Oct 24, 2008 - 10:59 AM
This is a post for the Youth Media Blog-a-Thon hosted by Youth Outlook and Wiretap. This month's topic is, fittingly, the election. Oh Dang! contributor Darren Chapel explains why he's voting for Obama.
Like most everyone, I've taken an unusual interest in the upcoming presidential election. For the first time, I find myself scouring the papers everyday for news about the candidates and what's going on. I even sat through all of the boring debates that I usually can't stand. It's not that before this race I didn't care much about politics, quite the opposite. I guess I feel like this is an election that Americans will look back on as a turning point when the U.S. began to make serious social changes—when we began to seriously worry about providing health care to all working people and think deeper about the impact of our foreign policy decisions. I'm tired of the rest of the world hating us and thinking we're all red-necks from the "Heartland."
Young people in particular feel like we have a candidate that we can finally trust, one that will represent people with fewer opportunities equally. The last eight years have been such a mess that lots of kids feel like we simply can't trust any politician. What the Republicans have been calling socialist ideas in the past few weeks is such obvious political bullshit to get back in the race that even Republicans themselves are criticizing it. The truth is that Obama, starting as a Chicago community organizer, knows about social injustice and economic hardship more than anyone else in the race. "Spreading out the wealth" as he calls it, is just another way of evening the playing field that has long been slanted. Rich folks will still be rich if he's elected, maybe they’ll have smaller yachts, but they'll still be rich. But people from the lowest rings of economic opportunity will see some hope. This is true because of a few important points.
First off: Obama wants to heavily invest in education. In California we appreciate that because our public education system is completely messed up. McCain says he would keep spending the same, but Obama wants to increase it by $18 million. It's a steep price tag, especially when the economy is in the gutter, but an investment in strong education is an investment in the future. It's also an investment in a strong economy down the road. If we see improvement in struggling schools, more people, mainly people of color from poor neighborhoods, will have a better opportunity to get into college. Also, scholarships from the federal government would be easier to get.
Second: health care. I'm tired of hearing people say that the government should have no say in providing health care. What? We're the richest country in the world and lots of people can't go to a doctor when they're sick. Obama doesn't want to have open hospitals where anyone can walk in off the street—that's a great idea but it would be close to impossible in this country. What he wants is for working people who are hit hardest by this economic crisis to be able to stay covered if they can't get insurance from work. Is that really too much to ask for? The richest country in the world should be able to take care of its working class. Period.
Finally: a commitment to aid large urban cities. These are places where incredible wealth is accompanied by heartbreaking poverty. Obama knows this. He promises to establish an office of urban policy dedicated to ensuring that all federal cash given to big cities is spent on the most effective programs. Essentially it would be a watchdog group that makes sure the money gets to people who need it most. The underlying theme is that Obama understands the need for social spending instead of, say, military spending that we've been dishing out for the last six years.
These are just a few quick ideas about why I'm voting for Obama. Above all, he excites me and makes me think if he's elected, the rest of the world will start to think we aren't so damn stupid. On the flip side, I respect John McCain and think he's a good guy. I would have registered to vote in 2004 and voted for him over John Kerry without thinking twice. There was nothing exciting about that guy. And finally, Sarah Palin scares the hell out of me. To think that we could potentially have someone that inexperienced and stupid running our country is unbelievable. We have a great opportunity ahead of us as a country, and I believe Americans will act on it because we are ready for some serious changes. And, I suppose, anything is better than what we've got now.
Darren Chapel is a 22-year-old graduate of the San Francisco State University journalism department.