Obama's Audacity of Hope

The conventional wisdom in America is that our politicians lie. Barack Obama’s new book, however, is showing that honesty can get you places in American politics.

What makes Obama, 45, a junior Senator from Illinois, stand out is his candidness about American politics in his book Audacity of Hope. He is not an undercover reporter from Fox News or a defeated and bitter ex-candidate; he is a law-making, bill-voting U.S. Senator who holds nothing back in his writing. Obama reveals facts and details: for example, that the Bush administration’s $522 billion defense budget is more than the amount of the next 30 highest-spending countries’ combined.

Obama’s book is not written to expose any particular politician or political party; he says the gap between Republicans and Democrats has been present throughout dozens of administrations and is not truly the problem today. Obama claims the problem is “the gap between the magnitude of our challenges and the smallness of our politics — the ease with which we are distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, and our seeming inability to build a working consensus to tackle any big problem.”

Honesty is not the only thing about this book that is catching the attention of American readers. Obama writes with a sincerity and modesty that allow him to present his sensible solutions to some of the United States’ biggest issues without alienating any particular political party. This is not to say that Obama isn’t a full-blooded Democrat, but he has a way of presenting the ideas of staunchly conservative Republicans and then gently exposing and denouncing each of their ideals. He doesn’t even bash Bush, per se, when he writes, “I support Bush the person but not his ideas.”

Within his solutions, he defends the current position of Democrats but states that they must become a party of “action and not reaction” if they want to win elections. “A constant game of defense bereft of the energy and new ideas needed to address the changing circumstances of globalization or a stubbornly isolated inner city,” Obama states, is doing nothing to advance the ideology of their party.

Perhaps the most enticing aspect of The Audacity of Hope is the author himself. The biracial, bi-continental Obama lived in both Hawaii and Indonesia before becoming a citizen of Chicago. He hardly knew his father, who divorced his mother when Obama was 2; his mother remarried, but that relationship failed as well. He ended up being raised by his mother and her parents in Chicago.

Born to a white mother and a black father, Obama’s childhood was similar to many African-American children growing up in American cities and suburbs. Through his hard work, supportive household, and wry intelligence, he was able to rise above the life that statistics say he should have had. Unfortunately, not all people growing up in similar neighborhoods have held such high standards for themselves — Obama reports in his book that since 1950, the marriage rate for black women has plummeted from 62 percent to 36 percent, and the number of African-American children living with two married parents dropped by half, leaving 54 percent in single parent households. These statistics are both striking and scary; few politicians can personally relate to such issues that so desperately need to be addressed.

For the past four months Pennsylvanians have been caught in the crossfire of Rick Santorum’s satirical TV ads aimed at Robert Casey Jr., attacking his competency and inability to maintain a job, and Casey’s rebuttal disclosing Santorum’s vote to raise his own salary but not the minimum wage, his wish to privatize social security, and the Pennsylvania funds he used to home-school his children. In light of Obama’s popularity, it is refreshing to see that such antagonistic campaigning is truly unnecessary when you believe in your ideas and what your campaign stands for. Obama’s book lays out his thoughts, opinions, and sensible solutions to debates about values, religion, economics, war, and globalization. His ability to see life and the problems of the people through his own eyes is what makes him not just a politician but an American.