I finally finished reading Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope. Could it be possible that there exists an honest politician? It's hard to come away from this book without believing that Obama is sincere in his belief that he is in office to serve his constituency rather than to make a career out of politics. The book covers the general overview of his political thoughts on the party system and political campaigning, faith and race and values within American society, our lack of a comprehensive foreign policy and the economy. What makes the book worth reading is Obama's candid personal experiences and how they have impacted his values and political approach.
The essence of Obama's approach to politics seems to be that we must, "...maintain in our sights the kind of America that we want while looking squarely at America as it is, to acknowledge the sins of our past and the challenges of the present without becoming trapped in cynicism and despair." (pg. 233) He is an unapologetic liberal and Democrat. However, he consistently draws on the positive contributions of people across party lines and focuses on how policies can and will affect the everyday person on the street. Throughout the chapters, Obama draws from personal experiences that depict the difficulties of maintaining personal contact with his constituency while understanding the larger political picture. In my favorite excerpt, he discusses the difficulties of maintaining his connection to the people as his rising career requires flying on private jets to court campaign donors and make appearances. One gets the feeling that he enjoys his job best when he can be sitting across the table from the average Joe citizen trying to get a sense of how government can serve him. Whether he can maintain that as he travels upwards through the political machine is the question?
He talks frequently about his experience of growing up in a multi-racial family and his Christian faith, but at the same time he is able to articulate these experiences in a way that does not alienate any potential audience (except those that are really intolerant).
It helped, for my enjoyment of the book, that I agree with the majority of his stances on issues. He has my support on issues of women's rights, supporting the drained middle-class, universal health care and early childcare, and anti-war sentiments, etc. I'm still not completely sure if he'll have my vote in the Democratic primaries, but it has raised my hopes that there are those in positions of power in this country with more than a jot of common sense, an ability to see beyond their own personal interests, and a belief that the success of the individual hinges on the success of the group.