Obama: The Message
by Jerome Armstrong, Mon Dec 18, 2006 at 03:23:33 AM EST
There's two parts what's going on in relation to Barack Obama and American politics. The first is the message and the second is the movement. I am much more hack than wonk, so read Chris Bowers and The End of the 1960's? for more on what this week's Newsweek has an interview about, with Obama:I've watched how crowds react to you. Why are you striking a chord?
It's hard to stand outside yourself. Some of it is that. I've become representative of the American people's desire to turn the page and get beyond some of the harsh, sharply partisan politics that has ruled over the last 10 years.
You think this is generational?
Our politics has very much been grounded in debates over the '60s. There's the '60s, the backlash against the '60s, the counter-backlash within the Democratic Party against the '60s. We've been effectively talking about Vietnam, the sexual revolution, the civil-rights movement for a generation now, and it doesn't adequately describe the challenges we face today. My peer group, I think, finds many of those divisions unproductive. We see many of these problems differently, on race, faith, the economy, foreign policy and the role of the military.
I find this very appealing right now. It's similar to the message that Mark Warner was successfully speaking of before getting out of the race. It's getting beyond ideological and partisan failures to actually solve the problems.
Part of the reason the next generation can see things differently is because of the battles that the previous generation fought. But the next generation is to some degree liberated from what I call the either/or arguments around these issues. So on race, the classic '60s formulation was, "Is it society and institutional racism that's causing black poverty or is it black pathology and a culture of poverty?" And you couldn't choose "All of the above." It looks to me like both. [The younger generation] is much less caught up in these neatly packaged orthodoxies.
I've been writing a long chapter, along with a bunch of other former staffers, on being involved with the Dean campaign. My focus has been on the early days-- going back and documenting the beginning of the online movement for Dean. The movement behind Barack Obama is as compelling as those behind Clark and Dean in 2004, but also different, and something I'll followup on with another post this week. But something that struck me again as I was looking back through the '02-'03 online archives, in the early days of Dean, a central point to not overlook, is that the message and the movement are inter-twined. The first internet page for Dean, which was here on MyDD, was "Howard Dean for President" and consisted of about two dozen quotes from Dean himself opposing Bush. That message won people over that intended to go to battle with Bush.
It's tragic that had John Kerry and John Edwards used the polarizing rhetoric on Iraq that they do now, they would have defeated Bush. In Sept. '03, it was the beginning of the end for '04, when the dream of a Howard Dean/Wes Clark ticket collapsed, as did the hope that Democrats would be able to distinguish themselves against Bush over Iraq when those two faded. After the 2004 defeat, Dean becoming Chair is also what made possible the gains of 2006.
The elections of '04 and '06 were turnout wars over Iraq. Is 2008 going to be the same? Not with, as Chris notes this morning, Democrats now holding a share of power. The book I took as a guidance for the '04 election was "War is a Force that Gives Us Meaning", by Chris Hedges. The '08 contest, with Democrats trying for trifecta control, will be a much different election.
Instead of battleground strategies, we need mapchanger attitudes; instead of nit-picking about single issues, we need a connect-the-dots vision; instead of kick-ass partisan rhetoric, we need an appeal to the nation that instills hope.I'm sure that a majority online (especially here on the blogs) disagree with me on this (It's not a black and white matter). In fact, the disparity between online and offline results, over the qestion of whether Demcrats should be more oppositional to Republicans or more bipartisan (and this was in Iowa polling previous to the '06 election) splits by those distinctions. It's some of both.
Will the central question of 2008 be, how will Democrats govern? And more specifically, as uniters or dividers? By creating more problems or solving them? That's what Bush ran with, all the way to the White House, and subsequently destroyed the Republican brand by his 'say one thing do another' execution. If so, now it's the Democrats chance.