As I write this, the polls here in New Jersey are still several hours from opening for their Super Tuesday vote-a-thon. This is handy, as it gives me yet more time to torture myself as I decide whether to vote for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary, picking between two historic choices presented to me in this fifth presidential contest in which I am eligible to cast a ballot.
It's funny, though. Perhaps naively, I thought the choice would be easier when the time came that I had the opportunity to cast a meaningful, non-symbolic vote for a woman in a presidential contest. Maybe I underestimated Obama, though it's possible I overestimated my own feminism; clearly I wasn't prepared for the amount of Clinton Fatigue I'd feel at this point in my life.
If it's OK to vote for Obama because he cast a rookie vote against the war, or because that will.i.am video made me weepy, then isn't it OK to vote for Clinton because she makes me feel . . . historic? Should I be making decisions based on who's winning the celebrity endorsement draft, or does it really mean something that so many actors and musicians feel strongly enough this year to really take a stand this time around? It sure isn't like '04, when it was Bruce and Ben and Curt Schilling and most everyone else still too afraid of being called unpatriotic.
My aha! moment during this whole primary fight came during the Democratic Super Tuesday, when a Politico reader gave voice to the doubt that's been nibbling at me for months now:
"I'm 38 years old and I have never had an opportunity to vote in a presidential election in which a Bush or a Clinton wasn't on the ticket. How can you be an agent of change when we have had the same two families in the White House for the last 30 years?"
See, I'm one of those people who came of age in time for the 1992 election. I cast my first presidential vote by absentee ballot from a dorm in State College, PA, and shed tears of joy watching Bill Clinton claim victory in a crowded square in Little Rock, and feeling like finally, "we" had wrested control of our democracy from "them" -- the status quo, the old folks, the business-as-usual crowd. Fast forward 16 years, and I'm listening to Hillary Clinton talk about her 35 years of experience and hearing Obama snark on "a bridge back to the 20th Century."
Logic tells me you really only get one shot to be the new guy, a single opportunity to be a real alternative to anything, and maybe Hillary's moment was back when we were New Democrats. Because isn't every marriage, fundamentally, a "secret pact of ambition" ?
I love the idea of Obama as an agent of change, but the rhetoric is all about change for its own sake. If I vote for Obama, does that make me a dreamer? If I vote for Clinton, does that make me . . . old? Fortunately, the polls are open until 8 p.m. here, so there's time yet to decide.