Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Obama and the Future of the Democratic Party

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Obama and the Future of the Democratic Party

There's been another uptick in Obama-mania (unless it's really Obama-nia), as we're reminded that there's another presidential election in a couple of years and that Barack himself might actually run. Last week, Illinois state comptroller Dan Hynes, one of Obama's opponents two years ago in the Senate primary, came out in support of an Obama candidacy (although I haven't heard anyone who's quite sure what might've brought that on). A couple of weeks ago, he was in the midst of a triumphant visit to Kenya experiencing a reception which, according to Newsweek, was "more befitting a messiah than a junior senator bearing nothing more than opinions and good cheer." And over the weekend in Iowa, Obama made the big splash at Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry. Salon had an article yesterday talking up that appearance. And just for good measure, the Sun-Times released a poll of Illinois voters yesterday in which 63 percent believed he should run for president. The twist there is that a quarter thought he should run this time, and 38 percent felt he should wait.

Put me firmly with the 38 percent. I'm already on the record as wanting him to hold off for the present. I won't spend much time reiterating my arguments, but two years ago he was a member of the Illinois state senate with a failed Congressional primary campaign behind him. I won't deny that he's an attractive candidate, but the reaction he's been getting ever since he gave the keynote address at the last Democratic convention depresses me to some degree. It just underscores the vacuum that is the present-day Democratic party when the first guy with charisma who wanders by becomes a potential front-runner for the presidential nomination. We need to give Obama a bit of time to mature, to grow into the role. I realize that this doesn't leave us with a lot of options, but Democrats have to start developing more depth. The subtext for these midterm elections is not that the Democrats have any good ideas but that the ideas promulgated by the Prez and his party are so bankrupt that we have to do something else no matter what it is. The Dems have tried this tack in previous campaigns, but the electorate hasn't yet been fed up enough to accept the alternative no matter what. The uncertainty that I'm sensing about whether or not the Dems will pull off what they need to this time around is based on whether voters will follow them blindly (and even if they follow the Dems enough to put them in control of either or both houses, the voters will not stay in line for very long afterward). Do the Democrats have a future? Only if they come up with policies, only if they come up with ideas, that can inspire people on the ground that there's something worth following. One charismatic guy--even if he wins an election--ain't gonna be enough if there's nothing to back him up.

16 Comments:

At 9:20 AM, September 20, 2006, Anonymous Jason Fliegel said...

I agree that Obama ought not to run for the White House in 2008. The question I'm pondering is whether -- assuming the presidency is his eventual goal -- Obama is better served by defending his Senate seat in 2010, or should he try to spend some time in the Illinois governor's mansion?

Of course, 2010 is a long way away ...

 
At 10:08 AM, September 20, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

I have to say (well "write")that I find the interest uptick in both Edwards and Obama to be a rather heartening sign that, at least some quarter of the democratic party has recovered from its bizzare and basically suicidal preference for charisma-free leaders (Gore, Kerry et al). Its calls for the likes of Mark Warner and or Tom Vilsack to take the presidential plunge that are depressming me. That said, here are a few Obama-related 2008 electoral thoughts you may want to consider.


First off, Colin Powell is obviously being scrubbed down to be McCain's (or even Romney's) running mate.


His entry would off-set Hillary's gender-voting advantage and cost democrats their only shot at the whitehouse that add up. An Obama primary run would negate much of that and moreover, could even make Powell look like an Alan Keyes (I.e.: the republican negro).


Second, even though I don't belive that Obama could win a general election at the top of ticket he could deliver GA and possibly SC and therefore the whitehouse as the VP nominee.


Third, given his Bobby-like popularity on college campuses, he and another candidate popolar with colligians (say an Edwards) could throw pratically the entitre southern electoral map into blue-tinged disarray.


Finally, just a thought. How is experince even a concern here when balanced against: "He can deleiver Georgia," I mean, 2008 will likely include two one-term governors a mayor (or maybe two), another one term senator who's also been a VP nom and a few candidates with plenty of experience and plenty of baggage to go right along with it; so why not an Obama? What will he have to offer as a one and a half term senator that he doesn't offer now -- other tham a less flattering photograph that is?

 
At 1:45 PM, September 20, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

Jason: Illinois could certainly use a less questionable and compromised Democrat in the governor's mansion, but would an Obama run for the office four years from now be seen as anything other than crass positioning for a presidential run?

AP: I don't disagree with your assessment of the likely presidential field, but how does it raise Obama's stature to point out that he's surrounded by midgets? I disagree on Powell. He had his chance to run an easier race and passed it by. There's nothing in it for him to run for veep and stew in the juices he prepared with his own dissembling speech before the UN. He's a long way down the road from being the national hero he once was. (And Mitt Romney? He has only marginally more chance of getting the Repub nod than I do, and that's only because he's actually going to enter the race.)

You make a good point about what an Edwards-Obama ticket could potentially do in the South. And what would Obama have to offer as a one-and-a-half term senator that he doesn't now? That would depend entirely on how he spends that extra term, but it seems to me that he has nowhere to go but up. I'm just don't want him to rise so fast that he gets the bends.

 
At 4:41 PM, September 20, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

I wouldn't underestimate Romney. In a normal election cycle (read: not so involved with FP) It'd be him vs Warner in 2008. As for Powell, I agreed with you right up until the point where he started badmouthing the war and short-sighted liberal publications started singing his praises. I mean, have you checked out the Huffington post lately? Besides his threat is primarily racial.

It's unfortunate but true that just as between 60 and 70% of women will likely give Clinton their votes because her as president will make their daughters lives better, there are more than a few African Americans who may vote for Powell for similar reasons.

I can't imagine (though it is surely unrealistic to do so) cops pulling broomstick meets Kenyan style crap afterwards, so I honestly can't say that standing there - with a ballot it wouldn't occur to me.

O' and as for Obama, I'd like to agree, I would, it's sound reasoning -- but then there's the part where he's a good lookin' guy who's popular on college campuses -- which means there's a veritable gaggle of Donna Rice wannbes around him. I'd say he has until his mid-life crisis hits to run or else and he'll never take a better picture than he does now.

It's not rational, but then neither is the world we live in.

 
At 7:34 PM, September 20, 2006, Anonymous Jim C. said...

I want him to hold off. He's still showing his inexperience, frankly. His big statement in Iowa, Democrats Need To Prove They Are Serious About National Security, was deftly summed up at the dreaded NRO: "There's really no other way to read this other than Senator Obama thinks Democrats are weak on National Security:"

This, which follows his last attempt at discussing his party's 'flaws' so publicly, regarding religion (Yes, it was actually a very good speech. I vehemently disagreed with his comment about the Pledge, but he wasn't in my second grade class in Illinois in '75. But what most people took away from it wasn't thoughtfulness, but more Democrats Oughta - from a Democrat.) To me, he really seems to believe that Republicans are going to wake up tomorrow and decide to be civil in all matters politic. Let him serve a few more years. The landscape may turn to his advantage, or he may work the refs better. Right now, I think a 2008 run would demolish him. Maybe I'm all wrong...

I remember his failed congressional bid. I liked him then (not that his district was anywhere near mine), and the day he announced for the Senate primary, I said, "He gets my vote." I picked right for a change.

 
At 1:35 AM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Stuart Shea said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

 
At 1:37 AM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Stuart Shea said...

This was a good post, and I've enjoyed the debate.

I worry that Obama will be sacrificed up, or will vaingloriously sacrifice himself up, to the party to help deliver blacks in 2008.

I'd like to see Obama do what we elected him to do--be in the Senate. He could use his position there, for example, to help our state recover some of the huge amount of tax dollars we pour into the Federal Economy. Or working on education. Or trying to help end the war.

 
At 11:34 AM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Don said...

I've been on record in support of him running for Pres basically as soon as he feels he has a shot (how many shots do you get?) But I'm pretty pissed at him currently, thinking no further ahead than this November. He's raising money for Democrats out of one side of his mouth, while telling the electorate that Democrats are in disarray and weak on defense (and not religious enough) with the other side.

 
At 12:54 PM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

The thing is, most democrats (this side of Bill Clinton) actually do sound fairly retarded whenver they speak about religion, most aren't very much better on defense related issues. (I blame the derth of defense/security related democratic think tanks), and Dean and the DLC are having a rather foolhardy funding fued.

Why be upset with the man for stating the obvious?

 
At 1:12 PM, September 21, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

Because it would be nice to get some sort of control of the government in November? I dunno, just saying.

 
At 7:00 PM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

Was it a secret before he said something? I was unaware. It seems that CNN, MSNBC, CBS, ABC and possibly the BBC News were as well.

 
At 10:40 PM, September 21, 2006, Anonymous Doug said...

It's no secret, I suppose, but I have grave concerns about the effectiveness of spotlighting it as a campaign strategy. The Dems have made an unfortunate habit of allowing victory to be chomped on by the jaws of defeat, and it's a bit of a disappointment to watch Obama so eagerly leap in to join the party tradition.

 
At 11:36 PM, September 21, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

Isn't the whole part where dems try and win by avoiding their opponents (circling around them as it were rather than confronting) responsible for those defeats? I suppose the fact that they actually seem scared of offending anyone might also play a part. The party's chronic distrust of charisma could also have someting to do with it. (Dukakis, Gore/Lieberman, a Kerry that not even Speilberg, Morgan Freeman and two hot daughters couldn't sex up muzzling Edwards and now Feingold, Richardson, Warner and ?Vilsack? talked up as contenders -- for what a GOP prison rape?) And then there's that thing where democrat "ideals" come off as rather condescending (i.e. "what's the matter with kansas" rather than: "what did we do wrong in kansas")naive and flat out unrealistic (read: moveon.org "saying" that it could only support invading Afganistan if NO CIVILIANS were killed).


Not talking about obvious issues inside the party will have the same effect as Kerry's omission of his senate record: DOUBT and DISTRUST and MCain is on a glide path to the White House because he has a reputation for doing the exact opposite.

 
At 4:00 PM, September 22, 2006, Blogger Don said...

But--unless I missed it--McCain doesn't demonstrate his "maverick" status by criticizing nameless "Republicans" who have lost their way. He criticizes specific policies and supports others, even if that means a break with his own party. I would prefer if Obama would demonstrate his rebel nature that way instead of playing into/exploiting the easy theme that Democrats are hapless.

That theme may or may not be true, but one thing that is true: the Republicans in power are ruining the country and indeed the world (like the melting of the polar ice caps, quicker than anyone could have predicted). With an important election for control of a branch of govt. at stake in a few weeks, I would prefer that be the news of the day, and not that our beloved Obama thinks Democrats are everywhere and nowhere. Even if he's as right as rain on that, (and I think Dems are far better than they were in '00, 02 or '04)I would take the most clueless Democratic congress over the frightening mash of bumbling machismo we've got running things now. I just don't think that's much of a campaign slogan.

 
At 8:25 PM, September 22, 2006, Blogger Peter Collinson said...

I think Dems are far better than they were in '00, 02 or '04

By what measurement? I've looked and I just don't see it? Just the draft Mr. Boredom , I mean Gore thing or the fact Obama was one of the few democrats funneling money to Jim Web pre-Maccaca (even just to pre dent him for 2008)seems to say the opposite?


But--unless I missed it--McCain doesn't demonstrate his "maverick" status by criticizing nameless "Republicans" who have lost their way.

Nope ...MCain has done just that (on camera) re: the rights over-slavish toward the Christian right.

 
At 12:27 PM, September 24, 2006, Blogger Don said...

During the primary - when arguing for the direction of the party - that's a fine time for that kind of critique, and is when McCain questioned the GOP's lockstep with the religious right. But of course since then he's kissed and made up with Jerry Falwell. Stil, I think Obama's criticism of Democrats is more reckless, more damaging and shows poor timing. But don't get me wrong - I'd love to support him in a primary in 2008 if Gore isn't running. I just think he's not helping the '06 chances with his criticism now (he is helping, obviously, in many other ways). And I think slowing down the evil empire right away should be a clear priority. Just taking away their control of the Judiciary Committees would be nice.

I love Gore. I don't think he's boring in the least. much more importantly, he'd make a fantastic President. I hope he doesn't run because i don't think he would win.

Dems ran lousy campaigns in 2000, 2002 and 2004, so I think they're better now by *every* measure, even if we just use the John Lennon argument: "can't get much worse". Much better candidates, much better campaigns, much better national strategy, much better congressional leadership.

 

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