Friday, November 07, 2008

Looking Back at the Obama Campaign

Some articles I collected earlier in the week.

E. J. Dionne Jr.'s The Opening Obama Saw:
"He did more than give Americans a chance to ease the burdens of race. He invited them to embrace his very newness and thereby move past the 1960s, the '80s, the '90s and the Bush era all at once. 'It's time to turn the page,' Obama would say, and there were many pages Americans wanted to turn.

His post-everything candidacy, wrapped in a powerful rhetoric of hope, was immensely attractive to the young. They became the happy warriors of campaign manager David Plouffe's meticulously organized national machine. It worked its magic in neighborhoods never before blessed with even a precinct captain."

***

Obama understood better than any other Democrat that a vast new progressive movement, called into being by antipathy toward Bush and outrage over the Iraq war, was waiting for leadership. Yet Obama knew that the often-irate legions of the blogosphere needed to be fused with a soft-spoken center weary of partisanship and division. It was another unlikely marriage that Obama sanctified.

All this created Obama's opportunity. But every campaign offers make-or-break tests, and the key moment this time came on Sept. 24, the day McCain suspended his campaign and proposed postponing the first presidential debate so the candidates could devote themselves to work on the financial bailout.

Obama quickly rejected McCain's suggestion, McCain backed down and Obama established himself as a leader. When the debate took place two days later, Obama's calm, deliberate performance confirmed his leadership skills for millions in the ranks of the uncertain.

David Broder writes only a little less effusively in An Admirable Campaign Journey:

Of course, running a good campaign is not a guarantee of success as president. Jimmy Carter figured out brilliantly how to move from Plains, Ga., to the White House, a journey almost as implausible as Obama's, but he didn't know how to govern once he got there.

Obama has been Carteresque in the extravagance -- and vagueness -- of his promises to change Washington. But he is not afflicted with Carter's intellectual-moral contempt for other politicians, the trait that wrecked Carter's relationship with a Democratic Congress. On the contrary, Obama moves well among the political insiders, even while presenting an outsider's visage to the public.

What we have learned of Obama's programs puts him squarely in the liberal tradition of the party. Unlike Bill Clinton, he has not tried to spell out the ways in which he would propose to rewrite Democratic foreign or domestic policy. As a result, we can only guess what his real priorities -- in a time of severe budget constraints and a backlog of accumulated needs -- would be. One can imagine serious debates within an Obama administration and between his White House and Congress.

In what history may record as his singular achievement -- dealing with the classic American dilemma of race -- he had the largely unappreciated help of his opponent, John McCain, who simply ruled out covert racial appeals used by politicians of both parties in the past. But Obama himself demonstrated repeatedly how to bridge the racial divides that still remain, by emphasizing his calm good judgment and respect for others. As a symbol of that national maturity, he carries a powerful, positive message to the world.

I never got why the working and middle classes took to McCain's battle-cry that Obama and the Democrats were going to redistribute the wealth. From where I sit, the Republicans took our money for subsidizing the rich. Perhaps another defect in our educational system? This comes from the Washington Post's editorial The Wurzelbacher Effect:

Ironically -- perversely, even -- the railing against wealth-spreading comes at a time when the wealth has been spread less evenly than ever, although the economic downturn will no doubt reverse the trend temporarily. As Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities testified before the House Ways and Means Committee the other day, in 2006 the share of pre-tax income flowing to the top 1 percent of households reached its highest level since 1928. The share of after-tax income going to the top 20 percent and the top 1 percent in 2005 was the highest on record since the Congressional Budget Office began analyzing the data in 1979. Some of this is due to the structure of the Bush tax cuts, which -- as Mr. McCain pointed out at the time they were enacted -- disproportionately favored the wealthiest Americans. Mr. Obama's proposal to roll back the top bracket tax cuts and to bolster the bottom with refundable credits is an effort to address this inequity.

"I don't know when we decided to make a virtue out of selfishness," Mr. Obama said in Missouri on Friday. Not quite "ask not what your country can do for you" lyricism. But a start, perhaps, in explaining to the country the essential common sense of supposed gaffes: It is patriotic, as Democratic vice presidential candidate Joseph R. Biden Jr. said, for the rich to pay more for a country that has helped them gain more; it is"good for everybody," as Mr. Obama told Joe Wurzelbacher, when you spread the wealth around. These represent, in fact, a rather mainstream view -- and not a bad governing philosophy for the country in its current straits.

Maybe it has to do with how ell trained are the Republcians - their politicians ring a bell and they cringe.

For something more sobering read A Test That's Sure to Come and A Full Plate in January.

But until then I want to leave on a high point and one that all of us should be proud of that I think Obama's Nation from The Washington Post puts best:

For one shining moment, let's call a halt to our red-blue bickering and predicting. Rather than glancing back at our racist past or peering into our uncertain future, we'll allow ourselves a brief celebration of now. We'll be brave and reckless enough to be happily surprised by one undeniable change:

Against all sensible odds and reasoned predictions, untold numbers of Americans of every persuasion have opened their hearts, minds and souls to the possibility that a black man is the best choice to lead them. Whatever happens, an immeasurable amount of light has illuminated our darkness. Once such doors have been pried open, it's hard shutting them as tightly as before.

Now that we have the Obama landslide, we can be proud of ourselves. Proud that we still have our better angels.

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