Obama, Politics — October 20, 2008 at 9:15 pm

Gen. Powell Gives GOP Permission to Jump Ship


In Washtenaw county, home of Ann Arbor, Michigan, one of the most active community leaders in Senator Obama’s Campaign for Change voted for John McCain in the Michigan primary. He soon became disenchanted by a man who seemed not to care how long our young men and women remain in Iraq and this life-long Republican jumped ship and began working tirelessly for Barack Obama.

In my canvassing of our area, I’ve seen this switch happening time and again. People who have voted for Republicans nearly their whole lives are moving left and embracing a candidate that is thoughtful, deliberate and who has shown he has the temerity and judgement to be president.

Yesterday on Meet the Press, General Colin Powell gave these on-the-fence Republicans cover and permission to do the same.

General Powell’s endorsement of Senator Obama was a ringing one, to be sure.

I come to the conclusion that because of his ability to inspire, because of the inclusive nature of his campaign, because he is reaching out all across America, because of who he is and his rhetorical abilities–and we have to take that into account–as well as his substance–he has both style and substance–he has met the standard of being a successful president, being an exceptional president. I think he is a transformational figure. He is a new generation coming into the world–onto the world stage, onto the American stage, and for that reason I’ll be voting for Senator Barack Obama.

A person of the General’s stature taking the measure of Obama and finding him “a transformational figure” with the ability to be “an exceptional president” may well dispel the doubts of many of the remaining undecided voters. It is my feeling that many of these undecided voters are actually Republicans who are very dissatisfied with their party and its candidate but who are having a very difficult time voting for a Democrat, much less a liberal Democrat.

Powell’s assessment of Obama will go a long way in the minds of these people toward giving him the credibility he needs to gain their vote.

But as flattering as Powell was toward Barack Obama, he did something even more profound, I think: he is giving Republicans permission and even cover to leave their party, many for the first time. His rebuke of the Republican was sharp.

I have some concerns about the direction that the party has taken in recent years. It has moved more to the right than I would like to see it, but that’s a choice the party makes…

I also believe that on the Republican side over the last seven weeks, the approach of the Republican Party and Mr. McCain has become narrower and narrower. Mr. Obama, at the same time, has given us a more inclusive, broader reach into the needs and aspirations of our people. He’s crossing lines–ethnic lines, racial lines, generational lines. He’s thinking about all villages have values, all towns have values, not just small towns have values…

I look at these kinds of approaches to the campaign and they trouble me. And the party has moved even further to the right, and Governor Palin has indicated a further rightward shift. I would have difficulty with two more conservative appointments to the Supreme Court, but that’s what we’d be looking at in a McCain administration. I’m also troubled by, not what Senator McCain says, but what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, “Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.” Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. He’s always been a Christian. But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. Is there something wrong with some seven-year-old Muslim-American kid believing that he or she could be president? Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, “He’s a Muslim and he might be associated terrorists.” This is not the way we should be doing it in America.

Republicans I have spoken with, people who are conservative on fiscal matters while holding more liberal social views currently find themselves without a party to represent their views. A coworker of mine wrote this to me:

I am not a Democrat at all but the Republicans don’t represent my views, either. What do I do with that? I am starting my own new party. Fiscally cheap, uber-proactive environmentally, strong on defense (but not the world bully) and completely liberal on just about everything else. I think it would catch on…

I think he’s right and I think that the more he studies his options, he’ll find Senator Obama far more to his liking than he realizes. People like him have been abandoned by their party. Traditional fiscal conservative values espoused by the Goldwater/Reagan wing of the Republican party have been swept away by big-spending, nation-building neocons. And the “compassionate conservatism” that attracted many to the party over a decade ago has also been rejected in favor of a nationalistic, combative worldview that rejects diplomacy and seems to take a perverted pride in flaunting world opinion.

These are the people who General Powell spoke to yesterday. He’s letting them know that they can feel safe supporting Senator Obama, that our country will be served well by him and, under his leadership, our country can once again return to a role in the world where we are a powerful force for good on the global scale.

This, for me, was the first of many steps Colin Powell will need to take to redeem himself for his complicity in the debacle of the past eight years. But it was a BIG step and I cheer him for it.

And I welcome my Republican friends to join me in supporting Senator Barack Obama for President.

I’m just sayin’…