Why I'm Backing Barack

Shahid Miah

"All my life I wanted to vote for an African-American president and all my life I wanted to vote for a woman president," the former US president Bill Clinton said on Sunday. And I agree. If I was an American, I would be very much split on two excellent presidential candidates - Bill's wife, Hillary, and Barack Obama.

While visiting California late last year, my friend Gaylynn Miller took me to the opening of Senator Obama's office in Oakland, and down the very same street a few hours later, we watched Senator Clinton's rally. It was an unbelievable experience.

Hillary Clinton is a real powerhouse. The former first lady has a campaigning machine that has the support of major institutions and the Democratic Party establishment. At the rally, she spoke about ending the war in Iraq (which she voted for), restoring America's positioning in the world, providing lower taxes, providing quality and affordable healthcare, making colleges more accessible, being a champion for women, and even strengthening trade unions.

Very good policies that I would broadly agree with. But why am I supporting Barack Obama you might ask. Besides, he is also a Democrat pledging similar policies as Hillary Clinton, though never a supporter of the US invasion of Iraq.

Well, actually on the surface, you would be quite right. Apart from the obvious difference. He's African-American, was born to a Kenyan father who was a Muslim and so on, there is very little difference between them, though Hillary Clinton would claim to be better on the policy of delivering a universal health care system.

However, if you were to unpick the issues on what Obama stands and how he plans to delivers them, you'll begin to understand why I, like many others, believe he is the right person to lead America and why he will be the right person to improve America's much damaged position in the world.

The young senator from Illinois, Barack Hussein Obama, has captivated America and the world. He is intellectual, charismatic, charming and very engaging. Where many have failed, he has succeeded in energising and creating excitement among Democratic Party members, the independents and the once alienated young voters. Record numbers are voting, and it's only the primaries and caucuses. The big vote for President is in November.

While Obama's speeches are about hope and positive aspirations, his debates and media comments are about policies that will create, enhance and sustain wealth and prosperity for all Americans from all sections of society.

On the economy: he wants to provide tax-cuts for working families while simplifying tax filing for the middle-class, fight for fair trade, amend the North American Trade Agreement, create jobs and job training programmes, protect home ownership, fight for workers rights, and raise the minimum wage.

On education: he wants early childhood education, affordable high-quality child-care, address drop-out crisis, expand summer-learning programmes, retain and reward better teachers, and create opportunity tax-credits to make higher education more affordable.

On civil rights: he wants to combat employment discrimination, end racial profiling, reduce repeat offending, and end deceptive voting practices.

On healthcare: he wants quality and affordable healthcare for all, a low cost and modern health system, and to develop new initiatives such as fighting AIDS world-wide.

On foreign policy: he wants to end the war in Iraq, renew American diplomacy including meticulously addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, open diplomacy with Iran and Syria, strengthen NATO, work towards nuclear disarmament, have better relationships with Asia and Africa, and end global poverty.

So, this talk that Obama lacks experience, doesn't have good thought-out policies and he's just a new kid on the block is baseless and unsupported by credible evidence. He has sound policies, is able to bring everyone together and galvanise people in a way never seen since John F Kennedy in the 1960s. That's why he's won the endorsement of iconic JFK's elder statesman brother Edward, and nieces Caroline and Maria Shriver, the wife of California's Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

If Bill Clinton didn't support his wife, I'm sure he would be lining up with other progressive Democrat big hitters like Tom Daschle, the much-respected former Senate leader, and be fully behind Obama, the same as Bill's close friend Jesse Jackson.

This is why Obama has the support of many credible people from across the political spectrum and influential celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Stevie Wonder, Usher, Will Smith and Scarlett Johansson.

These people are not fools … they know that Obama is a serious presidential candidate who would be good for America. That is also the reason why he was able to raise a staggering $32m in January alone  — the biggest political war chest in history.

February 5, the so-called  'supa-dupa Tuesday', has been one of the most intense in American history. Since I donated money towards Obama's campaign early last year and bought the t-shirt, I will of course be watching the live coverage into the early hours of Wednesday.

I very much encourage those who are eligible to vote, please vote. You're living a moment of history … so go and be part of it!