The South Florida Times has never endorsed a candidate for political office. As the newspaper continues to grow, we aim to establish an editorial board that will craft meaningful, insightful recommendations to help readers make the best choices.
That said, after much internal discussion, we have decided that this year’s presidential election is of such enormous significance that we cannot allow ourselves to sit silently on the sidelines while anticipating our growth into this important role.
The United States is experiencing a devastating economic crisis, is in two wars that have marred its global image, and is under the control of a government system that has failed to protect its citizens from runaway greed.
Considering all of these challenges, the choice of a leader who will usher in needed, fundamental change is clear. The South Florida Times endorses Illinois Sen. Barack Obama for president.
As a premiere media outlet focused on the African-American and Caribbean communities, we are keenly aware of the responsibility – and the risk – of endorsing the first black person who has earned the presidential nomination of a major political party.
The risk for us is that – like Gen. Colin Powell – we are presumed to endorse the candidate who shares our skin color, regardless of our independent ability to reason and decide for ourselves who we think is best.
We accept this risk and responsibility, and invite our readers into the logic behind our position. We would no more endorse a black candidate who is unfit for duty than a large, metropolitan daily newspaper would endorse a candidate solely because he is white.
We believe that Obama’s promise of hope and change, tempered by his ability to calmly exercise sound judgment, and the assemblage of a quality team of advisers on economic and foreign policies, give him the decisive edge over Arizona Sen. John McCain.
While McCain has run a campaign based on historic divisions between political parties, classes and – subtly – between races of Americans, Obama has sought to unify the nation around a singular purpose: That, as Americans, we can build a better future for ourselves.
Obama has shown a greater grasp of how to fix the nation’s economic woes. He has assembled an impressive team that seeks to foster economic equity. He would expand healthcare to all Americans, and seek better regulation of the financial markets that created the economic crisis in the first place. His plan for modest cuts to most taxpayers, and raising taxes on those with the highest incomes, would shrink the expanding gap between most Americans and the wealthiest one percent.
Obama would also raise the minimum wage, allow workers more opportunity to organize labor unions, and create more opportunities for education.
By contrast, McCain’s biggest proposed reforms to the economy are eliminating pork-barrel spending – a small fraction of the national budget – and cutting taxes. Also, some of McCain’s economic policies appear to have shifted with the political winds: He once opposed President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy, and said they could harm the middle class. Now, he proposes tax cuts that would benefit the wealthiest Americans while potentially worsening the nation’s financial crisis.
Bush sold the Iraq war to Congress on false information, continues to spend billions on the war in a country that has an enormous surplus, and has allowed the terrorists who plotted the
Sept. 11 attacks to remain on the loose. McCain would continue to fight the war in Iraq while neglecting the war in Afghanistan, where the Taliban and Al Qaeda reside, and would continue overlooking a potential terrorist threat from Pakistan.
Obama, who has always opposed the Iraq war, has a plan for quickly withdrawing the troops from there, while strengthening the military presence where it is needed on the terrorist front in Afghanistan.
While McCain makes the argument that he has a clear edge in foreign policy experience, his selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who has no foreign policy experience at all, diminishes that argument. Palin is not ready to step into the role of commander in chief should serious illness or death befall McCain. By contrast, Obama’s selection of Sen. Joseph Biden, a veteran foreign policy expert, strengthens Obama’s credentials.
The McCain campaign has blasted Sen. Obama for agreeing to meet with leaders who disagree with American foreign policy. Yet we believe that America should improve its image around the world – where possible – with diplomacy instead of discord, with conversation rather than confrontation, and with harmony where there is hostility. Obama already has a large amount of support throughout the world – highlighted by huge rallies around him during his recent travels abroad – that would help remove the blemishes left by the Bush administration.
Obama, as leader of the Harvard Law Review, garnered praise from conservative thinkers for his willingness to listen to what they had to say, and build a consensus, even if he did not necessarily agree with them. Building a greater conversation around critical issues can help the world solve its most pressing problems.
Our next president can either push the U.S. Supreme Court toward the conservative right or guide it to a more balanced leaning in the selection of judges. On the issue of women’s reproductive rights, McCain has said he would never appoint a judge who believes in a woman’s choice concerning abortion. Obama has said it is the woman’s right and responsibility to reach her own moral and ethical conclusion about this important decision.
Obama can be justly criticized for positioning himself as a supporter of campaign finance reform, only to back out of the public financing system when he saw the enormous sums he could raise over the Internet.
Also, he has been not been fully forthcoming about how many of his promises can be fulfilled in a huge national financial crisis.
While these are legitimate areas of policy for which the McCain camp could have rightly assailed Obama, they have instead turned most of their attention to other, frivolous issues that weakened their stance.
McCain and Palin have attacked Obama using tactics that unfairly sought to alienate this native son from America, cast him as a Muslim-in-hiding though he has always professed his Christianity, and asserted his allegiance to former domestic terrorists who committed their most heinous acts when the candidate was only 8 years old.
The “Swift Boat’’ politics of fear and divisiveness that helped George W. Bush defeat John Kerry in 2004 must not be allowed to influence this enormous moment in history. America has a great opportunity to show that it has evolved beyond its racial and ideological divisions to embrace all people and create a land for everyone, as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.’’
EMBRACING OF HISTORY
Obama embraces his bi-racial family history, having been raised by a white mother from Kansas and his white grandparents. He later bonded with relatives from his father’s side in Kenya, where he is greatly adored. His very life represents the kind of unity that is possible for all of America.
McCain, on the other hand, has refused to fully acknowledge the black relatives who are descended from slaves his ancestors once owned, as first reported in the South Florida Times.
This represents a missed opportunity. McCain should have embraced his family history – and thus a piece of American history – on both sides of the racial divide. He should have highlighted this important part of his family story rather than dodge his biracial family reunions in rural Mississippi. This would have allowed McCain to show true presidential leadership in an America that – while acknowledging its darkest period – can shine the light of hope on a brighter future.
LEGACY OF HOPE
More than 40 years after King was assassinated for his famous dream of hope in a better America, the country now stands poised to realize its full potential.
We urge you to vote for Obama not because he is the first serious black candidate for the Oval Office, but because he is simply the best applicant for the job.
Obama represents the greatest hope for a better America, and the change this country so desperately needs.
Photo: Sen. Barack Obama