Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Many in the progressive political blogosphere have discounted Obama's stress on a new politics of "unity" as meaningless rhetoric at best, or worse, as a sign that he is some sort of DLC centrist.  This take on Obama's message, combined with Edwards' more outspoken populist policies and style, has led a growing number of online progressives to coalesce around Edwards' campaign.  

This reaction isn't particularly surprising.  The progressive political blogosphere grew out of widespread frustration with the inability and/or unwillingness of the Democratic Party and its leaders to stand up to the radical right agenda of the Bush Administration and its Congressional allies.  Most progressives have little tolerance for any message that smacks of appeasement.  In this context, partisanship is largely viewed as a positive, and unity is viewed with suspicion.

While I understand this reaction to Obama's "unity" message, I believe this "take" is overly simplistic and misconstrues both the reasoning behind the message, and the implications of the message, if Obama is successful in winning the Democratic nomination.  I think progressives should slow-down and do some serious thinking about what Obama is trying to do.


Let me begin by saying I have no inside connection to the Obama campaign, and that what I have to say here is primarily based on having done a lot of reading about Obama and his campaign manager David Axelrod, and on personal speculation.  I would argue that Obama's unity message is based on four components: biography, personal philosophy, political positioning, and strategic necessity. The first two of these are widely understood, the second two much less so.

1) Biography:  Obama's life has been about bridging differences and striving to be effective in the role of the outsider.  He is considered black, but grew-up in a white family.  He was an American in Indonesia.  He was a kid from a modest home in a series of elite private schools.  He was a mixed-race Hawaiian trying to organize in the projects of South Chicago.  As President at the Harvard Law Review, he was the man in the middle trying to cope with faction wars between right and left.  He was the ambitious politician trying to take on the Chicago machine at the same time he sought their support.
For six of his eight years in Springfield, the Dems were the minority party and Obama was trying to get things done without direct access to the levers of power.  All of these experiences have led Obama to value finding common ground with those of different backgrounds or values.

2) Personal philosophy:  Obama is a self-described pragmatist.  He is interested in getting things done rather than striving for some kind of ideological purity.  As someone who also worked as a community organizer in my twenties, I can relate.  If you are in the trenches trying to make changes to improve the concrete conditions in people's lives, you tend to have little patience for ideological purity.  You want results.  Obama believes that he has a talent for finding common ground.  His values are undeniably progressive, but he is willing to work with centrists and even conservatives when he believes he can find areas of shared values.

3) Political positioning:  Over the past forty years, the political parties have become increasingly polarized and the level of partisanship has significantly increased.  The demise of Southern Democrats and moderate Republicans have led to a realignment that is much more ideological than in the past.  In particular, the efforts of conservative Republicans to impeach Clinton and, and the Rovian practices of the Republicans during the past six years have led to a great deal of bitterness.  Many in the progressive blogosphere seek revenge; they seek to build a progressive majority that can turn the tables on conservatives.  OTOH, many who are less avowedly progressive would like to see the level of partisanship reduced.  This group is less engaged but larger in number.  I believe that Obama's "unity" message is designed to appeal to this group.  Obama's high favorable ratings among independent voters are a testament to the fact that his message resonates with the very group that usually decides general elections in this country.  Viewed in this light, Obama's message rather than being a naive attempt to rise above politics is rather a very smart bit of "real politik."

4) Strategic necessity:  Obama is an African American, we all know this, but do we really think about what it means?  Obama is a black man trying to become President of a country steeped in a four hundred year tradition of racism. The economic foundations of this country were built on genocide of native peoples and the exploitation of African slaves forced to work these lands stolen from the natives.  Slavery was a reality for 250 years.  During this time, an entire superstructure of racist ideology was built up to justify an inhumane institution.  The end of slavery was not the end of racism.  It was not until the `60s that blacks got formal legal equality.  After 20 generations of institutional racism on this continent, we have now had one generation of formal legal equality.  This legal equality, however, does not mean that the racist assumptions that underlie our culture have suddenly disappeared, nor does it mean that the legacy of economic inequality has been overcome.  Even now, equality of opportunity for select individuals does not mean that equality of opportunity exists for African Americans as a group.  Poverty, crime, drugs and lousy schools leave blacks, as a group, at a huge disadvantage.  These institutional barriers to equality have led to a whole new form of racism, where smug suburban whites can blame blacks for their lack of individual responsibility and justify their lack of compassion as being in black's own self-interest.

This is the context in which Barack Obama is attempting to become the first African American President of the United States.  I firmly believe that progressives need to talk about these issues.  Many seem reluctant to do so.  Perhaps we fear that we will reveal some form of bias and open ourselves to accusations of being racist.  On one hand, I think we tend to underestimate the size of the obstacle Obama is attempting to overcome.  OTOH, I think many may be making unspoken assumptions that overestimate the size of the problem.   This is a discussion for another post.  I

I believe that Obama's message of unity is an attempt to reduce the psychological threat of an African American President to the majority Caucasian population.  Rather than emphasizing areas of difference and "us against them" conflict, Obama is saying, "we are all Americans, let's work together to make this country live up to its promise and potential." This is a powerful "meta-message"; a message that most of this country is ready to hear.  


Unfortunately, I think many on the left are not in a mood for compromise.  I believe this is unfortunate, I am not saying that progressives should support Obama just because he is black.  I do believe that it is a mistake for progressives to dismiss Obama as "insufficiently progressive" because he is framing his message based on unity.  Unity is a value in and of itself, it has great political appeal, and it very well may be a necessary frame for our country to finally break the race barrier.

I believe progressives need to discuss these matters openly and honestly.  Obama is in many ways a unique candidate.  He is uniquely positioned to heal some of the most profound wounds in our nation's soul, and uniquely equipped to change our image in the world.  We should not dismiss this opportunity without real thought and discussion.

Tags: Edwards, obama, unity (all tags)



Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

great post.

I've thinking about writing a similar diary for some time.

The take home point: Obama's rhetoric calls for unity, but not compromise on progressive goals. If you doubt this, just look at his record of progressive acheivement.

by dpg220 2007-05-07 04:17PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Thanks for your response.  Do you think any of the Edwards' supporters will see my point?

by upper left 2007-05-07 04:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

They will, but they will not acknowledge.

by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-07 04:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

And that is a great message for unity.  Decide ahead of time - great analysis.

by pioneer111 2007-05-07 06:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Just trying to be consistent. Isn't that what My Doubting Democrats are all about? (jk)


by ObamaEdwards2008 2007-05-08 03:37PM | 0 recs
This Edwards supporter

sees your point, and it's a good one. I've long thought that part of of the reason Obama focuses on conensus is because his candidacy is inherently polarizing. A black candidate taking the positions that Edwards is taking would scare the shit out of people.

Still, the question remains: which approach is better? That is, which is more likely to bring about deep progressive change?

Consenus and compromise are not going to bring about the change that we need, and actually I think Obama knows this. I mean, does he really believe that if he sits down with corporate powers that be and their benefactors in Congress, he'll be able to convince them to back progressive tax reform and an increase in social spending and fair trade? I doubt it. His focus on unity is a campaign tactic designed to appeal to moderates and independents.

The truth is, there are people and forces who are hellbent on maintaining and expanding their power, and they will not succub to lofty rhetoric or appeals to unity: they have to be forced to give up power through a competing exercise of power. It's simply not possible to be non-polarizing and transformative. Lincoln, FDR, Reagan: all polarizing. Struggle is needed.

Edwards gets this, he's running on this premise, and if he's elected the Democratic Party will have a mandate for change. Obama, by contrast, either won't try to be transformative or he will try once he's in office, at which point the polarizing struggle will begin, and he'll have a harder time of it having not been open and honest about his plans and his philisophy.

If he's a transformative leader, he's keeping it a secret.

by david mizner 2007-05-07 07:32PM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

I think Obama hides it in his "politics" and how he deals with "partisanship" but really, his policies are about change.  I'm pretty sure he's been using the word 'transformational' and 'change' about as much as Edwards.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 07:44PM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter
  1.  Why do you assume he's hiding something, rather than taking him at his words?
  2.  But does he mean the same thing by "transformational change"?  What's the difference?
by jallen 2007-05-07 07:48PM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

1.  I think what Obama thinks is compromise and what most people think a compromise is, are two different things.  By compromise, you give up something, to achieve a goal.  By the political compromise, you toss people a bone that you can both agree on, in order to get the more important thing through with that bone.  (If you're the majority party, you get the more important thing through.  If you're the minority party, you get to share a bone.)  By more important, I meant more "High priority".  

It's a matter of perception versus reality.  Realistically is Obama compromising?  Not really.  Do people percieve what he's doing as compromising?  Yes.

2. As for the differences in transformational change, that will lie in the discrepencies between policy.  I know Obama doesn't have all of his stuff rolled out yet, but when he does it will be fair game for comparing.  Then you can decide what transformation you think is best.  They will be similar, but not exactly the same.

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 10:17PM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

I don't consider his record solidly progressive.  He voted for the bankruptcy bill, and appears to want to repeat the Hillarycare compromise with big business, on the issue of National Health Insurance, which didn't work the first time around and won't work this time around.   Hillarycare failed because it would put everyone on unpopular hmos, and the Harry and Louis ads capitalized on this. He is also supported by Robert Rubin, which means he will not be into fair trade.

by Dameocrat 2007-05-09 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

Because at this point he's not advocating policies and positions that would result in transformational change. He hasn't broken with Rubinomics. He hasn't made a committment to progressive tax reform. He hasn't put forth comprehensive plan to help the poor and the working class. He has made a commitment to returning wealth to workers and building our social democracy. He's not, in short, running as a progressive. If it were, you can bet that conservatives like David Brooks, Andrew Sullivan, Marty Peretz, andf former Bush backers wouldn't be saying such nice things about him.

I was actually giving him the benefit of the doubt, speculating that he's offering this pleasant message about unity in order to to get elected, and that once he in office, he would seek fundamental change that would necessarily piss off Corporate America and the Republicans who are currently praising him. But maybe not. Maybe he actually believes that he can fundamentally change the country without engendering a shitstorm. But I doubt he's that stupid.

by david mizner 2007-05-08 04:41AM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

Thanks for a thoughtful response.

"Consenus and compromise are not going to bring about the change that we need,..."

I disagree with your premise that Obama is seeking consensus and compromise.  There is a difference between framing progressive policies using majoritarian language and being a centrist. I think Obama is willing to compromise in places where he thinks it is necessary to get the ball rolling.  But policy compromises are not the same as compromising fundamental values.

Would you acknowledge the possibility that the outcomes Obama might achieve have the potential to be more progressive than the outcomes that might be achieved by a more aggressive, confrontational approach?  I am not saying that they will, I am saying that they might.  It is a live question worthy of a lot of debate.  Which strategy will yield the best results?

What bothers me is the ASSUMPTION that Edwards' way is the best way.  Many of the younger activists on this board only know the highly partisan politics of the last decade.  I have worked as a lobbyist in three states.  I remember a time, in the late seventies and even through the eighties, when there was far less animosity and I think we got a hell of a lot more done.  

It is also clear to me that the size of our majorities in Congress probably have more impact on our ability to pass progressive legislation than whether Edwards or Obama, and to a certain extent even Clinton, is sitting in the White House.  If this is true, then we should be debating who will have the longest coattails, and who can do the best job of building a progressive majority for the long haul?

Again, I am not saying definitively that Obama is better.  I am saying that it is a mistake for progressives to simply assume that Edwards is better.  Let's continue the debate over the coming months.

by upper left 2007-05-08 04:36AM | 0 recs
It's possible, I suppose

It's possible that Obama, having run on unity and refused to demonize his opponents. could be so popular with independents and engender so much good will among moderate Republicans that he would have a power base with which to enact bold policies. It's possible, but I doubt it. I don't see a historical precedent for it, and everything I know (or think I know) about politics--and the world--tells me that as soon as Obama introduces legislation that threatens the power of corporations, rich individuals, and Republicans, the polarization Obama says he abhors would ensue. There's no higher goal than unity but polarization is often the price you have to pay for it. And framing is fine, but it doesn't preclude the need to fight.

There was a good post related to this at the New Republic, and it's worth quoting at length. It's about Obama and his favorite philosohper:

http://www.tnr.com/blog/openuniversity?p id=104944

"Niebuhr's insistence that the powerful would only relinquish their privileges when confronted with organized force--not moral appeals or progressive education--remains indispensable to any realistic effort to win dignity and a decent life for ordinary people. And his argument that "non-violent coercion and resistance" was the most humane form of mass protest still inspires with its hope for future reconciliation and forgiveness between adversaries. Non-violent protest, a strategy Niebuhr explicitly recommended to African Americans, "binds human beings together by reminding them of the common roots and similar character of both their vices and their virtues." No wonder that Martin Luther King, Jr. and the architects of the Truth and Reconciliation process in South Africa found wisdom in Moral Man. It is not far-fetched to imagine that the young Barack Obama who moved to the South Side of Chicago to become an organizer was equally drawn to this theme in Niebuhr's work.

That said, Moral Man offers a bracing challenge to Obama's presidential campaign. As Leon Wieseltier has remarked, much of what Obama has offered to date is "just uplift," the high-minded rhetoric of modern Mugwumps like Adlai Stevenson, John Anderson, and Bill Bradley. Obama is clearly a thoughtful man, as Larissa MacFarquhar's profile in the current New Yorker demonstrates. He deliberately refrains from demonizing his opponents and seems genuinely committed to overcoming the crude name-calling of the culture wars. All well and good. But at a certain point, he will have to demand something from people who are disinclined to give up much of anything for the commonweal. (John Edwards has run a far more honest and substantive campaign, in this regard.) Whether that means taxing the wealthy to pay for health care or instituting mandatory national service for young Americans, Obama will have to demonstrate his seriousness--political and moral--by moving from biography to proposals that don't go down as easily as his eloquent rhetoric. "The injustices in society," Niebuhr wrote, "will not be abolished purely by moral suasion." Or, one might add, by appeals to civility and bipartisanship.

Emphasis added.

by david mizner 2007-05-08 06:06AM | 0 recs
Consensus is NOT on the menu

I've got nothing against unity, accord, constructive compromise, peace, love and/or understanding.  The Repulicons of today, however, expressly and explicitly reject, in no uncertain terms, any form of compromise or bipartisanship.  In fact, they behave in a way that puts at risk all of those things, because they know that Democrats do care about them, and they can use that caring as a lever against us.  Obama, as appealing as he is, is never going to get them to play nice.  As they say, this ain't beanbag.

What is really needed on the Democratic side is someone who understands viscerally the need to fight the b*st*rds.  The Repulicons are engaged in a war on America, and they intend to destroy it -- that is, they intend to destroy democracy and freedom in America, and all the things that make the American polity what it is -- so that they can institute an authoritarian regime.  

There is no possibility of engaging them in a constructive political process.  They will view any attempt to do so as a sign of weakness.  They will exploit anyone who tries to work with them.  Instead, they must be confronted, and opposed, as forcefully as possible within the bounds of acceptable political behavior.  

Obama seems constitutionally incapable to doing this.  His capitulation to McCain when they had their row illustrates his incapacity.  He's done nothing since then, either, to dispell that impression.  Edwards, on the other hand, as a trial lawyer, knows a thing or two about conflict and confrontation.  And Hillary, despite her instinct for triangulation, is no softie, either.  For that reason, I think either Edwards or Clinton will win if they are nominated, but the American people will not elect as President a man who is perceived as a weakling.

by Perry Oikos 2007-05-09 09:45AM | 0 recs
Re: This Edwards supporter

because we went through this before with the dlc, and their get along approach lost and lost and lost, and was not rewarding, even when Clinton was in office.  Clinton didn't accomplish anything other than staying in office.  The countries agenda moved right.

by Dameocrat 2007-05-09 01:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I must say, that is an astute interpretation, I must say.  I never would have thought it had underlining meanings tying to his race.  I always thought it was only about the pragmatist part you were talking about.  Getting things done for a greater good, rather than ideological purity.  

Nice catch and nice diary.  I enjoyed reading it, even though it was kind of long!  (I usually give up on long diaries.)

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 04:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Thanks for the response.  Sorry for being long- winded.  It is one of the frustrations of this place that trying to develop in-depth analysis often results in our Diaries being lost or ignored.

by upper left 2007-05-07 05:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

It was an excellent diary.  I agree with much of what you say.  I do think Obama would make a great president but not at this time.  I think the Republicans need to be discredited and that a strong Democratic brand is set in the minds of the population. Then I think we could use Obama's leadership and background.  My ideal would be Edwards first and Obama next.

by pioneer111 2007-05-07 06:28PM | 0 recs

we're getting to the point where hard-core supporters fit everything into the "frame" of their chosen candidate, as opposed to impartial analysis.  I know I do.  So I'm not sure you're going to convince anyone...but a good diary nonetheless.

by rashomon 2007-05-07 05:04PM | 0 recs
Any? Some may respectfully disagree.

I think that Man from Middletown holds the opposing position in this strategy debate, that this is the election for the Democrats to be going for big gains in terms of policy, when he asks What is Transformational Change.

Whether Unity is a virtue or a vice depends on the basis for the unity ... if it is, to paraphrase Lincoln, achieving Unity through a compromise between right and wrong, then it is not so appealing.

by BruceMcF 2007-05-08 06:16AM | 0 recs
Your unity message could use some work.

Edwards, smedwards.  It has to do with the fact that this country has been pulled so far to the right that the idea of unifying with it is ridiculous and wrong. Besides, everybody who isn't a complete winger is no longer Republican, and "the middle" (15 undecideds in Iowa} is so horrified at what the Republican Party has become that they have now MOVED LEFT to become Independents or Democrats.

* "Obama is a self-described pragmatist"  What's another phrase for having no principles or ideals worth putting oneself on the line for"?  
 * Partisanship?  You bet.  My mother told me that I am identified by the company I keep, and I'm not keeping company with Republicans or jesus.  
 * Strategy: His "strategy" makes a lie out of his unity message.  If he wants unity, quit dividing us by race, gender, and creed.

If Obama is a pragmatist, he sure does a hell of a job of collecting and creating an emotional following. Elmer Gantry, no doubt about it.

by dkmich 2007-05-09 02:27AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

100% on target

by andgrun 2007-05-07 05:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Excellent and outstanding.  As a former social service worker I hardily agree with 2 and 4 points.  All are great but, those 2 are the most that really hit the home run.

by vwcat 2007-05-07 04:56PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I also agree this is a great post.

While I sympathize with Edwards current rhetoric, and realize that there needs to be those who push for more partisan purity (to ensure commitment to progressive solutions), it is always better to have a figure to unify the country, change the talking points, and implement progressive politics.

Over the last few months, I have seen posts here and on Daily Kos that try to equate the centrist positions of Hillary and Obama. The problem with those arguments is that there is a real difference between the candidates. Hillary does (occasionally) position herself as Republican-lite. In contrast, Obama's "centrist" positions advance the progressive agenda.

Finally, Edwards is able to position himself as ideologically "pure" because he is not hampered by the day-to-day responsibility of being in the United States Senate.

by thetadelta 2007-05-07 05:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I personally think Edwards is a terrific candidate.  Had Obama not entered the race I would be enthusiastically working for Edwards. If Edwards is in a stronger position next spring I may even support him.

My frustration is with the Edwards folks who try to equate Obama with HRC and the neo-lib crowd. I think that is an unfair reading of his record and his positions.  I would really enjoy a constructive debate about which of the candidates can best advance the progressive cause.

by upper left 2007-05-07 05:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I think this comes not so much from what he's done in the past but some of his rhetoric since he's announced. Well maybe some of the things in the past like his support for liquid coal and nuclear energy. He's also voted with Hillary on every single bill except one so its not a hard jump to make.

But for example if you like at his foreign policy plan recently announced its very neo-liberal. Increases the military overall, increases military spending. I dont think its unfair at all to bring these things up. You may disagree with equating the two, but there is certianly some evidence that supports that.

by okamichan13 2007-05-07 07:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Liquid coal but of a clean sort. Nuclear energy of a cleaner sort than yesterday (a position that I agree with, it's temporarily better than oil and coal).  
Both Hillary and Obama has voted in accordance with the progressive position almost all of the time, but if you look further back Hillary has shown some neo-liberal elements. And then there is the Iraq war...

On foreign policy he is less hawkish than Hillary but still no dove.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 04:16AM | 0 recs
There's really nothing

temporary or clean about nuclear power. No carbon emissions sure, but there are a lot of other problems with it. Its the wrong direction to go towards.

We need real investment in real long term safe and clean solutions. A Marshall plan on energy so to speak that can also create jobs, new investment, technology and create a more sustainable and diversified economy.

by okamichan13 2007-05-08 09:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

how very insightful and clear sight.  thanks.

by vwcat 2007-05-07 06:02PM | 0 recs
My biggest fear of Obama in the general

My biggest fear is that he really believes this idea of unity and would run a soft campaign trying to attract Republicans that would not vote for him in a million years.

Reaching out to moderate independent voters is one thing.  A Democratic candidate - an African American one no less - reaching out to Republicans is another.  Just look at Harold Ford - "call me!"

I am all for unity and bi-partisanship BUT that would take two sides striving for it.  That is not going to happen in '08.  Listen to the likely Republican candidates already (McCain and Giuliani are going to the Rove playbook on terror).  It is going to be a knock down drag out fight to win the White House in '08.

We need a candidate on our side who knows how to roll up his or her sleeves and fight Republicans.

by dpANDREWS 2007-05-07 05:23PM | 0 recs
Re: My biggest fear of Obama in the general

If you watch the Obama-Keyes debate, (Yes I know, Keyes was a horrible candidate,) he cuts through the crap and called Keyes out on ridiculous statements.  He is MUCH more comfortable in that style of a debate.   I don't see Obama dropping any values as a progressive in his compromising.  

Andrews, more often than not, I'd agree with you on fighting Republicans.  The only problem with maintaining ideological purity in the near future, is that if we don't get 9+ senate seats, the Republicans can fillibuster anything and everything so long as they are unified in the senate.  (Although I'd prefer to just pick up the 9 or 10 seats and not worry about it :-) )

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 05:29PM | 0 recs
Re: My biggest fear of Obama in the general

I think you and upper left make a mistake in equating partisanship with ideological purity.  I love Howard Dean for his ferocious partisanship, but he has never been very far to the left.  I remember all his supporters talking about how moderate or even conservative he'd been as a governor.

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:04PM | 0 recs
Speaking of Dean...

As a Deaniac, one of the reasons I cannot bring myself to hop on the Obama bandwagon is his hiring of Robert Gibbs as his campaign spokesman. Gibbs was responsible for the ad in Iowa that said Dean could not compete with Bush on foreign policy (presumably because of his opposition to the Iraq adventure) while focussing in on a picture of Osama Bin Laden (like he had anything to do with Iraq). (See http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/2 /22/134458/142 for more.)

Given how smart and savvy Obama is, I have trouble seeing this decision as anything other than a big F.U. to Dean supporters and wink, wink signal to big $ donors (who don't like Dean's empowerment of the grassroots) that Barack is on their side. I have posted about this before and am STILL waiting for someone to tell me why I shouldn't see it this way....

by Jim in Chicago 2007-05-07 11:09PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

Your statement above seems to imply that you think that being more partisan automatically yields more progressive elected officials, and more progressive policy.  This is an assumption that I think needs to be questioned. Trying to out-Rove the Republicans is not necessarily a winning long-term strategy for the Dems.

by upper left 2007-05-08 04:44AM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

No one is trying to out-Rove Republicans.

You cannot reflexively re-apply to our side what have been the rules for the other side.

Rove built a 50%+1 "majority" through dirty tricks, fear, a 30-year movement behind him, and slash-and-burn.  Oh, and true public sentiment was never behind him.

We are vastly different, so no one on our side is trying to be a Democratic Karl Rove.  That's just the thing...clear progressivism, with a little backbone and pride is exactly the cleave that can build a large and sustainable majority.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:11AM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

I was being a bit sarcastic. Of coarse you aren't propossinng to use Rovian smear tactics.

On the other hand, you are proposing a forceful message aimed at your base with little effort to appeal to the middle.  Sound familiar? You may not be talking about his tactics but you are talking about a similar strategy.  This will reinforce a very polarized country. It remains to be seen whether this is a good thing or a bad thing.

by upper left 2007-05-09 04:51AM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.
I think being more partisan is key to winning elections.  If we do not identify ourselves as significantly different from our opponents, then there is less reason to vote for us.  We can do this without being very far to the left, as many moderate Democrats are able to do.  Even moderate Dems are very different from Republicans.  We need to identify ourselves as part of an us vs them, just as the Republicans do.  In fact, we in the activist core do this all the time, and some of our leaders do, but many, like Barack, do not.  In saying that we can work together and get things done suggests that in fact there are not significant differences between the party, and that if you support Barack, you can still vote for Republicans for congress, because they will work together.  In reality, that's bullshit.
Now, that's about electing more Democrats.  That doesn't necessarily get us more progressive policy, but without electing Democrats we won't get progressive policies.
by jallen 2007-05-08 04:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

I wrote a diary on this.  I'm thinking of deleting it and reposting because you obviously missed it.  You don't understand what compromization means.  It's that simple.  You're taking the perception of compromization.  Realistically Obama doesn't compromise.  Since 68% of people (April poll) the perception of compromizing will bring Obama up.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 05:18PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

I don't care about the poll, because people say a lot of things they don't mean.

But on compromising, is he all talk and it's about being an appealing candidate, or is it about actually compromising in order to get things done?  You Obama supporters seem to be engaging in a lot of double-think.  Either way, politicians have always crossed party lines when they agree on an issue, and as long as we don't have enough votes to pass what we want, we will always have to compromise.  But I'm not sure that you understand that saying that we agree on issues with the other party, when we actually agree on very few, if any important issues, and saying that we all just need to work together to solve our problems allows people to vote for both Barack and Republicans at the same time, or to vote against him (or even vote for someone like Nader), because he's implying that the parties are really pretty similar, it's all just silly ideological battles.  This ignores that your ideology determines what you consider problems and what you don't (which is why Republicans don't care about economic inequality or minority rights), and how problems should be solved (which is why Republicans support punitive measures to curb abortions, but market-based solutions for global warming and social security, and market-based school systems).  It is, in reality, very difficult to work with people who see the world in an entirely different way than we do.  Since few people are ideologically pure, there will be a few issues that we can work together on on an individual basis, but the parties are not very similar, and we shouldn't allow people to think that they are.

by jallen 2007-05-08 05:43PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/5/8/12324 2/0536

That's a little diary I wrote today.  

Perception vs. Reality.  Obama says what he does, and people percieve it as compromising.  If you look at these two examples, it really isn't compromising at all though.  

He wasn't running for president during one of those examples.  So I think it's more about his character.  However, it gives off this tone that, "If you're conservative, you can vote for me.  I'm willing to 'compromise' and I've done it in the past."  In order to appeal to moderates and conservatives as a uniter, etc.  I think it's him but it works great for his campaign.  Read the diary.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 06:11PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

That has nothing to do with what I'm talking about.  It may work great for him as a candidate, but like what Bill CLinton did, it won't be good for the party or broader goals than electing a president.

by jallen 2007-05-08 06:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

...You're kidding right?  This is what he talks about when he says "bipartisan" and "Compromise".  If you have any questions on what he means by compromising, they are right there.  

He got his way on the one from the book, without losing anything.  On the abortion one, he pushes aside the issue of whether abortion is okay and goes to why people get abortions.  Ultimately getting his way, and get congress try to cut down on why people get abortions.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 06:29PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

I'm not talking about how he would be on the issues.  He has an excellent record, and I'd be happy to vote for him, he would probably be an excellent president on a lot of the issues.  I'm more concerned about how talk about compromise and bipartisanship makes people think about the parties, and I think I've made that clear.  He would not be like Clinton on a lot of issues, but I think the affect of making the parties look like two faces of the same coin would be similar.

by jallen 2007-05-08 06:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

Oh, I'm sorry.  You wrote way too much so I skimmed some of it.  

The Republican candidates are way off from Obama on the issues.  There's no way they can be seen as "The same coin".  

If you watch Obama in the Obama-Keyes debate, (Yes Keyes was a horrible candidate) but Obama called him out on crap whenever he deemed it necessary.  Obama will draw a huge line between him and his opponent.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Rovian Dems are not the answer.

Wait, no, I misunderstood*  - I read the Bill Clinton thing and I didn't get it.  (I skimmed the post that was really long).  I've only been paying attention 2002-now and I've been paying hardcore attention since the 2006 elections.  I didn't get what you were talking about.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 06:44PM | 0 recs
Re: Not to worry ......

Obama didn't get this far by being a dummy.  In fact, a friend of mine teaches at the U Penn Law school and is good friends with many of the faculty at Harvard Law.  He recently told me that one of his Harvard faculty buddies told him that Obama wasn't just the brightest guy in his class, he was the "smartest and most perceptive" student he had seen in thirty years at Harvard.  When somebody says you are the sharpest tool in the shed for three decades at Harvard Law, that means you are razor sharp.

He will go after the moderates.  His special gift is being able to present progressive values and policies in ways that appeal to non-self-identified liberals.  This is the way to build a progressive majority.  I am as concerned about coattails as I am about policies, because we are not going to get significant progressive legislation if we do not have strong Dem majorities.

Edwards offers the ability to regain strength with the white working class.  Obama offers a chance to bring in a new generation of young people and to greatly boost turn-out with the young and within minority communities. I think this is one of the debates we should be having.  Who will have the longest coattails?

by upper left 2007-05-07 06:05PM | 0 recs
Who is smarter?

Bush or Gore?

Bush or Kerry?

Who won?

by dpANDREWS 2007-05-07 09:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Who is smarter?

Are you trying to say the smarter guy always loses?  

Gore and Kerry had bad consultants and didn't appeal as people to America.  

They told Gore not to talk about Global Warming because the environment isn't big with voters this time around.  

They told Kerry not to respond to Swift Boat ads, just ignore them.  

Gore walked into Bush's space during a debate, turned off a lot of voters.

When Kerry spoke, he was outright boring.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 10:16PM | 0 recs
My point is clear

Being smart doesn't equal victory.  You need smarts and the will to do political battle.

by dpANDREWS 2007-05-08 04:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Who is smarter?

Gore won, and Kerry probably did too.

What Obama has - that Kerry and Gore (at least in 2000) lacked - is tons of charisma. He has gigantic crowds following him already.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 04:21AM | 0 recs
The Harvard Endorsements

Law School professors who personally knew Obama from his days at the Law School also offered their enthusiastic support for the senator's candidacy, calling it an opportunity to bridge the country's partisan divide.

"He was committed to speaking a language that went across political bounds," said Professor of Law Kenneth W. Mack, who was one of Obama's Harvard classmates. "We need that common language of progressive politics."

Loeb University Professor Laurence H. Tribe '62, who employed Obama as a research assistant when the senator was still a student, said that Obama had the potential to become one of the best presidents in United States history.

"We are dealing with someone who has a chance of being the greatest president since Franklin Roosevelt," Tribe said.

He briefly paused, and then he added, "Well, maybe I could drop the Franklin Roosevelt part."

http://www.thecrimson.com/article.aspx?r ef=517601

by jb1125 2007-05-09 02:22AM | 0 recs
Re: The Harvard Endorsements

Thanks for your post.  Coming from Tribe that is quite a compliment.  I really think people underestimate the importantance of his background as a law professor. I think he could do a lot to educate the public about Constitutional principles.

by upper left 2007-05-09 04:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Great post. Very well done.

I really don't think Obama is not progressive at all. . He's wildly more progressive then Kerry or Clinton or 2000 Gore. He would be the first Dem candidate for 20 years that wasn't a DLC member.

I'm on the left of the political spectrum on every issue expect maybe balanced budget. Bernie Saunders is the type of senator I love. However he would have no chance of winning the presidency.

Also if progressives can pass a bill. Do you think Obama's going to veto it? No, probably not. I think we need to elect a Democrat in the white house and elect a progressive majority in congress.

by Populista 2007-05-07 05:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

No, we need to build a movement, not just win the next election.

Why 2008 is so important is that it sets the tone for the coming out publicly of what the progressive movement will be like.

Who we elect as our elected-official-standard-bearer will say almost everything to a vast majority of Americans about who we are.

As an aside, presidents don't just sign bills - they are the prime mover in government not just administratively, but also legislatively.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I agree with you totally. I think the progressive movement should not be a movement defined by a leader who has been and still to my knowledge is a member of the DLC.

"The founders believed the United States Democratic Party needed to shift to the right of center"

"It is the opinion of the DLC that populism is not politically viable"

As a progressive. I cannot live with someone who has been a part of that. I really wish John Edwards was a true progressive populist who had been like that his whole life. Like his campaign manager David Bonior.

Let's face it. As much as we'd like there to be. There is no true movement candidate unless you count Dennis. If Wellstone was alive and he ran he'd be one. If Boxer ran. Or Russ. Or Berrnie, or Brown. Anyone of those would be movement candidates we could all get behind. None of them are running. So I'm settling for a progressive who is the only candidate with over %1 in the polls who hasn't been affiliated with the DLC(Democrat's who Love Corporations)

If Obama wins the nomination I'll keep right on organizing and working my ass of for him. If Edwards gets it I'll get really exited and bust my ass off for him. Even if Hillary gets the nomination I'll contain the puke in my mouth and bust my ass of for her. Any of our candidates will change the country for the better. However this is a democracy and so I can chose who I want to work for. As a progressive populist Democrat. One from the Wellstone wing of the Democratic party I think Barack Obama is the best in this field of candidates. He has tons and tons of things I disagree with him on but I still think he's the best one out there.

by Populista 2007-05-11 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis


but he is willing to work with centrists and even conservatives when he believes he can find areas of shared values.

That's a point often brought up a lot by Obama supporters, but that's the way politics has always worked.  That wouldn't be anything different.
Many in the progressive blogosphere seek revenge; they seek to build a progressive majority that can turn the tables on conservatives.  OTOH, many who are less avowedly progressive would like to see the level of partisanship reduced.  This group is less engaged but larger in number.  I believe that Obama's "unity" message is designed to appeal to this group.  Obama's high favorable ratings among independent voters are a testament to the fact that his message resonates with the very group that usually decides general elections in this country.  Viewed in this light, Obama's message rather than being a naive attempt to rise above politics is rather a very smart bit of "real politik."

So do you think electing Obama is more important than seizing an opportunity to crush the Republicans and have a majority for 30-40 years?


Perhaps we fear that we will reveal some form of bias and open ourselves to accusations of being racist.



Unity is a value in and of itself, it has great political appeal, and it very well may be a necessary frame for our country to finally break the race barrier.

Unity is neutral, not good or bad.  What it is in pursuit of is important.

Let me make clear- I think Barack would win if he were the nominee, I think he'd be at least a decent president, but the best since LBJ at least, and I don't think we'd have to worry about him ramping up any wars.  But I just don't see how he helps the greater cause.  Other than paving the way for more black presidents, of course, which would be worthwhile.  But this-

Poverty, crime, drugs and lousy schools leave blacks, as a group, at a huge disadvantage.

-is the issue.  What will he do for them?  What will he do for poor whites, and hispanics?  What will he do for the cause?

by jallen 2007-05-07 05:58PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis
J, you really need to lighten up on the anger thing.
It's like spinning in a wheel.
by vwcat 2007-05-07 06:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I wasn't angry when I was typing that.  As I said, I think he'd be at least a decent president, better than CLinton and Carter, probably all around as good as LBJ (although I doubt he'll propose any big social programs).

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Woa! LBJ was the worst president in the 20th century. He destroyed Democratic credibility on national security and with the excesses of his "Great Society" hurt Democrats on the economy as well. There is a reason the Democrats went into the wilderness after LBJ! He was basically the Dem's GWBush.

I am also very weary of anyone who sets out to claim generational or multi-generational majorities. The last person I heard talking about that was Rove.

by alarabi7 2007-05-07 06:20PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Whatever.  Aside from Vietnam, LBJ was a good president.

And Democratic and Republican eras come and go.  Rove's mistake was thinking that we were a the beginning of a Republican era.  In reality, it began in the late sixties or early seventies.  It was a weak realignment.  They only controlled the government for a few years.  We have the opportunity to build something real, like FDR did.  I can see Obama turning it into a weak realignment and us out again in 10-15 years, because he isn't very partisan.  I see Edwards building a bigger coalition and expanding the Democratic majority, and it lasting much longer.

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

LBJ lied us into a disaster of a war, lied about how the war was going, and punted the war to his successor to avoid losing... sound familiar? Other than that he wasn't horrible-- just mediocre.

by alarabi7 2007-05-07 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Was LBJ really worse than Harding, Coolidge, or McKinley?  Reagan?  Nixon?

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:53PM | 0 recs

...he did have Kennedy killed, but other than that, sure... ;-)

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 06:59PM | 0 recs
You don't build a progressive coalition

by ramming it down peoples' throats.  What you get instead is backlash, which is what Republicans are experiencing now.

by pamelabrown 2007-05-08 07:16AM | 0 recs
Re: You don't build a progressive coalition

Only because they took it too far.  They tried to be ideologically pure.  The Democratic Party is dependent on more diverse constituencies, like our own big business and unions, godless Americans and Black and Hispanic Christians and Jews, etc., so I see much less threat of going for ideologicaly purity.  It also had to do with the fact that they can't competently govern.

by jallen 2007-05-08 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Check your history.

LBJ escalated a war that started under JFK.  History can and should hold him responsible for doing so.

However, LBJ was responsible for passage of more progressive domestic legislation than anyone other than FDR:  Civil Rights Act, Voting Rights Act, Medicaid, Medicare, Food Stamps, and on and on.  

Johnson's "War on Poverty" cut the percentage of people living in poverty by nearly 50%.  Give the man his due.  He made a real differencs in the lives of millions and millions of people.

by upper left 2007-05-08 04:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Yeah, I'm kind of confused as is the post above.  

1.  Obama doesn't feed the media when they are looking to tout rivalries, ultimately feeding the "Us versus them" mentality.  So although candidates have and do work together, Obama up's the ante a level or two.

2.  I don't see why we can't have both.  Obama brings a lot of new people to the table, and quite possibly he could drive the youth out to vote.  It has yet to be proven, but we won't know till the primaries start.  

3.  Everyone's had some racism planted in them since they were a child... Who knows?  I don't think it's a laughing matter though.  

4.  Usually they are in pursuit of a similar result, that's why they unite.

5.  Obama is doing it for America, not blacks.  However, blacks are probably most likely to be positively affected by his plans.  It's not like he's doing it ONLY for blacks.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 06:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

2.  How can Obama forge a new Democratic coalition by running on bipartisanship?  How does he make the case for Democrats?  Don't we need to provide a strong contrast with the Republicans?  Is that contrast aout how nice we are, or what we stand for?
And polls I've seen show Giuliani doing extremely well among younger voters.  How can we be sure Obama has them in the bag, regardless of whether they come out in large numbers?

5.  But what'll he do for them?

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:59PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

We don't have to contrast them if we can agree on something that's right.  If we have the majority and pass positive legislation... What's the problem?  People should vote for us again.  

He hasn't released a specific plan on education yet, he's hit talking points as to what he sees for it, but not a full fledged bit yet.  You can bet it's on its way though!

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 07:13PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Well, I'm a college student, and I think most of us are sick of politicians coming and talking to us about education.  Most of us are more concerned about global warming, running out of oil, and if a poll Mike Connery was talking about is correct, poverty, the breakdown of the family... but those SUSA state polls last week showed Edwards and Obama beating Giuliani among older voters, but not doing nearly as well among younger voters.

by jallen 2007-05-07 07:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

This is sadly not true.

People don't pay attention to good bills getting passed.  There are maybe 10-15 big bills per Congress that get public attention.  

Voter attention and public perception of political/social/cultural ideology is driven by what we talk about and how we do it.  

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Response by the number:

1) I have worked as a lobbyist, for progressive causes, in three states under seven different Governors.  There are huge differences in style and skill in terms of getting things done.  I have seen bullies, church mice, pontificators, you name it.  I don't know of course, but my instincts tell me that Obama has the right skill set.  He will be able to dangle carrots to entice those that can be enticed, he will be good at the bully pulpit to bring the public along with him.

Don't get me wrong I think Edwards would be good too, but Obama actually has more experience than Edwards as a legislator.

2)I think "crushing Republicans" is totally the wrong idea.  I believe the secret is to do what FDR did.  Persuade moderates to come to your side by delivering a better country and real tangible benefits in peoples lives.  

3) I don't understand your "Ha!", please explain.

4) I believe that building a strong social consensus for a more communitarian country is a good in itself.  Division and stress are bad for the long term health of the country.  I don't like the Rovian world view whether I am the 51% or the 49%.

by upper left 2007-05-07 06:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

1.  All the Democratic candidates (the serious ones) have bipartisan cred.

2.  FDR did fucking crush the Republicans.  Have you seen the party breakdowns of congress from back then?   Do you know how awfully he crushed his opponents?  Do you recall him calling his opponents "economic royalists"?  He was harsh.  Progressive Republicans sided with him because there were far more decent Republicans in those days.  And bringing people to our side by providing tangible benefits?  What is Barack proposing?  I know my candidate has a rural recovery plan.  I know my candidate has a plan to create millions of jobs.  I know my candidate has a plan to put kids through college.  I know my candidate has a good health care plan.  Edwards is ready with the tangible benefits.

3.  Saying that we might oppose him because of even subconscious racism isn't productive and is probably laughably inaccurate for 99% of us.  It would be fucking awesome to have a black president.  I would be proud to vote for him.

4.  FDR was a strong partisan, and he got more than 51%.  So did Jackson, another strong partisan.  But what of my question?  What will he do about poverty, and drugs, and crime, and bad schools?  What about poor whites and hispanics?

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:43PM | 0 recs

FDR was a strong centrist who fought back the fascists and the communists to save capitalism.

Or that's certainly one way to look at it.

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 06:54PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

A third Obama supporter confuses ideological purity with partisanship.  Did I say he was a leftist or something?  No.  He was partisan.

by jallen 2007-05-07 07:02PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

A third Obama supporter confuses ideological purity with partisanship.

It's symptomatic. Obama could learn a lesson or two from Warner in this regard.

by Jerome Armstrong 2007-05-07 07:06PM | 0 recs
Serious question...

Did Warner win the VA governorship by a large margin by being sharply partisan?

I honestly don't know enough about VA politics to know the answer. But, I suspect that he didn't making bashing Republicans a central campaign theme.

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Serious question...

Where do you get that being partisan means "bashing" is a "central campaign theme"?

by Jerome Armstrong 2007-05-07 08:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Serious question...

Because the context of this conversation has involved Dean. And I think that, for some, the "I hate Republicans and everything they stand for" kind of partisanship has a lot of resonance. At times, it certainly does for me, as well.

But, I concede your point...

One can certainly be strongly pro-Democratic without being sharply anti-Republican.

But the real question is... Did Warner not gloss over the party's differences -- and highlight the things that unite us, rather than focusing on the things that divide us?

I still don't know the answer to that question.

by Vermonter 2007-05-08 04:13AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

I'm not confused. I just made my comment for purely rhetorical fun.

But, can't we should all acknowledge that the concept of the non-ideological, purely partisan, netroots is largely a myth?

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...
Yes, but we are of differing ideologies, some libertarian, some neoliberal, some modern liberal, some progressive liberal, some social democrats, some progressive populists, t othe extent that those can be defined.  I'm not going to try to do it now.
Some of us are moderates.  I'm not, but Howard Dean is, yet he's very partisan.  I bumped into Obama supporters who found Dean too abrasive, which amused me endlessly.
by jallen 2007-05-07 07:31PM | 0 recs

... it was Dean's abrasive partisanship which turned off many Democratic voters in Iowa.

And, it makes perfect sense that some Obama supporters like him better than Dean for precisely that reason.

I think that explains why he's attracting such an astounding number of donors, too.

Anyway, I've gotta go... But, it's been fun...

And I just hope that the kind of debate we're all having on this post continues -- instead of the endless pissing matches that have so often dominated these last few months (and this applies to supporters of all candidates).

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 07:39PM | 0 recs

Dean was seen as a very unstable "too hot to handle" flaming liberal.Obama is no doubt a liberal, but because his rhetorics is not extremely partisan like Dean or Edwards, the purity-liberal netroot folks just don't like him, but i believe it's no big deal.I think a lot of liberals aren't big on this "in your face styled" creaming liberal partisanship.

And i sincerily don't think the Democrats will win by being as partisan as the GOP because the independent voters which are the swing vote, won't tolerate extreme partisans from either party and this is why Obama sounds the best to them.

I really think that Edwards strong partisanship will only cause deadlock in congress.Look at what happened with his new ad that ran in D.C which infuriated the entire senate democratic caucus with Harry Reid basicly telling him to back off and asked him why he gave up by refusing to run for senate.

Edwards partisanship might still win him the democratic primary althought i wouldn't bet on it.

The good news for Edwards is,althought his clearly the 3rd wheel after Hillary and Obama on the national level, he still leads in Iowa.

The bad news for Edwards is that we're still about 9 months away from caucus night, and i strongly believe that as we get closer to election night,Edwards Iowa lead will evaporate.I think the race has already shown that it's tightening with Hillary closing in.Edwards leads, from the few polls i have seen, are inside the MOE, and Edwards should be very nervous because if he doesnt win Iowa convincigly, there's no way he'll get enought momentum to overcome the higher name ID that Hillary and Obama and bigger states.

Let's also remember that Hillary and Obama will outraise Edwards by a load of cash.

by JaeHood 2007-05-07 11:48PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Back when the political center was re-defined something differently than today.  Barack Obama will keep the political center exactly where it is right now, because he's unwilling, or does not recognize that moving the center is the key to quality progressive governance and building something larger and more sustainable like a movement.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-07 07:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

I fundamentally disagree with your post.  I think it is reasonable to debate whether Edwards or Obama's strategic approach to changing the debate will be more effective. But your statement that "Obama will not move the center" is totally wrong.

With all due respect, this is the kind of statement that starts flame wars.  If you are going to make a big assertion like this you need to back it up with some solid analysis. You can't merely assume your conclusion.

by upper left 2007-05-08 05:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

Obama has demonstrated that he is most comfortable working in the current political center.

The gravity of the center will not change if the Democratic standard-bearer keeps playing in the middle of the spectrum that Republicans have set.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Actually...

You are restating an assertion but you are not putting forward any analysis or facts to back it up.  This style of argument doesn't convince those who do not already agree with you.

Do you really believe that Obama's values would not entail a radically different world?  I see no reason to believe that Obama's underlieing values are any less progressive than Edwards' values.  In fact, Obama has been much more intimately involved in the lives of poor people than has Edwards.

Obama and Edwards have different ideas about how to most effectively persue change, but I have little dougt that both are committed to a far different future, and I believe that both would greatly change the tone of the dicourse in this country.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:07AM | 0 recs
I dont see much difference

between your assertion that Obama will move the center and his that Obama won't. They are both opinion and neither is inflamatory.

It also seems very clear that despite your protestations to the contrary, your mind is clearly made up. That's perfectly fine, but maybe you should be a little more forthright about it. You are trying to play peacemaker while negating any criticism of the approach your diary is advocating. Its not a very good fit.

by okamichan13 2007-05-08 08:59AM | 0 recs
Re: I dont see much difference

Please see my comment above.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

If you want to "crush" the GOP in 2008 then Obama is the one to do it precisely because of his appeal to centrists/indnependents and disaffected Republicans.

1980 gave us the term "Reagan Democrats" and began a generation of GOP political dominance.

2008 can give us the term "Obama Republicans" and a generation of Democratic Party dominance.

by Sam I Am 2007-05-07 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Edwards and Obama both poll well among Independents, and pick up some Republicans.

by jallen 2007-05-07 06:50PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

This adopts the attitude that winning electorally is the only goal.

To build a progressive movement we need to change political dynamics and spectrums.  

Getting a bunch of Republicans to vote for a Democrat is not the way to do this.  Getting a bunch of people, wherever to get down with liberalism is the way to do it.  And elect a president along the way that is proud to be progressive, proud to be a Democrat, and is proud to take that message to the people.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-07 07:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Redefining the issues into a right vs. wrong fashion, in a way that everyone can agree with Democrats is something he can do.  What he needs to do is take them to heart, make it party initiative, and make them dominating factors in the elections.  

I think it's plausable.  The 'compromising' part is all about bringing people together for a greater good.  There isn't much compromising to be done.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 07:34PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Much easier said than done.  Particularly with this Republican Party.

by jallen 2007-05-07 07:36PM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh

"Getting a bunch of Republicans to vote for a Democrat is not the way to do this."

Your statement reflects a fundamental misreading of the electoral situation.  Obama is not trying to move the one-third of voters who are self-identified conservatives.  It isn't going to happen.

Obama is after a healthy percentage of the third of voters who are in the middle.  These are the folks who decide most elections in this country.  He is also after the third of voters who are so turned off by the entire process that they stay home.  If he can bring in a few million new voters it can have a significant effect on down ballot Dems.

It is a live issue whether Edwards populist "us vs them" frame will be more successful than Obama saying that "this is our government and we need to make it listen to the people."  Obama uses a lot of populist riffs, he just shades his language to be a bit less confrontational.

by upper left 2007-05-08 05:18AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh

For the weak Republican leaners, voting for Obama will be a temporary change of partisan voting preference.  It will not be long-term, specifically because Obama is not positioning as being that different from what they're used to voting for.  

And stealth conversion of Republicans is not the way we're going to win a sustainable majority.  

There's more to say here, and I'll try to do it later, but I need to get back to a meeting right now.  

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:22AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh

If independents vote for Obama, and he delivers a more constructive politics and substantive changes and improvements, they will come our way.  These voters will see that progressives can govern and solve problems and the country will be better for it.  That is how you move the voters.

There are a huge group of faith voters who are working class people whose economic interests lay with the Dems.  These folks feel like the Dems routinely insult their values and look down on them.  If Obama can break that cycle and encourage these voters to see that there are other aspects of the Gospels, including caring for the earth and opting for the poor, they may start to reexamine their reflexive support for Republicans.

You wrote, "Obama is not positioning as being that different from what they're used to voting for." There is the same assertion with no evidence. To suggest that Obama isn't that different than Bush is a wee bit hard to take. I would like it if you would refer me to an article, a diary, a critique, or something that backs up this central premise that you repeat over and over without supporting argument.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:19AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh
You don't seem to understand what we're talking about.
I'd try to explain, but I've been up all night and it wouldn't make sense.
by jallen 2007-05-09 05:32AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh

Get some sleep!

I think it is less a matter of my understanding than my disagreeing.  This year marks the 30th anniversary of my first session working in the Oregon Legislature straight out of high school.  As I wrote elsewhere, I have lobbied for progressive causes in three states under seven different Governors.  I have a few battle scars.  I have lost a lot more than I have won.  

I am not interested in being Don Quixote and tilting at progressive windmills. I want to be effective. Thirty years of experience does not necessarily make me right, each generation comes with new blood, new energy, and new ideas.  I respect your passion; I hope you will respect my experience.  Debates about change and how to persue it have been going on for a long time and will be going on, long after I am gone. I am always happy to welcome new progressives to the fight.  Good luck.

by upper left 2007-05-09 06:20AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh
I've got classes all day.  I can't.
I think you seriously misunderestimate (god, now I'm actually thinking that Bush's made up words are real words) what is going on right now.  We don't need to dilute ourselves in order to win.  Our ideas are popular, much of the middle is looking to us for leadership, the last Pew poll had Democrats and their leaners with a 15 point lead over Republicans and leaners, and people respect people that stand up for their beliefs and have strong positions.  We don't need the rhetoric about bipartisanship.  While we have this chance, we need to seize it not by simply electing a president, but by electing bigger majorities and more people at the state and local levels.
Now, you think that Edwards appeals to the base, and he would make it a polarizing election, but I think it's the opposite.  Obama mostly appeals to youth and African Americans- groups that already favor Democrats.  Edwards has stronger appeal among groups that don't already heavily favor Democrats, despite (or perhaps because of) his more partisan positioning and bolder proposals (it would make more sense if Obama were the firebrand and Edwards the centrist).  So I think if we're trying to expand the base, and make it a transformational election, we go for Edwards.  Not to mention Edwards' proposals and apparent ideological differences that make him more attractive to me.  BTW, does Obama have plans for trying to end poverty or resurrecting rural America?  Yeah, that's what I'm with my guy.
by jallen 2007-05-09 06:43AM | 0 recs
Re: No one is trying to convert Limbaugh

Gotta go to work will post later.

by upper left 2007-05-09 07:22AM | 0 recs
I cannot see how Obama would

be less effecective in Edwards when it comes to build a long time Democratic majority.

It seems Obama transcends all boundaries because of his person and his background.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 04:24AM | 0 recs
The difficulty is that most Repubs

want unity only on their terms alone. And most democrats, after 6 years of fake compassionate conservatism with disastrous consequesnces and so much at stake, want the same. We've basically had no real alternative voice with power on the national level for 6 years.

I think people are starving more for change than for unity.

by okamichan13 2007-05-07 05:59PM | 0 recs
Re: It is a question of methods.

My point is that framing progressive values in ways that are accessable and acceptable to non-self-identified liberals may be the most effective way to achieve change.  In other words, preaching unity may be the shortest route to change.

by upper left 2007-05-07 06:12PM | 0 recs
Re: It is a question of methods.

Framing progressive values is not something Barack Obama has chosen to do so far.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-07 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: It is a question of methods.

This is a very argumentative statement. I am trying hard to keep a constructive conversation going, and this type of statment is not helping.  It is like fingernails on a chalk board.

Have you actually listened to the man? His entire stump speech is a call for progressive change.  Go to his web site and listen to his speech to the California Dem Convention. Come back and tell me that his speech is not filled with progressive values.  

If you are going to make this kind of statement, you need to be prepared to back it up.  

by upper left 2007-05-08 05:26AM | 0 recs
Re: It is a question of methods.

I really dont think so. Basically you are saying Obama should "trick" them.

What I would rather see is that instead of promoting progressive values through a unity framework, we convince people (after Bush people are ready) that progressive values on their own are the clear choice America needs to move towards.

Id rather have a mandate for change than a mandate for compromise. And this time, more than a very long time, its actually possible.

by okamichan13 2007-05-07 07:38PM | 0 recs
Re: The difficulty is that most Repubs

I think you are missing Obama's central point.  He is not trying to have "unity" with hard core Republicans. He is using "unity" as a frame to appeal to independents, because these people are sick of hyper-partisanship.  Obama isn't proposing to have a meeting of the minds with Gingrich and Delay type Repubs, he is seeking a strong Dem base by persuading the persuadable.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:23AM | 0 recs
I just dont believe you

the old issue page on energy that was on obama's site (its changed now) listed his work on energy projects with Republicans. These arent Republicans like Olympia Snow, but hard core Republicans. He didn't list one Democrat.

I don't trust his idea of unity at all. If he's a progressive, he will walk and talk like one. He's not.

by okamichan13 2007-05-09 12:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis
Actually I think it's both.
20 years of fighting and name calling and nothing real getting done has left people exhausted and frustrated.  They want both sides to quit acting like spoiled children and work it out and get the country working again.
That is why they want change.  They are sick of all the ideology - both sides.  They are sick of this keeping things pure as it does nothing for them.  It doesn't keep jobs, good pay, ect.  
They want it all to stop.  They want someone who can get stuff done.  Who can make both sides get crap done and address real problems.
by vwcat 2007-05-07 06:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I am not sick of ideology, just Republican ideology, I want the Democratic perspective proclaimed loudly.   I do want someone who can get things done.  I am watching Obama in the senate.  Haven't seen big results.

I think there is a place for Obama's approach, I just don't think it is the right one for a president at this time; probably later.

by pioneer111 2007-05-07 06:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

After the political center is re-defined, Obama will be a wonderful candidate in 2012 or 2020.  

by Peter from WI 2007-05-07 07:24PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Or 2016.  He will be a Democratic President.  It's just a matter of time.  I'd just rather it be a few years down the road, when we have an established and accomplished majority.

by jallen 2007-05-07 07:35PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

The thing is, right now, the unity approach, won't get the important changes done.

What it does do is perpetuate incrementalist change that doesnt reach root problems.

And in the end that frustrates people even more.

by okamichan13 2007-05-07 07:41PM | 0 recs
100% correct

There's a huge beliefs in the liberal blogs that the American people will accept extreme partisanship on the liberal side, but they just can't take it when conservative does it.I think this is the biggest problem.The publics hates partisanship from both side.They just hate the fighting and the food throwing.

This is even true inside our own party.If we democratic electorate was so into the strong' my way or the highway' rhetoric, Howard Dean would have been the nominee in 2004 and Edwards would be the clear favorite and inavitable to win now.The fact that he's in a dog fight against 2 candidate that the blogs claims to be centrist, is a big eye opener.

I don't think you could guarantee yourself the democratic nominee if you move to the extreme left.Look at kucinich.Edwards is in third place on national poll and i just can't see Edwards move further left because there no more room to the left, he's basicly gone as far left as possible, but yet, he's still not putting the world on fire inside a party that suppose to elect to most leftist.

by JaeHood 2007-05-08 12:09AM | 0 recs
Re: 100% correct

What you're forgetting is that the American people are and have been largely antagonistic to conservative principles of governance and policies.  They are fundamentally in line with progressive governing and policy values.

They will abide by a larger degree of liberal partisanship than conservative because of natural affinity, and the historical trajectory of culture and society.

by Peter from WI 2007-05-08 06:27AM | 0 recs
Re: 100% correct

Look at this:  http://democracycorps.com/reports/survey s/Democracy_Corps_April_26-29_2007_Surve y.pdf  

In particular look at questions 30 and 46. Self-identified liberals are 19%. This is consistent with other polls.  Progressives are no where near a majority. Revving up the Dem base isn't going to do it.  You have to bring a very high percentage of moderates to join liberals in order to form a majority.  The public is not after a Democratic version of Bush, a Democrat who only plays to the Dem base.  I don't think the math is on your side.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: 100% correct

I think he's talking about how significant majorities of Americnas agree with us on most issues, not necessarily ideological identification.

by jallen 2007-05-09 05:49AM | 0 recs
Re: 100% correct

Exactly. One of the reasons that Americans won't self-identify as liberals is that liberals won't even stand strong on issues that most people agree with us on.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 06:01AM | 0 recs
I would add an unfortunate #5...

(First, though, very good diary)...

#5. Though we all wish it weren't so, the media establishment can't help but gush over someone that they can call a "centrist."

And Obama has been able to get the cocktail party circuit to routinely refer to him as such.

So, yes, he uses some language that may not be as strident or partisan as some wish. But, in exchange, he avoids being labeled as "too liberal" to be elected. And in this current media culture, we all know how even so-called "liberals" in the media love to deride the "liberal."

Sadly, until the Democratic Party stands up as one   to push back against this consistent narrative, this will continue to be a problem. And don't get mad at Obama for not doing it more aggressively -- he can't do it alone. Or else he'll be branded as "too liberal."

But, I think he's doing a great job of recasting liberal values as traditional American values -- and has a chance to steal away from the RNC the notion that they represent true Americana.

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 06:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I like Obama's message, but getting things done doesn't have to be non-partisan, that's where he's learned too much from Joe Lieberman and not enough from Bill Clinton. Obama is not in the general election; and he's not running for the Unity Ticket's nomination.

by Jerome Armstrong 2007-05-07 06:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Obama hasn't learned anything from Joe Lieberman. He's using the exact same style he's used throughout his entire life.

Just read this chapter from the book "After Alinsky" that Obama wrote 17 years ago...

And see if you think he needed to "learn" anything from Lieberman.

And it's not some simplistic non-partisan approach. It's about the realities of how organizations and communities and government works.

You want to get something done when you don't have a real majority in the Senate then you have to reach out to those across the aisle.

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 06:47PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Thanks for the lesson on how incrementalism works, I'll opt for the quantum leap.

Lieberman claimed in the Hartford Courant that Obama picked him as his "mentor" and I'm sure Obama could have chosen a different Senator, he could have declined to go and vouch for Lieberman in CT against Lamont... I don't need to read what he wrote, I'll just watch his actions.

by Jerome Armstrong 2007-05-07 07:04PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Yes, and there are links I could point to that say that Lieberman made that up...

And didn't Barbara Boxer, that non-partisan, appeasing lapdog support Lieberman, too?

Finally, if you actually took the time to read what he's written -- in 1990, in 1995, in 2006, etc. -- then you might actually be able to interpret his actions with a little bit more of understanding of why he does what he does.

Bush didn't feel the need to read about Iraqi history and look where that got us.

by Vermonter 2007-05-07 07:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Moreover, few people choose to note this but Obama endorse Lieberman before Lamont even got in the race. Furthermore, a sitting Senator is never going to endorse an outsider running against a colleague. Once Lamont won the primary Obama endorsed Lamont.

by dpg220 2007-05-08 12:10PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Moreover, few people choose to note this but Obama endorse Lieberman before Lamont even got in the race.

This isn't true. Obama spoke in favor of Lieberman well into the primary race.

by clarkent 2007-05-08 12:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

He never said Obama didn't.  The original endorsement was Pre-Lamont is what he said.  Once Lamont won, Obama stopped pro-Liebermann and was Pro-Lamont.  He never said Obama didn't talk post-Lamont entering the race.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 12:57PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

He said that Obama endorsed Lieberman before Lamont entered the race. That's not true.

by clarkent 2007-05-08 01:16PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

"Obama initially* spoke in favor of Liebermann..."

Missed that part then.  I took a nose dive into politics just before the 2006 elections, however, I was ellaborating his post because I misinterpretted your post for said reason.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 02:07PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Obama was never pro-Lamont.  He resisted supporting Lamont, and only under duress sent an email to 230 people on his list.  Big deal. He was asked to campaign for Lamont and would not come.   He would not take any risks in supporting the Democratic Party's choice.  It was then that I began to have my doubts about Obama, I had admired him from the 2004 convention speech.  Not impressed with his support of Lieberman.  

by pioneer111 2007-05-08 09:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis


Thanks for coming by and participating in this thread. I do have to argue with your comment.  I dislike "guilt by association" attacks in general, and I think the "Lieberman" attack on Obama is particularly weak.  Obama is far closer to Durbin than he ever was to Lieberman.  Do you have the same criticism of Durbin?

Do you agree or disagree with the central argument of my diary that the complications of the race barrier make Obama's "unity" message a necessity?

by upper left 2007-05-08 06:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I do agree that Obama as a person is revolutionary enough that having a far left label would make it problematic for him; but I disagree with the notion that having a pragmatic unity message conflicts with coming at it from a strong partisan base, in fact I'd argue it's necessary for it to even work.

by Jerome Armstrong 2007-05-09 09:38PM | 0 recs
Transformational change v. incremental change.

I want real change.  Obama by his nature seeks to conciliate.  He will give too much away to the Republicans.  He's a good person, but just not progressive enough.

I believe he is sincere.  He stands for what he says he does.  And that is far too centrist for me.

I enjoyed your diary.  It was well written and made interesting points.  But, in the end, it failed to convince me.  

by littafi 2007-05-07 06:41PM | 0 recs
Re: Transformational change v. incremental change.

I don't think he'd give up much at all.  If you look at some examples of how he tries to "compromise", his answer for abortion went by like this.  

Obviously these aren't the exact words... I don't remember what the exact words are.  He said something like, the government doesn't belong between a woman and her doctor, but we should focus on what we can do to prevent this situation from occuring, by investing in birth control.  

He also passed legislation on recording confessions.  He worked with police, etc. to make it work for everyone even though they were against it.  He got the bill through.  

I don't think we really lose that much from him.  We gain in some cases.  (IE investing making birth control accessible to try to cut down on abortion rates.)

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-07 06:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Saul Alinsky wrote in "Rules For Radicals":

"It is most important for those of us who want revolutionary change to understand that revolution must be preceded by reformation. To assume that a political revolution can survive without the supporting base of a popular reformation is to ask for the impossible in politics."

As much as I'd like it to be different, I don't think we are ready for the revolution. Obama is the candidate to give us the reformation.

by royce 2007-05-07 07:42PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Excellent quote.  As a former community organizer I really appreciate the sentiment and the source.  We have to deal with the voting public where they are, not where we want them to be.  

The progressive blogosphere can be very seductive, convincing us that everyone agrees with our values and policy ideas.  It isn't so. There is a reason that someone as extremely conservative as Bush was able to win two elections (if you count stealing).  We live in a highly polarized society.

I am not convinced that it is possible to lurch dramatically from far right to full on populist left.  For one thing, I thing there are many structural barriers to that kind of a message.  The corporate media is not receptive to an aggressive populist message.  I think that is part of the reason Edwards is having a hard time getting his share of national media coverage.

It is easy for the media to label and dismiss a candidate as "too liberal."  It happened to Dean in 2004, even though he had a very centrist record in Vermont. I think that is definitely one of the things that Obama is trying hard to avoid.  Some praise his savvy others dismiss him as a sellout.

by upper left 2007-05-08 07:45AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

The progressive blogosphere can be very seductive, convincing us that everyone agrees with our values and policy ideas.  It isn't so. There is a reason that someone as extremely conservative as Bush was able to win two elections (if you count stealing).  We live in a highly polarized society.

There is polling to suggest that the progressive blogosphere is correct in terms of popularity of our values and policy ideas. Both universal health care and raising taxes to pay for it are popular. Helping the needy through government action is popular. Electorally speaking, the Democrats made sweeping gains in Congress and in statehouses based on a populist message. And Bush ran both times as a stealth conservative, a "compassionate conservative", not one of those stingy conservatives like Newt Gingrich.

by clarkent 2007-05-08 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Look at this:  http://democracycorps.com/reports/survey s/Democracy_Corps_April_26-29_2007_Surve y.pdf  

In particular look at questions 30 and 46. Self-identified liberals are 19%. This is consistent with other polls.  Progressives are nowhere near a majority. Revving up the Dem base isn't going to do it.  You have to bring a very high percentage of moderates to join liberals in order to form a majority.  The public is not after a Democratic version of Bush, a Democrat who only plays to the Dem base.  I don't think the math is on your side.

by upper left 2007-05-09 05:46AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

From the same poll - a majority of Americans favor a Canadian-style single payer health care system. They also blame Bush for the standoff over funding for Iraq and support Democrats standing their ground. You bring moderates around to your side by standing up for things that they agree with you on.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 05:59AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

People support "single payer" in theory until the insurance industry spends a $100 million to confuse them, and until you start talking about paying for it.  

I have been a health policy wonk for twenty years.  I introduced single payer legislation for the State of Oregon in the 1980s and we got crushed.  It is a very complex and difficult problem.

by upper left 2007-05-09 06:07AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

The 1980s were a different time.  BTW, thank god for Kitzhaber and the OHP, and curse the property tax limits that have eviscerated it.

by jallen 2007-05-09 06:14AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Well, I guess we should just sit down and shut up and never stand for policies that we progressives believe in, because conservatives are going to outspend, outorganize, and outmessage us everytime.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 06:41AM | 0 recs
Style vs Content

I listened to Obama's address to the winter DNC meeting. It was a great 'meta' discussion about how campaigning should be. I think that has been most of his message so far. It's great, and it's right, but it doesn't satisfy me. I want policy. I guess that makes me a policy wonk. My favorite on that, all policy (and substantially lacking in the rest of the campaign) is Dennis Kucinich. If Obama just adopted all of Kucinich's policy positions I'd be all over that campaign in a minute. Until then, Obama gets a nice but unkown mark in my book, which is enough for 3rd the way I see it:

1. Bill Richardson, 2. John Edwards, 3. Barack Obama

by bolson 2007-05-07 08:15PM | 0 recs
Re: Style vs Content

Bill Richardson? Why? Did you see the debates where he bashed Democrats on taxes and accused us of being too dovish?

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 04:32AM | 0 recs
Re: Style vs Content

Check this Front Page story by Trapper John on Richardson.  Very interesting discussion and information in the comments as well.  Richardson lost a lot of support on Dkos.

How To Lose Friends and Alienate Your Party

by pioneer111 2007-05-08 09:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Style vs Content

yeah, and I commented there and I'll comment here that all the candidates have their flaws, and tax rhetoric is Richardson's. could be worse, he could be wrong on war rhetoric, but actually he pretty well gets that one right.

by bolson 2007-05-08 10:56AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Always enjoy upper left's remarks.  It is not only a message of unity, it is the way he thinks.  Instead of seeing allies and enemies, Obama sees people with ideas of varying merit in the context of core Democratic values.  The recent New Yorker piece tells you a lot about him and the way he would govern.  When I read of lot of these comments, I see unrealistic expectations of what a President of the United States can do.

by mboehm 2007-05-07 10:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Thanks for the compliment. I'm blushing.

by upper left 2007-05-08 07:47AM | 0 recs
2008 Is a Re-Boot -- Not a Revolution

There has been some grousing here and elsewhere that Barack Obama doesn't pass any
number of progressive litmus tests. But 2008 is a re-boot -- not a revolution.

This does not mean that progressives shouldn't push Obama to be bolder. Would I personally
like an Obama that I could more readily peg as a lefty? Of course. I voted for Ralph Nader
in 2000. But Obama didn't get nearly $26M in three months by being Dennis Kucinich.
He won't get elected that way either.

Yes, Obama has room -- and, luckily for the country, time -- to grow. But given Bush/Cheney's
success in uprooting American democracy on so many levels, an actual small-d democratic vision
for the country might not have to be especially visionary to do the job.

Indeed, progressives must not allow America's strong opposition to the war to keep them from
seeing that the country has drifted to the right under Bush -- which means that Obama or any
other Democrat will have to do some very heavy lifting just to get us back to 2000.

Another caveat: While it is true that the issue of global climate change now appears to have
secured its place on the Democratic agenda, American voters have a nasty habit of flirting with
idealism during a political campaign, then reverting to the status quo at the ballot box. As the
campaign heats up -- and given all that is riding on this election -- we should expect to see
Hillary Clinton and all the Republicans playing the fear/experience card on Obama and Edwards
in particular. I suspect that Obama is well aware of this.

And while I don't suppose for a second that Obama is magically going to turn into Paul Wellstone
over the next eight months, I do think that his current moderation is part of a larger strategy
that may be politically wiser than we are able to see right now. In other words...


by horizonr 2007-05-08 12:17AM | 0 recs
Re: 2008 Is a Re-Boot -- Not a Revolution

"Obama didn't get nearly $26M in three months by being Dennis Kucinich.  He won't get elected that way either."

Actually, Obama announced on Feb. 10th?  14th?  Somewhere in there.  So it's more like 1.7 months of fundraising ;-)

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 05:38AM | 0 recs
Re: 2008 Is a Re-Boot -- Not a Revolution
by horizonr 2007-05-08 09:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Edwards will only create deadlocks in congress and nothing will get done.Do you think that republicans will allow Edwards to implement his plans? I don't think so, so if he wants anything done, he'll have to work together regardless.What is Edwards going to do then?, scream and not budge?, not reach out to republicans unless they adopt his plans which republicans refers to as extremily liberal plans?

The Blogs talks like they have 60 democratic senators and we all know we won't have it in 2009 when the next president gets in there, soi'll ask again, how can Edwards get anything done or pass very liberal plans in a divided senate where it takes 60 votes to get anything done?.

The senate was perfectly created to not allow any party to own the place and push their ideology down the throat of the 49% that did not vote for them.You have to be bi-partisan to pass anything in the senate.In the house, you can afford to be partisan because of the looser rules in that body, but not in the senate.

by JaeHood 2007-05-08 12:34AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Do you think that republicans will allow Edwards to implement his plans? I don't think so, so if he wants anything done, he'll have to work together regardless.What is Edwards going to do then?, scream and not budge?, not reach out to republicans unless they adopt his plans which republicans refers to as extremily liberal plans?

This is exactly the problem. You're saying we have to come up with ideas and plans that will be acceptable to Republicans in the first place, otherwise we can't ever get them passed? Why don't we just vote for Republicans, then?

by clarkent 2007-05-08 03:52AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Damn, if there's one thing we can learn from Bush it's that you take teh White House and you frame the big issues and bully and threaten people with defeat if they vote against your nicely framed policies.

We'll win big in 2008, and that will scare the living shit of the the gopers and a president that isn't all "purple" but who takes a hard line on negotiating will be able to push through transformational change.

by philgoblue 2007-05-08 05:13AM | 0 recs
Strongly recommended

The best diary from a non-front pager that I have seen in ages. Very constructive, and so true.

by Populism2008 2007-05-08 04:04AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis


Some of the legislation that Barrak passed in the Illinois Senate:

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5 /6/43637/10666

A lot of progressive stuff in there.

by enarjay 2007-05-08 04:10AM | 0 recs
-39 (re: points 3 & 4)

Keep this number in mind: minus thirty nine. It's the difference among likely primary voters who choose bipartisan compromise over core principles. It's 68/29:

29%: The next president of
the U.S. should be
someone who will stick to
core principles and fight
for what they believe is


68%: The next president of the
U.S. should be someone
who can compromise and
work with both parties to
get things done.

http://democracycorps.com/reports/survey s/Democracy_Corps_April_26-29_2007_Surve y.pdf

Let this also serve as a reminder of how little actual narrative influence the nascent movement has so far. Our commonly accepted story of concerted conservative takeover barely exists in the wild.

by Dan Ancona 2007-05-08 07:59AM | 0 recs
Re: -39 (re: points 3 & 4)

Excellent point and excellent post.

by upper left 2007-05-08 08:15AM | 0 recs
Re: -39 (re: points 3 & 4)

Yet they re-elected Bush.

by jallen 2007-05-08 04:43PM | 0 recs
Re: -39 (re: points 3 & 4)

This was a 2007 poll.  As exact is that to the 2004 elections.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-08 05:14PM | 0 recs
Re: -39 (re: points 3 & 4)

Regardless, people say a lot of things.  They don't necessarily vote that way.

by jallen 2007-05-08 05:29PM | 0 recs
this is part of the problem with polling

"someone who can compromise" "work with both" "get things done"


"stick to core principles" "fight for what they [sic] believe is right"

Obviously, anybody prefers "get [that person's idea of] things done" to anything else. But the actual voter calculation does not play out in that kind of vacuum. 45% of the country's idea of "getting things done" is the other 45%'s "f*cking everything up."

You can't put something so ridiculously vague between the voter and the response. Every voter will project his or her own meaning onto that vague idea and come up with a completely different interpretation. The fact of the matter is that the "bipartisans" of both parties are the least popular, because it just so turns out that they are precisely the one who do NOT "get things done." Chuck Hagel has a net disapproval among Nebraska Republicans, Joe Lieberman wouldn't even be in the Senate if it wasn't for Bloomberg, McCain's bipartisanship is his biggest obstacle to winning his party's nomination (and won't help him in the general), and so on.

Don't weight two meaningless heuristics against one another and pretend it has some kind of predictive power. It doesn't.

by jforshaw 2007-05-09 10:20AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to this thread.  I think a lot of good points were made on both sides.  I know I got several good bites for further thought.

I especially appreciate the fact that this thread has, so far, avoided falling prey to the flame wars that have become so prevalent.
I have to actually go make a living, but will try to get back to any latecomers this evening.

I will try to put my thinking cap back on and see if I can come up with more material to further the debate.  Remember, we are all in this together. If we don't have each others backs, the righties certainly won't.

by upper left 2007-05-08 08:24AM | 0 recs
And thank you, too...

Maybe you can help be a model to move away from the single paragraph diaries on Edwards and Obama which have helped to lower the level of conversation in these parts.

Keep up the good work!

by Vermonter 2007-05-08 08:31AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Well written Diary... Outstanding Job!

by yitbos96bb 2007-05-08 10:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

I think Obama addressed this best in his Kos Diary:

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist."  In fact, I think the whole "centrist" versus "liberal" labels that continue to characterize the debate within the Democratic Party misses the mark.  Too often, the "centrist" label seems to mean compromise for compromise sake, whereas on issues like health care, energy, education and tackling poverty, I don't think Democrats have been bold enough.  But I do think that being bold involves more than just putting more money into existing programs and will instead require us to admit that some existing programs and policies don't work very well.  And further, it will require us to innovate and experiment with whatever ideas hold promise (including market- or faith-based ideas that originate from Republicans).

Our goal should be to stick to our guns on those core values that make this country great, show a spirit of flexibility and sustained attention that can achieve those goals, and try to create the sort of serious, adult, consensus around our problems that can admit Democrats, Republicans and Independents of good will.  This is more than just a matter of "framing," although clarity of language, thought, and heart are required.  It's a matter of actually having faith in the American people's ability to hear a real and authentic debate about the issues that matter.

Finally, I am not arguing that we "unilaterally disarm" in the face of Republican attacks, or bite our tongue when this Administration screws up.  Whenever they are wrong, inept, or dishonest, we should say so clearly and repeatedly; and whenever they gear up their attack machine, we should respond quickly and forcefully.  I am suggesting that the tone we take matters, and that truth, as best we know it, be the hallmark of our response.  

My dear friend Paul Simon used to consistently win the votes of much more conservative voters in Southern Illinois because he had mastered the art of "disagreeing without being disagreeable," and they trusted him to tell the truth.  Similarly, one of Paul Wellstone's greatest strengths was his ability to deliver a scathing rebuke of the Republicans without ever losing his sense of humor and affability.  In fact, I would argue that the most powerful voices of change in the country, from Lincoln to King, have been those who can speak with the utmost conviction about the great issues of the day without ever belittling those who opposed them, and without denying the limits of their own perspectives.

http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2005/9 /30/102745/165

by jb1125 2007-05-09 02:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Obama has put up two diaries at dKos. In the first, he essentially tells Kossacks that Democrats have to trim their sails. In the second, he tells them that Democrats should not trim their sails.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 03:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

That quote was from his first diary. Again, he said:

Let me be clear: I am not arguing that the Democrats should trim their sails and be more "centrist."

by jb1125 2007-05-09 06:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Yeah, sorry, I went back and read the diaries, and the quote was indeed from his first diary. Still, from his comments, Obama shows that while he's not a Joe Lieberman-style centrist, he subscribes to the Jon Chait theory of the netroots.

by clarkent 2007-05-09 06:49AM | 0 recs
Speaking of message

Obama is worse than John Kerry.  What a wind bag the guy is.  Speaking his Richmond yesterday, after his minor gaffe:

" As the Illinois senator concluded his remarks a few minutes later, he appeared to realize his gaffe. `There are going to be times when I get tired,' he said. `There are going to be times when I get weary. There are going to be times when I make mistakes.'" - The Politico

Why can't the man just say, I screwed up earlier.  I tired.

by dpANDREWS 2007-05-09 05:12AM | 0 recs
Re: Speaking of message

Why didn't Lincoln just say, "A lot of men died here  but life goes on."

Gettysburg Address

What a windbag!

by JoeCoaster 2007-05-09 06:10AM | 0 recs
Apple to apples ya think?

by dpANDREWS 2007-05-09 07:10AM | 0 recs
Let me get this straight...

Obama is a centrist who acted like a real progressive and Edwards is a real progressive who acted like a centrist.

I choose the one acted like a real progressive thank you.

by JoeCoaster 2007-05-09 07:08AM | 0 recs
Nailed it

Great post. Glad to see someone lucidly explain why netroots progressives should support Obama, even if he isn't openly confrontational.

by Ozymandias 2007-05-09 01:46PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Like this diary very much, but wanted to extend the argument a bit.  Obama's "unity" strategy may be more than a way of getting elected.  If, as upper left suggests, he may win broader support by appearing non-partisan, Obama may actually be able ACHIEVE MORE PROGRESSIVE GOALS ONCE ELECTED on this basis.  In other words, an openly progressive President (and Congress) elected by thin majorities could actually be less effective in achieving progressive goals than a President Obama supported by large majorities working with a newly radicalized Democratic Congress.

Many have made the argument (for Edwards, particularly) that we must elect a president who openly embraces ambitious goals in order to get real change.  Upper left's argument hints that there's an important counter-argument when it comes to Obama.

by brocketp 2007-05-09 07:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis


Rasmussen is the outlier for the week.  I'm mostly against posting diary after diary upon polls, so I'm putting this in a pre-existing diary.  Just thought it was worth looking at.  Outlier of the week in national polls.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-09 08:36PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis



This is a reference point.  Should have added it the first time but I'm forgetful.

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-09 08:38PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's Message of Unity: An Analysis

Augh.  Pardon my stupidity.  I went on Rasmussen and this was at the top.  I saw the nineth and forgot the month was 05 instead of 04... sigh  I wish I could delete posts now.  Since I can't... Ignore them.  Sorry, it's late.  

by JeremiahTheMessiah 2007-05-09 08:41PM | 0 recs


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