Two quotes from the January 5th NH debate between Democratic Candidates.
Clinton: "...words are not actions. And as beautifully presented and passionately felt as they are, they are not action. You know, what we've got to do is translate talk into action and feeling into reality. "
Obama: "...the truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Words do help members of Congress get into power so that they can be part of a coalition to deliver health care reform, to deliver a bold energy policy. Don't discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can't be done, then it doesn't. I'm running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that's why I think they're responding in such large numbers."
I think this strikes at the heart of what a lot of liberal voters are wrestling with. Clinton argues that she has the experience and track record to win big fights and get things accomplished as President. Obama offers something more ethereal and risky, but utterly inspiring, at least rhetorically.
The media narratives here are obviously far too simplistic. Clinton is certainly inspiring in her own right, as she may well be the first female president of the United States. She's also far more warm than the punditry tends to admit, by all accounts. Obama, for that matter, isn't some fluffy talker in a nice suit: he's a brilliant writer and thinker who can hold his own with anyone in terms of a deep understanding of the issues. He's also been consistently prescient about foreign affairs in his past statements, which gives the lie to the idea that he's a lightweight.
Certainly, Obama has voted in certain ways I haven't loved; so has Clinton. For all the talk about Obama being more right-wing than Hillary, I find that an essentially laughable idea. The Clinton's made an art of the holding the "center" and Bill Clinton signed DOMA into law. Hillary Clinton has voted repeatedly to give Bush authority to wage his wars. Obama IS inexperienced compared to her though.
In the end, there's no perfect candidate. But both of them, flaws intact, are brilliant, inspiring, and generally have policies and ideas I fully support.
So the less-than-superficial question I have is... do "inspiring" words matter? Do they have a real impact on people's lives? If Obama became President, would his speeches become a positive force in America in a real way, or would it be just so much frosting on stale cake?
I'd love to know what you think.
- Matthew Freeman is a Brooklyn based playwright with a BFA from Emerson College. His plays include THE DEATH OF KING ARTHUR, REASONS FOR MOVING, THE GREAT ESCAPE, THE AMERICANS, THE WHITE SWALLOW, AN INTERVIEW WITH THE AUTHOR, THE MOST WONDERFUL LOVE, WHEN IS A CLOCK, GLEE CLUB, THAT OLD SOFT SHOE and BRANDYWINE DISTILLERY FIRE. He served as Assistant Producer and Senior Writer for the live webcast from Times Square on New Year's Eve 2010-2012. As a freelance writer, he has contributed to Gamespy, Premiere, Complex Magazine, Maxim Online, and MTV Magazine. His plays have been published by Playscripts, Inc., New York Theatre Experience, and Samuel French.