I just made my first-ever donation to a politician.
I've helped on campaigns before, mainly at the local level. I've donated time, insight and expertise. But I never wrote a check before.
I don't know if it's because I never felt committed enough to give someone money to get elected. At least not in the same way I've given an organization money to fight cancer, feed the hungry or help youth. Maybe I didn't like the thought of my dollars paying for mailers or yard signs or gas.
But that changed this morning when I donated $20.08 to Barack Obama's campaign.
And, I think you should, too.
I've never been one to want to park my ideologies in either camp, Democrat or Republican. I've never wanted to label myself as firmly belonging to one party. At heart, I'd define myself as socially liberal and fiscally conservative, with a good bit of libertarian thrown in. Mix all that on high for 30 minutes and you're left with picking the lesser of two mediocre options every four years.
But not this year.
I voted for Bush in 2000. I was all of 19, voting for the first time ever. I remember sitting at my desk in my sophomore dorm room, filling in my absentee ballot. It felt pretty neat to get to select who I wanted to be president of the United States. And, my conservative, fundamentalist Christian values really only left me with one option, I felt.
Four years later, it was fascinating to see how much I'd changed – theologically, politically, socially. Even before the Democrats had a nominee, I was certain I'd vote for whoever was on the ticket. Not because I was a Democrat who voted for anyone with a (D) after their name, but because I was sure the country didn't need four more years of the Bush administration.
And now, four years after that, I'm voting for and donating to Barack Obama. For me, election cycles are a fascinating case study in self.
Barack Obama's rhetoric and flair have captured me, but those who know me well know that I'm not a Kool-Aid drinker or someone who votes based on looks. Ultimately, I donated $20.08 of my hard-earned money this morning because I feel like I get to now choose for someone to be the highest executive in the land who has a legitimate concern for the well-being of most (if not all) Americans.
I like it that a politician is raising the level and focus of societal dialog in a positive way. I like that someone with intelligence and community organizing experience is seeking the White House. I like that Michelle Obama could be the First Lady. I like that courtesy and understanding seems to guide someone's responses and interactions. I like that a politician has developed a brand – a brand that engages people and motivates them to act. I like that someone believes America's best days are ahead of us. I like someone that calls us to be our best selves. I like that someone sees the positive potential in our collective action. I like that someone gets people to listen. I like that someone has lived the best sense of the American Dream. I like that someone cares.
And, I hate that some of the most vocal Republicans pissed all over the nonprofit sector last week. They shunned and denigrated the nonprofit sector by belittling the work of community organizers. And that cannot stand.
For me, Barack Obama is not the best of two options – he's the best option, and one that deserves my financial support.