US election watch: The case for Obama

US election watch: The case for Obama
With the US election just around the corner, we ask people living in Sweden to explain their reasons for supporting either of the candidates. First up, Peter Dahlen of Democrats Abroad explains why he believes Barack Obama is the right man for the job.

Having lived in Sweden for the past several years and heard the criticisms of America in the press and “on the street” all over Europe and even Asia, I have been stunned at the swiftness of our fall from grace in the world’s eyes.

Underneath these criticisms though, I sense a belief in American ideals. To reignite those ideals in the eyes of our friends overseas we must restore America’s moral authority so that America can once again lead by the power of our example, to paraphrase former President Clinton’s speech at the Democratic National Convention.

Senator Barack Obama and his running mate, Senator Joseph R. Biden, Jr. understand this and will work to restore America’s moral leadership in the world with an understanding that the world shares both a common security and a common humanity.

Moreover, they know Americans abroad are uniquely aware of the impact of US government policies on the rest of the world and recognize that it is time for America to be seen as a global leader once more.

Significantly, Senators Obama and Biden understand the issues and concerns of Americans abroad and, if elected, will work to:

* ensure that Americans abroad have every chance to compete on a level playing field

* make sure that the Social Security Administration’s guidelines on receiving benefits abroad are made more accessible and that embassy officials are properly trained on Social Security issues.

* address citizenship denials and their effects on travel, immigration of family members, and citizenship in a manner that protects American interests

* ensure US embassies and consulates streamline the citizenship claim process for American children born abroad and that regulations on reporting the birth of a child born to an American abroad are more widely communicated to Americans living abroad

* ensure that American citizens abroad have the ability to exercise their voting rights and to make the overseas voting process more transparent and accessible

* find an efficient and accurate procedure to count Americans living abroad in the US Census

* understand the role of Americans abroad in determining US policy and will work with members of the Americans abroad community and US embassies to determine how the government can be responsive to the concerns of overseas Americans and work to establish a direct dialogue with Americans abroad

* develop and implement concrete plans for how US embassies and consulates communicate basic information to Americans abroad

* restore America’s standing, reputation, and authority in the world by respecting civil liberties, ending torture, restoring habeas corpus and the rule of law, making the US electoral processes fair and transparent, and fighting corruption at home

Given his relative inexperience, it is true that Senator Obama may have a learning curve on foreign relations, but he has shown sound judgment on these issues during the campaign and Senator Biden has broad foreign-policy expertise and is the leading Democrat on these issues.

Domestically, Senator Obama has what it takes to lead America forward as well.

He has a comprehensive energy strategy, with a focus on clean technologies that defy the Republican mantra of “drill, baby, drill”.

The balance of the Supreme Court is also at stake. The next president will have the chance to appoint one or more Supreme Court justices. This is significant because the Court is one vote away from being dominated by conservatives.

What is more, the past eight years have witnessed a steady erosion of the rule of law as people have been imprisoned without charges and secret orders, secret prisons, outsourced torture and other “black” programs have proliferated.

Alarmingly, we just do not know how many fundamental civil rights have been violated as a result. Senator Obama has promised to identify and correct these attacks on our cherished democratic system and institutions.

Disturbingly, the Republican Party has moved further to the right and become narrower in its approach. From calling Senator Obama un-American, to trying to paint him as a terrorist sympathizer, to impugning his religion, the party has attacked Senator Obama mercilessly and in an entirely inappropriate manner. General Colin Powell (a Republican) summarized his objection to this approach when he endorsed Senator Obama:

“I’m also troubled by … what members of the party say. And it is permitted to be said such things as, ‘Well, you know that Mr. Obama is a Muslim.’ Well, the correct answer is, he is not a Muslim, he’s a Christian. … But the really right answer is, what if he is? Is there something wrong with being a Muslim in this country? The answer’s no, that’s not America. … Yet, I have heard senior members of my own party drop the suggestion, ‘He’s a Muslim and he might be associated with terrorists.’ This is not the way we should be doing it in America.”

Senators Obama and Biden know this and their campaign has been inclusive, crossing racial, ethnic, religious and generational lines while espousing a belief that all areas of America have values, not just small towns.

Their refreshing approach to politics has energized America. Senator Obama’s rhetorical skills, leadership and message of hope, coupled with his call for shared sacrifice and social responsibility, have attracted millions of new voters and inspired many more.

For example, earlier this month Senator Obama drew an estimated 100,000 people to a campaign rally in St. Louis, Missouri, and in September he raised $150 million from 632,000 new donors — overall he’s received donations from 3.1 million donors.

Senator Obama has demonstrated that he has what it takes to inspire, to build consensus on the problems we confront and to lead.