An Election of Firsts

It’s only the first week of January, there’s only been one primary and one caucus, and already this is shaping up to be one of the most exciting presidential elections in history.

Illinois has its primary election on Tuesday, February 5.  I still haven’t decided who will get my vote, and may not decide for at least another week or so.  My decisions hinge on a very small margin of issues vs. passion vs. viability as a candidate.  Certainly I’d like to vote for someone like Dennis Kucinich, who clearly is the favorite when it comes to gay-related issues; but in the public’s eye he never was a strong candidate to begin with, and his viability as a candidate is losing ground by the day.  John Edwards would be another strong possibility, but he hasn’t wowed me all that much with his message, and if he doesn’t pull off a fairly strong victory soon, he could be off the ballot by the time the polls open here.  Richardson ended his bid today, so he’s out.  Biden is out.  So that leaves Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, with Edwards as a close third.

The Democrats are definitely in the forefront, and it’s most exciting for a number of reasons: First, the party finally seems to have its finger squarely on the pulse of America for the first time in years. Second, the front-running candidates are all strong in their own ways and, were the election to happen tomorrow, I would be happy if any of them won. And third, the two front-runners represent a monumental turning-point in the typical view of what — and who — a presidential candidate is.  Gone are the expectations of “just another old white guy” to run the country.  We are now graced with the vision of a younger African-American man and a former First Lady– a woman.  Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton could certainly represent change in more ways than one.

The novelty of their being the front-runners is not what’s put them there.  Rather, it’s the strength of their message.  They are passionate about the office, passionate about the direction our country is headed, and passionate about making the changes necessary to get the country back on track.

That isn’t to say their fellow candidates aren’t as good or as passionate about their beliefs– they are.  That’s what’s so refreshing about this slate of Democratic candidates:  They seem to have somewhat unified goals, with minor variations on certain issues.  Truly, it’s about time the Democrats had some semblance of unity in their message.  It’s been a rough time getting to this point up until now.

Unfortunately, not everything is sunshine and roses.  Some campaigns are starting to cry foul that the media has already chosen its front-runners and have shut out the others.  Other complaints are coming in that the elections were “bought” by big money.  I don’t exactly see it this way.  It’s obvious the fundraising has been stronger for some candidates than others: Clinton exceeds everyone- Democrat and Republican- with a whopping $90 million raised as of Third Quarter 2007, with $50 million cash on hand.  Obama is a close second with $80 million total raised and $36 million cash on hand.  The Republicans are almost barely squeaking by in comparison, and the top cash raisers (Romney and Guliani) have yet to win a primary or come even close (source).

So while the numbers obviously show Clinton and Obama in the lead, I can’t see them sacrificing their campaigns for a few more votes.  I believe these candidates want this election to go as smoothly as possible, without the bumps and embarrassments of 2004 or 2000.  I’m hoping that as the convention day nears and the final candidate is chosen, there can be a unified agreement that the best candidate is going forward and representing all Democrats equally.  We may not get the candidate the answers our every need, but I do believe we will get a candidate that represents the country best for all of us.

So I’ll be voting on February 5, and on November 4.  And I believe there will be a lot of people voting for the change I’m hoping for as well.  It’s time… and we are so ready.