Let us leave "facts" aside for a minute, disputed as they often are. Let us instead engage in the narrative that has developed (and sharpened) over the past few months of the Democratic primary -- that one candidate represents experience and fight, while the other represents inspiration and change.
The truth, as level-headed people would agree, lies somewhere in the middle. Polls show that while Obama may have a wider swatch of supporters these days, Clinton's die-hards are more die-hard than his. In other words, she does inspire. And for at least one 50-51% demographic (ahem, women) she certainly represents change.
Obama, on the other hand, is certainly more than a well-spoken hand puppet. You don't become the first African American president of the Harvard Law Review and serve as a community organizer in the South Side of Chicago if you lack both heart and brains.
Nonetheless, the campaigns and their candidates have their messages locked down. In this corner, Experience and Fight. In that corner, Inspiration and Change.
Which leads us to an interesting question, and one that I wrestled with in the beginning of this campaign, but have pretty much settled for myself in the last few months:
What, by and large, should a president be? When you think about the role of a president, do you think of her or him largely as an ambassador of a people (and, perhaps, a party's agenda) or as the chief executive officer of a people (and, perhaps, a party's agenda)?
In my mind, Obama falls more into the first category, at least as his candidacy implies. And when I think about American politics, I think a president who can lead by personality, engage the country, entice a people, shake things up, etc., while having the guts and brains to pull an agenda together and see it through is the kind of president I want and the kind of president our system most benefits from.
But there are solid arguments -- so some of you will certainly tell us ;) -- for the role of president as the "boss" of the nation, setting the agenda, taking a more hands-on approach, seeing the agenda through.
So I'm curious, what do people think about this? Is it a useful question to ask? It's certainly helped me think through my choices in this election. And if I had my way, I'd choose a president who could accomplish both. (Some might say that Bill Clinton was this kind of president, even if I don't agree with a lot of what his agenda/tactics entailed.)
But in this election, so the campaign goes, when you go to the ballot box you have to wonder, even if you're one of those people who sees very few differences between the candidates, that you're disadvantaging either experience or inspiration when you make your final mark.
So which matters more for you -- and not just in terms of these candidates, but in terms of the kind of president you think best serves this nation and this nation's form of government?