Voters this fall are going to find themselves between Barack and a hard place. Do we vote for a virtual unknown, or someone who is too well known? This historic election will also put the squeeze on voters in another way. How are the stay-at-home types going to claim they didn’t vote, because the same old humdrum candidates were running for president?

This election year reminds me of when Nixon resigned in disgrace and the Democrats thought they could run anyone and win the presidency. So, they ran an unknown with thin political credentials named Jimmy Carter.

Obama’s resume is even shorter than Carter’s and comparable to the one-term Texas governor who presently occupies the White House. If Carter sometimes seemed overmatched by the job, will the same thing happen during an Obama presidency?

Sure, the country is suffering from Republican fatigue and John McCain promises more of the same. But it’s not enough to be against a candidate – we have to believe the person we’re voting for will make a good president.

In this way, Obama reminds me of John F. Kennedy. JFK was a minority member of his day, an Irish Catholic. He was young, handsome, articulate and very inexperienced in the ways of government. To his credit, he surrounded himself with skilled advisers and learned on the job.

I still remember the excitement of Kennedy’s nomination and I’ve been hooked on political conventions ever since. When I saw Obama’s family take the stage in Denver, it reminded me of the young family that moved into the White House in 1960.

Being youthful and articulate, however, does not have much bearing on how Obama would perform as president. McCain may come across as old and craggy but he has a vast degree of experience in politics and government. By adding a female running mate, McCain also gives Republican voters their chance to make history.

Of course, if we were voting purely out of self-interest, Illinois voters would cast theirs for Obama. There’s nothing like having a Democrat in the White House, in this case a favorite son, to ensure that federal dollars will flow to our cities.

As for the Republicans, they say Obama’s not ready for the job and the right-wing radio personalities devote their programs to tearing him down. Apart from their claim that Obama’s inexperienced, however, they haven’t landed a solid punch. Perhaps they’re holding back the good stuff until we’re closer to Election Day.

Regardless of who wins, the excitement generated by this momentous election might motivate more Forest Parkers to vote. Now, that would be the kind of positive change everyone’s been talking about.

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries.