I'm Canadian, and can't vote in the upcoming U.S. elections. But they affect me, as they affect everyone on the world, so I have opinions.
I think—as most seem to—that John McCain or whoever wins the Republican nomination would have to work miracles to win the general election this time around. And I think that's a good thing. His party has damaged his country and its relations with the rest of us in the past seven years, and they do not deserve to keep running it. I hope its citizens agree.
On the Democrat side, there were a number of strong candidates, now down to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. As Larry Lessig notes in his video today, their policies do not differ especially radically (although Obama's policy document and website state without equivocation, "I will close Guantanamo," which is enough for me right there). I think either one would make a good president of their nation, and obviously make history doing it.
Where I agree with Lessig, and why I think Obama is a better choice, is that he is inspiring to watch and to listen to in the way no other presidential candidate is, from Clinton to Edwards to McCain and the rest. There is a danger with Obama, as Tom Negrino notes:
What bothers me the most about Obama is his core message, which boils down to "I'm magic, and I'll be able to bring everyone together to move America forward."
What I've seen of his policies seems more concrete to me, but it is true that many of his speeches are long on rhetoric and short on details.
Yet rhetoric is not evil if it not empty, if real action follows it. I think Obama can inspire a politics of "hope and common sense," rather than one of "fear and ideology," as he says. To lead the United States, he need not know the answer to every question—that's why presidents hire smart staffs—but he does need to listen, and to prompt action.
I think one reason he inspires so many already is that while he does give speeches crafted by a team of top-notch writers, he doesn't sound like a machine while he does it. He comes across as a human being. Clinton may be smarter, more knowledgeable, and more experienced, and I hope if Obama wins she can find a place to execute her ideas in his administration. (And if she wins, I certainly hope he can find one in hers.)
But she is not more inspiring. America and the rest of us need inspiration now. America's citizens need to say to us, and to themselves, "We have been on the wrong path, and we will choose a different and better way." To see and to listen to Barack Obama as president will demonstrate the beginning of that choice. If I'm right, I think he will win.