Obama: a leader and a partner
As the United States makes final preparations in the selection of a new president, it is a turning point in American and American Indian history. The world economy is faltering on the heels of a government rescue of American financial institutions. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have depleted the once mighty U.S. military, not to mention the American public’s confidence in the executive branch. Native peoples continue to defend sacred sites and religious freedom against threats posed by eminent domain and corporate development. Indian health care remains tragically underfunded by Congress. Tribal sovereignty faces challenges in the courtroom, the workplace and on Capitol Hill.
These difficult times necessitate a leader who will consider legal, intellectual, and moral consequences before executing strategy. The next president must inherently value diversity and curb isolationism. This presidential race was often punctuated by marked differences in demeanor. The candidate who demonstrated confidence and composure throughout this long season forged an image of a new kind of American leader.
Indian Country Today endorses Barack Obama for president. This election is a remarkable opportunity for change in policy direction and leadership style. As a person, Obama exhibits humility and grace, and his story inspires creativity and action. As a candidate, Obama redefined American politics. The first African-American candidate for president deftly inspired legions of disenfranchised and first-time voters to participate in the democratic process. His campaign avoided divisive politics, instead finding common-ground issues like education and the economy to bring minds together. American Indian voters, especially those who support Obama, seized their right to vote like never before and have embraced political participation as a new ethic. We are certain that Native voters will make a noticeable difference in the presidential race and in local ones as well.
|Barack Obama demonstrated confidence and composure throughout this long season and forged an image of a new kind of American leader.|
Throughout this long campaign, Obama did not just talk about Indian issues; he talked with Native peoples and brought their messages to the national stage. Sen. John McCain made no appearances in Indian country during his campaign despite requests by several tribes. Obama’s successful outreach efforts that included visits with tribal councils and speeches on reservations rendered McCain practically invisible.
This was unfortunate and ill-advised. McCain has been a respected leader and advocate for Indian issues, serving twice as chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. He won his party’s nomination by opposing unpopular Bush policy on immigration, torture and drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – all issues that won him praise from Indian supporters. But the “maverick” strategy is failing, mostly due to a disappointing campaign that baits the right-wing conservative base with negative ads and McCain’s selection of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate.
Palin is both embraced and criticized by Native people. Much of the praise for Palin stems from her husband’s Yup’ik heritage and the inference that she will be sympathetic to Indian rights as vice president. Her detractors point to a record of opposing the subsistence rights of Alaska Natives. Palin’s involvement in a state ethics investigations and her willingness to exploit xenophobic conservative themes at campaign appearances add more reason for concern. If McCain’s selection of Palin was an attempt to attract Clinton supporters, it was an alarming miscalculation and an insult to that educated, open-minded voting bloc.
The political will exists in Congress to sustain the foundation of Indian sovereignty. We are encouraged by a progressive leader like Obama, who offers a principled blueprint for an Indian policy that addresses rights and cultural integrity. He believes that treaties are “paramount law,” which will inform his judicial appointments and help the case for U.S. recognition of the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
The country and the world need a new signal. We believe Barack Obama can generate that signal and provide a more encompassing leadership from the United States. With the country and the world on the slippery slope toward the precipice, Obama commands intelligent and decisive approaches to difficult issues. The other side, unfortunately, does not exude confidence as much as obvious negativity.
In particular, the ridicule by the McCain/Palin campaign of Obama’s education and eloquence has been both distasteful and confounding. Have we not always encouraged and celebrated educational achievement? This season, the choice is between exceptional intellectual integrity and continuous mediocrity. We choose the exceptional – and endorse Barack Obama.