As good as we could get?

As Buhdy did in his essay a few days ago, I’ve been trying to imagine what our current political situation looks like to those who are not immersed in the blogosphere and the news…in other words, to people who are NOT political junkies.

I combine that with the fact that it looks like the long nightmare of our Democratic primary season might be about to come to an end. It seems obvious that we are going to have a race between McCain and Obama. For most folks here, that is not the choice we would have liked, but its what we have. That is unless we want to sit it out or cast a “conscience” vote for someone else. I will not judge anyone’s decision in these matters. But for me, the choice is easy. And that’s because I think that, with Obama, we’ve gotten about as good as we could get in our current political climate.

We’ve got alot of work to do in helping educate and motivate more people to take a deeper look into where we stand as a country. But I can see some progress in the outcome of our current race for the white house. And for me, Booman summed it up well today in a diary titled What This Means.

It hasn’t been a battle between Barack Obama (centrist black man) and Hillary Clinton (centrist white woman). That was the superficial story line where the only difference between them was their identities. If you thought that was what the choice was, you can be forgiven because that’s what the media and more than half the blogosphere told you it was about.

In reality, this was a generational fight. It was a fight between those that came to power during the post-McGovern era and those that aspire to power in the post-Bush era. It was between a party that relied on the white blue collar ethnic vote and a party that relies on majorities from non-whites, non-Christians, and the generation of whites that grew up well integrated with them. It was between a party that came to rely on corporate money and union muscle just to be competitive with Republicans and a party that has learned the new fundraising and social networking skills of the Information Age.

But, above all, it was a fight about leadership. Barack Obama knew better than to rely on the existing infrastructure, created by the blogosphere, to fight back against the Bush administration and the media. We are too stridently partisan to be messengers of a new kind of politics. He had to step around the gatekeepers of the blogosphere, much to their chagrin. Barack Obama’s greatest accomplishment is the organization that he created. He used our tools and his own message. And he won. He could not have won any other way.  

This was a fight for the ideological soul of the party. But the ideology wasn’t so much about health or education policy. It was about how the party is organized, who it really represents, and whether or not it will continue to be beholden to the old lobbyists, interests groups, and consultants, or whether it will become the truly people-powered party that is a necessary predicate for bringing real progressive change.

I have some major policy disagreements with Obama on how he sees the role of the US in the world today and his foreign policy. Those differences concern me greatly. But in some ways I agree with BooMan that there were “meta” issues at play here that go beyond those policies and have been overlooked by many as they judged his candidacy by how the game has been played in the past. He used the tools of this new generation and figured out a way to go around the machine and win the primary.

The reality is that a “people-powered party” is going to have to be a coalition of folks I don’t always agree with, mostly because to be a winning entity, it will have to include alot of people who aren’t political junkies. And it will be my job (working with all of you) to pressure the media and help inform our families, neighbors, friends and coworkers that the stakes are high and we have to get educated and involved.  

I do not see a “savior” in Barack Obama. And I continue to prepare myself to be disappointed in the possibility of his administration. But if there is a chance that he might revive a “people-powered party”…I’m ready to take a chance on that possibility and get to work making it the party I want it to be.  

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  1. so I did a (sort of) candidate essay…shoot me. LOL

  2. and ignore whatever else is going on. Also a good time to focus on dcwn ticket races…see what support we can get to our local farm teams!

  3. …I don’t think this fight was about party organization or identity or anything else.  Like these things usually do, it came down to “Washington versus anti-Washington”.  As a rule, whichever candidate runs a campaign about changing the way Washington does business, Democrat or Republican, that candidate wins.  See Carter, Reagan, Clinton, W.  The only exception really since Eisenhower has been Bush 41 (even Nixon ran in ’68 as an outsider), and he is a remarkable fluke in most patterns of Presidential elections.

    Obama won because he represented the dissatisfaction Americans have with the Federal government best.

  4. …I don’t think this fight was about party organization or identity or anything else.  Like these things usually do, it came down to “Washington versus anti-Washington”.  As a rule, whichever candidate runs a campaign about changing the way Washington does business, Democrat or Republican, that candidate wins.  See Carter, Reagan, Clinton, W.  The only exception really since Eisenhower has been Bush 41 (even Nixon ran in ’68 as an outsider), and he is a remarkable fluke in most patterns of Presidential elections.

    Obama won because he represented the dissatisfaction Americans have with the Federal government best.

  5. with a woman who is long-time GOP (and has been involved with the party on the local level).  She had previously told me that she supported Obama; well, yesterday, she said that in the PA primary, she wrote in Obama on her ballot, and plans to re-register as Independent.

    I wasn’t going to push her to become a Democrat: that would be overkill, I think.  And while I do live in a blue dot (surrounded by a sea of red-purple)–she exemplifies the vibe here.

    Me?  I would vote either Obama or Clinton in the GE; neither was my first choice but both are far superior to the alternative.  And the sense I’m getting is that people here REALLY don’t want McCain…well, except for the 25%ers.  There are more signs for Ron Paul than for McCain, I kid you not.

    So I’m optimistic about November.  What I’d like to see, though (if anybody out there has an “in” to either Dem. campaign) is the return of FDR’s fireside chats–utilizing all available media.  Because:

    Once our candidate is in the White House, I think a frank weekly discussion of the problems we as citizens face, and the proposed solutions offered by our new president, might win over at least some of those 25%ers.  Obama has the charisma to do it well; Hillary, if she’s elected, could also do well if she can drop her guardedness and be more natural.

    Just my 2 cents.

    • kj on May 8, 2008 at 3:49 am

    makes some insightful remarks. this was Hillary’s nomination to lose since, oh, 2004. obama’s strategy has been one for the books. i look forward to reading a recap in the months/years to come.  

    and also look forward to seeing how Obama employs his community organizer skills, and your assessment of same, NL.  🙂

    • Edger on May 8, 2008 at 4:17 am

    And maybe Obama’s support does represent some bit of hope that he really could be more than “as good as we could get” or more than the lesser of the lesser of two evils.

    I hope so. I can’t say I honestly believe so. But I hope so. And maybe that is as good as we could get? I hope not…

    I hope I’m making some small bit of sense here, too. I’m having a bit of trouble decoding myself in this comment, I will admit.

  6. this fall in general election turnout.  As a country we should be horribly embarrassed that turnout is only 50% – 60% in our presidential elections.  So far the primary season is the most encouraging I’ve ever seen for November turnout.

    GOTV efforts are always worthwhile, and can be a good way to focus on something constructive for people who aren’t particularly focused on the nominee.

    Good essay as always, NL!

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