Update: It is tomorrow.
I've been thinking long and hard about politics this week. Perhaps I have been spending too much time focused on Republicans getting beat than I have on which Democrat may enter the White House. That may have been a subconscious effort on my part to avoid examining the Democratic race because I might realize just how disappointed I am.
Honestly, I was a LOT more excited and focused on the Democratic lineup back in the early days when it was wide open. As with the 2004 race, I immediately threw my support to Dennis Kucinich because he best represents the kind of real change I want in this country. Never mind the fact that I knew he didn't stand a chance; at that phase of the process it's about me getting the most bang from my convictions and principles.
At that time there were two levels of politics playing out in my mind: the ideal and the real. Kucinich was the ideal but John Edwards was the real. At least he had a reasonable chance and even though he was not my ideal, I could at least be very excited at the prospect of an Edwards administration after 8 years of being Bushwhacked.
I clung to Kucinich as a loyal supporter until he officially dropped out of the race and then I began to support Edwards more publicly. His message in the debates was light years ahead of what I was hearing from Clinton or Obama -- at least in terms of issues I most wanted to hear about: poverty, corporate power, etc.
I definitely want to get us out of Iraq and I absolutely want health care reform, but those are safe issues that cover a broad swath of America, and that's how politicians appeal to the masses most efficiently. How many people making $60,000+ a year are really going to be gung-ho about actually doing something to reduce poverty and homelessness in this country? How many of those same people really view corporations as being out-of-control with a greater emphasis on stockholders than workers?
Families with incomes under $30,000 -- and we have a lot of those -- are most certainly interested, but they also stand to benefit from health care reform and universal coverage, assuming we ever have it, so at least that group is being placated by all the candidates with some ray of hope and change.
As I watched the debates in which Edwards stirred me passionately only to see him continue to pull a distant 3rd place finish in primary after primary, I began to resign myself to the inevitable: we are not likely to see the level of change I had hoped we would.
So when I go into the Texas voting booth on March 4 and touch the screen (aackkk!) for the candidate I feel will best bring my causes and beliefs, morals and convictions, into the White House in 2009, I can assure you I will not be mumbling an Austin Powers "Yeaaaah, baby!" as I step away from the booth. Maybe someday I'll have that moment but this year is not the one.
Last night's debate may not have been very exciting, and it certainly did nothing to sway my gut-feeling expressed three weeks ago about the person on whom I'm most willing to gamble the next 4 years.
Who won the debate is a matter of personal opinion. Who seemed more presidential is less so. Obama is a brilliant and electrifying public speaker when addressing a stadium filled with 17,000 cheering fans. I completely understand why he is attracting so much support and why first-time voters are getting excited. I have to ask myself one question: Are we voting for the next president or a rock star whose medium is the spoken word?
As I watch him in a one-on-one debate, I don't feel the same electricity as I do when he's giving a victory speech after a major primary win. Last night I felt no electricity at all. Simply based on my personal observation, he mostly seemed to be in Hillary's shadow rather than the brazen catalyst of real meaningful change.
Perhaps the decisive factor last night for me was when Obama seemed confident in his mind that he is going to be the nominee and began reaching over the line to the more conservative voters by reminding us we are a "nation at war." Gee, where have I heard that one before?
The person we choose to lead this nation is going to be spending far more time in one-on-one debates and addressing smaller groups who will not be the adoring fans currently filling large stadiums.
In a campaign between two candidates where there doesn't appear to be a hell of a lot to differentiate them from one another, it can become a very superficial decision based on race, gender, personality, or gut-instinct. That is unfortunate. I wanted something substantial and I'm not getting it.
When it boils down to who may be most effective, given our two choices, at going into Washington with the required level of anger and burning passion to kick some ass, I am still confident in my choice. It's just my gut-feeling and yet again, I find myself supporting another underdog for what may only last another two weeks.
Regardless of the outcome on March 4th, or later, I am going to support the Democratic nominee, and barring some enormous gaffe or disclosure of unpalatable information between now and November, I will gladly support that person with my vote. I just wish I were more excited about it. Given my contempt and seething anger after two Bush terms, that is saying one hell of a lot in a short sentence.