Alex Balk

Feb 11

The coveted Balk endorsement.

[NOTE: Nobody cares what I think, nor should they. The following is extremely random, only sporadically supportable, and probably more strident than anything I’ve dumped into the Internets ever. It is, pretty much, a guy working out his thoughts in blog time. So I’m recommending you save your own valuable minutes and go see what’s happening at TMZ. Or Radar. Radar’s good!]

Sometime last year, before the primaries began, I asked my folks who they were supporting. I was at that point fairly sure I’d be voting for Obama, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for my parents and was interested in their opinion. Surprisingly, they both strongly supported Hillary, and, even more surprisingly, it was my mom, who usually lets my dad stand on the box in discussions like these, who spoke for both of them.

"I just think with the terrible situation we’re in with how the rest of the world sees us, and with all the disasters Bush has gotten us involved in, we need someone who knows what she’s doing, who’s been there before. We can’t afford to let someone learn on the job. It’s too important."

I appreciate that view, I really do. One of my main concerns about Obama is the “first fuck-up” scenario, which is to say that every president, early in his term, is confronted by (or brings about) some situation, and by virtue of his lack of experience, fucks it up. It’s a necessary part of the learning curve, and you hope it doesn’t do too much damage. The thinking is that, having been there already, Hillary will somehow avoid the first fuck-up, because she’ll know what to look for. Obama? He’ll need it. And that’s where I’m worried. I have no sense of how the man will respond to crisis and criticism on the main stage. I’ve got a worrying feeling that he gets testy and self-righteous when challenged. We haven’t seen it since the voting started (that’s what winning will do, I guess) but even minor flashes (“You’re likable enough, Hillary”) don’t bode particularly well.

On the other hand, Hillary… so much to dislike. I understand how women, particularly those of a certain age, feel so conflicted about voting for Obama when there’s the chance of electing the first female president. And to be fair, in other circumstances, she’d be the exact person you’d want as the first woman to hold the office: She’s obviously brilliant, focused, and genuine about wanting to make a difference. If she had made it on her own, if she were Illinois Senator Hillary Rodham, it would be a much harder choice for me. But I can’t get past the dynastic element of it. It bothered me when George W. did it, and it bothers me now. Also? I’ve had enough of Bill Clinton. It’s easy to look back at the nineties as some kind of golden era, when the economy was humming and the future looked bright and think, wouldn’t it be great to have him back in the White House? Well, would it? Let’s look at the guy’s legacy: He got rid of the deficit, sure. He got two decent justices on the Supreme Court. And… that’s about it. He was lucky enough to have the job during one of the greatest economic expansions in our history, and what did he leave us with? The Defense of Marriage Act and the V-chip.

Now you can argue that much of that wasn’t his fault, that he was left a giant mess and the Republicans were bound and determined to frustrate him at every opportunity. Fine. If the way the White House works now, and it seems to be the case, is that the Democrats are called in the fix the fuck-ups of the previous Republican administrations, you need someone who can not only do that, but can go for those extra couple of yards by appealing beyond the bitter lines of partisanship that we’ve erected over the last thirty years. My major problem with Clinton, apart from his lack of focus, was his caution (a result, granted, of his first fuck-up), his inability to stand up for anything that hadn’t been focus-tested and polled and boiled down into a microinitiative. Hillary’s vote for the war in Iraq can be read as a part of this philosophy—a reluctant nod for something known to be destructive in the interest of maintaining political viability.

For all the problems I have with Obama—the vagueness, the increasingly irritating messiah shtick, that video with—I think that of all the options we have left, he’s the only one who might have a chance of making some headway against the poisonous practice of politics we’re currently stuck with. [Now, this is not to say that should Hillary win the nomination I would not support her fully; every time I hear some jackass yell that if Obama loses, he’ll vote for McCain, it makes me wish we were back in the days when electors really did decide who was president. If you are so wrapped up in your own purity that you don’t understand what’s really at stake over the next four years (and I’ll spell it out: We are on the verge of deciding whether or not our Supreme Court will become the thumb on the scale for giant corporations who want to gut or ignore every regulation that a noble tradition of progressivism has put into place to protect the most vulnerable of Americans over the last hundred years. Our side is barely hanging on as is. With John Paul Stevens one of the few people John McCain can credibly refer to as “the old man,” do you really think that it doesn’t matter who’s nominating the next few justices?) you should sit down (I’ll pause here so you can go back to where the first parentheses started and remember what point I was trying to make; in fact, I’ll do it too) and decide what it is you’re really concerned about, the message or the result.]

It’s easy to bemoan the process and the choices we have, but I’ll say it again: Can anyone remember a more exciting election? How amazing is it that the Democratic party is choosing between the potential first African-American president and the first female president? Just having one of them as a viable nominee this late in the process would have been heartening; the fact that they’re both still at it might be cause for soul-searching and discomfort, but let’s be honest, it’s a nice problem to have.

So there you go. I’m casting my lot with Obama, both for the explanations I’ve windily outlined above, and for one more reason, which may very well be the defining factor in this race: It’s time we put an end to the Boomers. Get ‘em the fuck out of there. They can all move down to Florida and listen to their Time-Life Sounds of the Sixties box sets in peace while the rest of us figure out which poor people are going to go without dental care so we can pay for their Viagra and hip-replacements. Thanks for introducing us to granola, Hendrix, and bongs made out of produce, but it’s time to shuffle off the stage. Good riddance.

Oh. Not you, Mom and Dad.