The Great Need of the Moment

Move over Caroline. Step aside Ted. In what will likely have little to no discernible impact on the 2008 Presidential race whatsoever, it’s time for me to announce my endorsement for President. Operation Obama Bumper is underway:

Ah, come on, you can’t say you didn’t see it coming, can you? If in two and a half years of blogging I’ve ever given any of you the impression I was a lockstep conservative who always voted Republican, then I apologize for I have completely failed you as a writer. As I’ve indicated before, here and here for instance, I start thinking in the middle and work my way toward the edges pro re nata–as needed.

Ultimately, I’m a pragmatist, not an ideologue.

Some crazy, Deeply Southern law professor mailed the sticker to me in an envelope addressed to “Dr. Mike the Eyeguy.” That was a first for me.

Placing a bumper sticker on my car is also a first. It’s been on 2 weeks and so far, no thumbs up, no obscene gestures. But it’s early, and I haven’t ventured outside the Huntsville city limits yet. I think I surprised a few family members, but they’re dealing with it, just like they do all my midlife mini-crises. Eyegal had this to say: “I didn’t think we were bumper sticker people.”

And she had a very good point. I mean, for Pete’s sake, the kids were always on us about how we never put one of those soccer magnets on the Family Truckster or painted their names on the back window when one of them made an all-star team, so why a bumper sticker all of a sudden?

Basically, it boils down to what I would call The Great Need of the Moment. And to me, that’s a nimble, nuanced mind, a President who can recognize the paradoxical times that we live in (the need for “both/and” rather than “either/or” solutions) and who can lead a broad spectrum of Americans, from people of faith to hardcore secularists to everyone in between.

Frankly, I don’t care if the person with this skill set is to the right or left of center because we all know that our system ensures that you’ve got to lead pretty much from the middle these days anyway.

Having looked at this year’s candidates, it appears to me that Barack Obama fits those criteria better than any of the rest.

And there’s another reason too. I think politics is a little like working on eyeballs, and when I’m in the clinic, I try to keep it simple: If something’s working, don’t change it; if it’s not, then try something different. Sometimes I follow the book, sometimes I chuck it out the window. There are times to “stay the course,” and there are times when you need some fresh blood and new ideas.

Also, my independent streak is apparently in my DNA. My dad was a postal worker and union secretary who voted for John Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon (twice) and Jimmy Carter. Had he lived to see the day, I’m pretty sure he would have voted for Ronald Reagan. His son did–twice. So, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Could I be wrong? Sure! And I don’t have any illusions that Obama, or any other candidate for that matter, can deliver on all the promises and rhetoric. Ultimately, I follow the Psalmist’s cues and don’t “put my trust in princes.” But the way I look at it, if you’ve got to live under one, you might as well go with somebody who has a keen intelligence and a good command of the King’s English.

Barack Obama has the rare gift to inspire, and looking around, it appears to me that the country could use a little fresh air as well as a fresh face to represent us abroad.

Of course, many will feel that they can’t support him on the basis of some of his liberal social views, such as his defense of the abortion status quo. And hey, that’s fine; I understand that, I respect that, and at the end of the day, you’ve got to follow where your conscience leads you.

But I still contend that if Obama was a Republican, had a less-funny sounding name, was a few pounds heavier, a war hero and wore a green suit with 4 stars on his shoulders, that conservative Christians would line up in droves to vote for him. All of a sudden, many of those “black and white” moral issues would become “complex and nuanced conundrums on which reasonable people might disagree.”

Ultimately, this may turn out to be a quixotic quest, but it’s fun to jump into the fray and throw my support behind someone. Is it my imagination, or is everyone much more engaged and excited this time around?

Someone asked me how long I was going to keep the sticker on. I said “at least through Super Tuesday” and perhaps beyond. Someone else asked, “And if he doesn’t get nominated?” Well, if that happens, who knows, there may be another bumper sticker waiting in the wings. The nice thing about this go round is there are potentially several candidates whom I might feel comfortable voting for.

But in the meantime, I’m looking forward to showing up at the polls come Super Tuesday and, for the first time in a long time, feeling excited about voting for a candidate–rather than simply holding my nose and voting against one.

  1. Mike the Eyeguy

    I’m leaving the comments open, but I won’t be able to reply during the day. But I’ll be watching. It’s fine to disagree (dialectic is the spice of life), but keep it short and sweet–and charitable.

    If you feel that you must post a 20-bullet list on why Obama is the next AntiChrist, then please, just…don’t 🙂

  2. Scott

    Sweet. This was worth going through that annoying registration to comment.

    And I’m pretty sure it was your endorsement that made Edwards bow out.

  3. tarwater

    “we all know that our system ensures that you’ve got to lead pretty much from the middle these days anyway”

    We do? How do you explain Reagan?

    And do you think the center is a static point? Do you think the ‘center’ is more conservative or more liberal (or neither) than it was 50 years ago?

  4. ME

    There’s definitely something strange going on here.

    Walking form the HU Student Center to my office yesterday, three people came up to me and whispered that they like Barack Obama. Two of them were HU employees.

    Normally, on the Harding campus, people are running over things to tell me why they hate the candidate I’m supporting.

    In the 20 years I’ve been here, I’ve never seen this much excitement among my students for a candidate of either party.

    I’ll echo what Scott said — there’s something funky with logging onto WordPress. People complain about it at my site all the time.

    Rock on, Eyeguy!

  5. greg

    have you been to church with it yet? 🙂

  6. JRB

    Tarwater, are you suggesting that Reagan did not govern from the center?

    I suggest that the center moved to the right during the Reagan/Bush years, moved back to middle during the Clinton years, after 1996, and has been moving past center to the left, just a little bit, since 2003.

  7. tarwater

    JRB, Are you suggesting that Reagan did not govern as a principled conservative?

    I will let Eyeguy comment before moving on.


  8. bpb

    Don’t you think the church of Christ will withdraw fellowship from you for this??? Laugh, but I’m serious. In Limestone County, I KNOW it could happen.

  9. Mike the Eyeguy


    I’ll leave it to JRB and others smarter than me to speculate on where the center was, is and will be.

    But as to whether President Reagan was forever faithful to his core conservative principles or instead played the pragmatist and tacked toward the center on occasion, perhaps this, this and this will provide some insight.

  10. Mike the Eyeguy

    Greg and bpb–no arguments in the hall or disfellowship, and I wouldn’t expect any. But I did catch someone staring at it in the church parking lot the other day. I think they were jealous.

    Plus, I’m not sure, but I think my bid for elder probably just got derailed.

  11. Mike the Eyeguy

    Besides with a name like “Obama” how could I not support him?

    Get it? “O Bama!”

    Roll, Obama, Roll.

  12. Stoogelover

    You’ve gone and violated a cardinal rule: Never discuss religion, professional wrestling, or politics and in the course of your blog history you’ve managed to discuss two out of three. Many years ago Yancey’s book on “What’s So Amazing About Grace?” helped me see God’s grace covers political differences as well. From all I see, Obama is a decent and honest man of integrity … but I can’t buy into his politics. Not that anyone on the other side of the fence excites me … I’d take Obama over Billary any day, though!

  13. Mike the Eyeguy


    I’ve always said that politics was basically “professional wrestling in suits.”

    I take solace in the fact that regardless of who occupies the Oval Office, those of us in the trenches will keep showing up to work every day and making sure that people get buried when they’re supposed to and that those lucky enough to still be walking around can see.

  14. bpb

    Stoogelover, what do you mean, “From all I see, Obama is a decent and honest man of integrity … but I can’t buy into his politics.”

    Yes, Eyeguy, I think you can pretty much kiss the eldership goodbye. You’ll be lucky if they let you continue to attend. haha We had a deacon’s wife that had “Morality Matters, Vote Republican” on her website. UGH

  15. tarwater

    Eyeguy said: “But I still contend that if Obama was a Republican, had a less-funny sounding name, was a few pounds heavier, a war hero and wore a green suit with 4 stars on his shoulders, that conservative Christians would line up in droves to vote for him.”

    In other words those conservative Christians are blindly tied to spurious categories like Republican and Democrat, and are prejudiced by superficial things like name and weight and are hence unable to judge based on a man’s merit?

    Or could it be that most of them think very highly of Mr. Obama as a man, they admire his life story and accomplishments in the face of great odds. They also know he is a master of rhetoric. Elegant, gentlemanly, young, bright, and winsome. And yet perhaps they are persuaded as much by what a man does as by what he says. And they know that he has shown, by his voting record and policy statements, to be in almost lockstep with the likes of Ted Kennedy, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, Paul Sarbanes, Barbara Boxer, John Kerry, and Hillary Clinton. And they think that these people have a wrongheaded notion of what is best for America. That the Democratic machine is dominated by secular humanists (they remember how shamefully they treated Governor Bob Casey at the 1992 Democratic Convention for his sin of being Pro-Life), and that you fill the whole of the Executive Branch of government with a Party and not just a man.

    Perhaps these conservative Christians think that the very foundation of this great experiment of liberty and freedom that is America is threatened when basic human rights are denied to the most vulnerable and innocent of those in the human family. And they remember the words of Mother Teresa on what is the greatest destroyer of peace in our day. And they know intuitively that is was hubris on the Supreme Court that silenced and erased the very heart of democracy, the consent of the governed, when they took it upon themselves to abort the legitimate deliberative process and legislate from the bench in Roe. And they even remember that on the cusp of returning that power to the people by overturning such an unjust decision that the Democratic machine, in all it bitterness and vituperativeness, in a horrific display of lies, failed to confirm the highly qualified and honorable Judge Robert Bork and later tried the same thing with the honorable Judge Clarence Thomas. Perhaps they remember.

    Perhaps some of these conservatives think they can see beyond the rhetoric and believe a tiger does not change his stripes. Perhaps they think ideas have consequences and they know that the ideas of government espoused by Ted Kennedy, and very likely those who have the same kind of voting record, lead into a darker place. Perhaps some of these conservatives actually vote based on principles and they know that the principles of the Democratic party at this time in history are very nearly diametrically opposed to theirs.

    At least it is a possibility?

  16. JRB

    Reagan raised taxes to fund social security. Reagan ran up massive budget deficits to fund the military build-up to face down the Soviets. Now, I’m not objecting to either, but neither seem like principled conservatism. I’m ambivalent on Reagan, but I do think that he served a necessary historical prerogative in the 1980s. I do not think, or care, if he was a principled conservative, because he was moreso a pragmatist, maybe more conservative than not, but he governed from the middle, not from the right, despite the rhetoric.

    I fear that the right has so canonized him that Reagan’s administration becomes the definition of conservatism, rather that an example of a conservative politician governing.

    So, you’re saying that the Republicans wouldn’t vote for Colin Powell?

  17. tarwater

    JRB, I think President Reagan is a fascinating subject and the only substantive President we have had since FDR, and I am completely willing to carry on the discussion about his legacy. Perhaps a new thread can be started to do just that? Meanwhile I had hoped to bring the nearly equally interesting subject of Mr. Obama and those droves of conservative Christians to the forefront as we ponder the Great Need of the Moment.


  18. tarwater

    BTW, JRB I have posted over on the Obama on Faith thread and would be delighted to hear your thoughts.

  19. Mike the Eyeguy

    tw–it’s a possibility–yea, a probability–that many principled, conservative Christians such as yourself (with very, very long memories) would heed your call to be true to the very core of their pro-life beliefs, regardless of the attractiveness or giftedness of the candidate.

    But…I was obviously alluding to Colin Powell–who was of course very moderate and very pro-choice–and I believe that had he run as the Republican nominee in ’96, he would have beat Clinton with the help of a large percentage of the conservative evangelical and Catholic vote.

    And, yes, I think that if Obama were more like Powell–a figure with some military or other conservative cred–that there would be many conservative, pro-life Christians who would be burning up some brain cells trying to figure out a way to vote for him.

    Now I will admit that there is no way I can prove that. Just call it a hunch.

  20. Bill Gnade

    My dear Michael!

    Say it ain’t so! You mean, you support the Obama-nation?!

    My Obama sticker is off my car; I tried to have an Obama sign on the end of my driveway but I was afraid that I’d attract real liberals who’d rat me out as an impostor.

    Indeed, the man is eminently likable. But I am having something of a change of heart, not just about Barack but about everybody. And one of the things that has effected me is Shelby Steele’s must-read book, “White Guilt.” Egads, Mike, it is shattering my presuppositions in a big way!

    I don’t know if you know who Steele is, but he is a conservative black intellectual, born of a white mother (just like Mr. Obama). He is simply brilliant, and the book has me reeling. He was interviewed recently by Bill Moyers (did you see it? you must!) about his newest book on Barack Obama, called “The Bound Man.” Since “White Guilt” came out in 2006, I suspect it is a good primer to what he posits in this newest release. I can’t wait to get through this book so I can get on with the next.

    Anyhow, I am with you throughout your fine post, including your quiet ambivalence. It is hard to resist great ideals, isn’t it? But I am fearing that Barack is all form and no substance. Who knows?

    Peace and mirth,


  21. Mike the Eyeguy

    “Who Knows?”

    Well, nobody does for sure–that’s the only thing that’s for sure. This little joy ride I’m on is not without risk, but I’m driving with my eyes wide open.

    Read widely, Bill–I know you do. For instance, read this review of Steele’s “Bound Man” by George Will (who, in his apparent disgust over current Republican prospects, has been curiously pro-Obama).

    And while you’re at it, check out Jeffrey Hart’s conversion story as well.

    I’m glad you picked up on my “quiet ambivalence.” I think you know of my track record as a skeptic–but sometimes it feels good to take a chance, even if there is a risk of getting burned.

    Peace and mirth always and forever–especially through 8 years of a Democratic administration. Which is what I think we’re looking at here. Just consider Obama a firewall contra another 8 years of you-know-who.

  22. Bill Gnade

    Dear Mike,

    As you know, I think, from my blog, I’ve tried to be largely pro-Obama since he and his wife began visiting NH. I’ve admitted that he charms and inspires me; I’ve admitted that he also scares me. Nonetheless, I have a mostly favorable view of the man.

    Admittedly, my praise and respect of the man is born in opposition: as someone who generally finds himself in the conservative camp, I am fundamentally opposed to a Hillary Clinton presidency. No wonder, then, that I find myself cheering for her opponent.

    Here’s what George Will has said about Shelby Steele:

    “Shelby Steele is America’s clearest thinker about America’s most difficult problem.”

    Perhaps Mr. Will is correct in his recent review of “A Bound Man;” perhaps Mr. Steele radically misreads Mr. Obama. But I don’t think Mr. Will would assert that Mr. Steele is wrong about why whites are attracted to Mr. Obama. Perhaps that is why Mr. Will’s blurb (above) is on the jacket cover of “White Guilt.”

    My wife and I found Mr. Steele’s observations remarkably trenchant and insightful in his interview with Bill Moyers, and there was no doubt Mr. Moyers was taken with them too. This proves nothing, of course; perhaps, if anything, it proves that our white guilt must find a man like Mr. Steele interesting and persuasive.

    My feeling is that Mr. Obama MUST be opposed by many in the liberal establishment, especially the black arm of it, because his elevation to the presidency would severely weaken liberal anger over what it perceives as institutional racism. If Mr. Obama wins the White House, what does that say about race in this country; how will Mr. Sharpton spin that victory? Will he claim that Mr. Obama is really a figure of white atonement, of white guilt finally absolving itself? Surely someone will pull out of the record — as reported in the fascinating “Destiny’ Child” article in Rolling Stone — that Mr. Obama’s leading initial support came from middle-aged WHITE women in focus groups.

    I am living in the heart of Obama-nation right here in southwestern NH. This region of the state had huge voter turnout — 78% in my town alone. In those towns with the highest turnout — high turnout usually signaling an informed electorate — Mr. Obama won nearly (and actually) 2 to 1: It was an Obama landslide in these here parts. Towns outside the region with the lowest turnout (46%)– and the most working class voters — went to Mrs. Clinton. Perhaps you have read the exit polls which show that generally the wealthiest and most well-educated voters went with Mr. Obama while poorer, less-educated voters went with Mrs. Clinton. Fascinating stuff, for sure. But my overall point is that I am surrounded by Obama enthusiasts; I have family members working his campaign. His is a contagious and interesting campaign. How could it not be? He’s 46, too!

    And I find myself connecting with liberal acquaintances in a much more open and interesting way than in previous years. Perhaps that is due — and I fear this — not so much because we are united in Mr. Obama’s candidacy but we are all earnestly praying Mrs. Clinton loses. (A Clinton loss opens up other problems to me, actually.)

    And I DID have an Obama sticker on my car.

    Peace and all proper merriment,

    Bill Gnade

    Go, Duke! (I got that right, no?)

  23. Mike the Eyeguy

    Now Bill. I know for a fact that Ann Coulter endorsed HRC this week. I know how much you admire AC’s intellect, rapier wit, her long, luc…well, suffice to say, there’s a lot about AC that you admire. You are going to vote for the most conservative candidate…aren’t you? 😉

    Of course, I say all that with as much mirth as I can possibly muster early this Saturday morning.

    We are living in interesting times. May we all keep our eyes wide open!

    And yes, Go Duke! That never goes out of fashion, regardless of which way the political winds blow!

    And Bill, even though I along with most of the rest of the nation living southwest of the Massachusetts state line are united in rooting for the Giants, I’ll even throw this in: Go Patriots!

    Because I know they will go, go, go and that it will make one Bill Gnade very, very happy.

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