Which is where Obama comes in.

It seems to me that if Obama hadn't been Obama, if he hadn't been the calm, steady, inclusive, fiercely intelligent and thoughtful man that he is, the video on this page could never have been made.

If he hadn't somehow been able to reach out and connect with people on the other side of the aisle, this video could never have been made. If he hadn't in some undefinable way felt trustworthy, or if he hadn't had the ability to make people feel safe, this video could never have been made. And if he hadn't looked so darned Presidential in the debates, and if the contrast between his demeanour and McCain's when viewed side by side hadn't been such a vast and yawning gulf - this video could never have been made.

If he hadn't been this man, with this character, and this intellect, this background and this ability to think strategically; see the big picture; and listen to, talk with and empathise with people all across the political spectrum - this video could never have been made.

I have no doubt that the next 12 days will bring many unexpected plot twists (this whole campaign has felt like a crazy soap opera, after all!). I have no doubt that those in power will not give it up lightly or without a fight. I have no doubt that the negativity will get worse, the lies will get bigger and more outrageous, the tactics will get even dirtier than they are now.

I believe in fate. I believe that some things are Meant to Be. I know that some things in my own life have happened for a reason, and have been the result of so many little twists and turns and coincidences that it certainly feels to me as though they were supposed to happen all along.

I have no idea who will win in the end. I wouldn't dare speculate the way I would like to speculate - 12 days is a long time, and anything could happen - and probably will. It ain't over till the fat lady sings, and all that.

But what I will say is that - right at this precise moment in time, as I sit here writing this - it feels to me as though there's a groundswell of understanding amongst more and more people - and the potential is there for the winds of change to take shape and blow through America, with Barack Obama in the centre - the calm after the storm.

I'd like to give the people who took part in this project a standing ovation. Thank you so much for telling your stories, from the heart. Thank you for being so honest. And more than anything, thank you for thinking about your decision, for weighing up the pros and cons, and for choosing to vote the way that you feel is best for the country.

Thank you Josh, Bob, Eric, Jason, Lora, Jonathan, Kristin and everyone else who made this happen. You can see more of their interviews at Conservatives for Change.


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