I plan to vote for Barack Obama on Nov. 4. In fact, in the presidential primary last spring, I already did. That's the disclosure you can use to judge today's sermonette.
The question, posed by a Missourian editor, was this: How will Columbia be affected by the presidential election? My first response was a Clintonian quibble. What do you mean by "affected"? And what do you mean by "Columbia"?
The United States will go to the polls to elect a new president on Nov. 4. Before we go to the polls, let's have a conversation about how our lives here in mid-Missouri will be impacted.
Tell us: How will Columbia be affected by the next president?
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The answers are different depending on whether we focus on the immediate economic effects on the Columbia in which 37 percent of the school children are eligible for reduced-price lunches or the broader impact on the Columbia that is Collegetown USA.
In either case, it's probably true that we'd see a more immediate effect from a Democratic takeover of the state legislature (and I know how unlikely that is) than from either outcome at the presidential level. Just a Jay Nixon win as governor, even with a Republican legislature, would be a boost. His veto pen could thwart the most pernicious legislation, and he might find a way to reverse the Boy Governor's cut in the Medicaid rolls.
It's probably also true that the economic tidal wave that is recession will hit both the university and the community with a more damaging blow than any politician can either deliver or prevent.
Having said that, though, I will observe that a fair and balanced analysis of the Obama and McCain campaigns' promises suggests that most of us would benefit from a victory by the Democrat.
To take two big examples, once you cut through the rhetorical excesses, there's just no doubt that Obama's tax cuts would do more for the poor and middle class and that his health care plan would provide coverage for more of the uninsured than McCain's proposals. He'd also help more kids get to college. (Of course, if you think as I do that the country really can't afford more tax cuts and that we really need a Canadian-style health care system, Obama is still too timid, or maybe too pragmatic.)
More important even than a candidate's specific proposals, at least to me, are his character and judgment. My guy is a deeply religious Christian with one wife, one house and one car. He has been consistent throughout his public career in his commitment to social justice and his opposition to the wrong war. His opponent is, by his own account, a reformed playboy who dumped his faithful wife for a beer heiress. He was against the Bush tax cuts before he was for them, and he helped cheerlead us into the killing fields of Iraq.
External events often force policy changes or limit policy choices, but character and judgment are constants.
We've seen for nearly eight years the effects on Columbia and the nation of choosing the wrong president. Choosing the right one this time will not, in itself or immediately, heal all those self-inflicted wounds. The right choice can start the healing and head off further injury.
The polls show that the candidates are virtually tied in Missouri. On policy, character and judgment, they're not close at all.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.