It would seem natural for us to endorse Hillary Clinton for president.
She attended Yale Law School — the roots of the Clintonian dynasty are here in New Haven — and left an accomplished and well liked alumna. She has led an inspiring career of public service since.
And indeed, we are grateful for the past 18 years of Eli representation in the Oval Office. Four, or eight, more sounds nice enough.
But the time has come to abdicate Yalie rule over America, at least for now. The past three United States presidents — George H. W. Bush ’48, Bill Cinton LAW ’73 and George W. Bush ’68 — had their strengths. But in the end, they were good presidents (if that) — and not great ones. Too often, they behaved like politicians — and not leaders.
Hillary Clinton LAW ’73 is of the same breed. To endorse her would be to endorse intelligence and preparedness, but also divisiveness and the politics of manipulation. And, as it seems of late, it would be to endorse Bill Clinton, with his own baggage and questionable campaign tactics to boot.
So we turn instead to an honest, and brilliant, man who represents his actual home state in the U.S. Senate, has more years of elected experience than Clinton and gave so many of us chills with his speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. His Harvard Law degree notwithstanding, Democrats across Connecticut and the nation should embrace Barack Obama as the next president of the United States on Tuesday.
So many at Yale have done just that.
Take Thursday night. Dozens filed into the Branford College Common Room to watch the Democratic debate. Their eyes locked on the screen when Obama spoke. He seemed genuine. He probably was. Across the street, city politicians and students gathered at the Af-Am House to share, and spread, his vision.
Still lingering, though, is the question of substance. Too often asserted is the notion that one should run for the presidency with a crystal-clear, unchanging slate of party-line policy initiatives. With Obama’s candidacy, however, comes an opportunity to correct this flawed conception of the chief executive as a glorified policy wonk. Our legislative system, after all, is designed to encourage compromise and cooperation. Overwhelming majorities for a single party are rare enough that a combative, polarizing politics that insists on a fixed agenda is self-defeating. Solid policy planks, then, are only half of the battle. What we must know — and do know in Obama’s case — is which philosophy a candidate would bring to the West Wing. And we are impressed by his deep-rooted belief in one nation, not two.
But we do have a dose of humble advice for Obama: Reveal your potential cabinet now. Part of the reason we are endorsing you is that we have confidence in your ability to surround yourself with good people and great statesmen.
As Obama said in last night’s debate, explaining his ability to attract droves of young supporters: “Part of the task … of leadership is the hard nuts and bolts of getting legislation passed and managing the bureaucracy, but part of it is also being able to call on the American people to reach higher.”
Nothing more aptly sums up the spirit of youth. And as Obama rises, so, too, does our generation, once called leaderless, amorphous, solipsistic and uninterested.
Forty-eight years ago, John F. Kennedy, whose daughter endorsed Obama this week as “a president like my father,” visited the New Haven Green in the hours before the election. Thousands came. Hope filled a depressed town.
Electing Barack Obama — another candidate who could surely fill the Green — would reclaim part of that era. But it would achieve more. An Obama presidency promises a reassertion of the natural, American optimism for which JFK stood, but also new reforms of which he could only have dreamt.
Let us not let this moment slip away.