When Barack Obama first announced his candidacy for president, I was a bit skeptical. He seemed a bit green to me. He hadn’t been involved in national politics very long, and while I loved his speech at the 2004 convention, I thought perhaps he needed some seasoning. So, I started rooting for John Edwards. I still think John Edwards would make an awesome president and, even though I realize such a thing is unlikely, i wish he’d accept a second straight vice presidential
nomination, because i think Obama and Edwards would make a great team.
I have never been a strong supporter of Hillary Clinton. To me, she just carries too much baggage, and frankly, I’m one of those rare birds who doesn’t think Bill Clinton was as great a president as others give him credit for. So, while I would see her as a refreshing change, and I would vote for her in the general election, she has never been my first choice for president.
But something happened beginning about last November. I started listening to what Obama and Edwards were saying, and it was such a stark contrast with what Clinton was saying, that it made me perk up. The Democratic Party had been dominated by the numbnuts in the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) for so long, I really hadn’t heard an actual Democratic message from a viable politician for a very long time.
Over in one corner, there was Hillary, mouthing the DLC talking points and triangulating on issues in a way that has made me hate the DLC for years. This is considered "strategy" by the morons at the DLC; when you’re talking about an issue, don’t say anything that might piss someone off next November. Essentially, she was talking about government as if it was a company that promises to serve your needs, or your money back, or some such nonsense. She reminds me of that retail store or fast food place that promises friendly service in their ads, but when you get there, they all seem annoyed that you interrupted their day.
Then, I looked over in the other corner. There, John Edwards and Barack Obama were talking to people about hope, and of a government that listened to people and made their lives better. They talked about the poor, they talked about the sick, and they talked about using diplomacy in our dealings with others, rather than either military force or force of will.
John Edwards never really caught on, and I’m not sure why. I have a feeling it was his association with John Kerry in 2004. In a year where change is the by-word, perhaps an Edwards candidacy felt too much like "more of the same" to people.
But then came Barack Obama. This isn’t just an agent of change, folks; this is a movement. This guy says exactly what people are thinking, even if they deny it themselves, and he’s able to communicate in a way that we haven’t seen from a politician in quite some time. If you want to know why he’s beating Hillary Clinton, the answer is actually quite simple; he speaks to us as if we’re adults, and we can understand things. After the first wave of reverend Wright garbage, he gave a speech that was political perfection. If you didn’t notice it the first time, go back and watch it again; the speech was honest, it was deep, and it was purposely designed to be sound-bite-free, so that no one could possibly take any one thing out of context and hype it over any other thing.
Those of you who care to sit back and take a deep breath should really look at the difference between the Obama and Clinton campaigns, and try to do so objectively, because what you’re seeing is a return to the brand of politics we used to have in this country, before the far right came in to muck things up.
Several nuggets of "conventional wisdom" have seeped into our political consciousness in recent years, and it has been to our detriment. Obama’s campaign is actually changing those, and for the better.
The worst of these "conventional wisdom" nuggets is this idea that "negative campaigning works." No, actually, it doesn’t work, except in a vacuum. A lot of so-called "experts" will swear to their dying breath that John Kerry lost because he was Swift-Boated, which is actually nonsense. John Kerry lost because John Kerry had no actual political identity. Howard Dean would have been a much stronger candidate in the general election than Kerry, but the DLC, which was still in change of the DNC at the time, dispatched him too quickly after "the scream." Kerry’s problem was simple; he did nothing to establish any sort of identity with the American people. he said a lot of the right things, but voters had no sense of who John Kerry was and what John Kerry stood for. Al Gore has the same problem in 2000. The Al Gore of 2008 would have beaten George W. Bush to a pulp in 2000. But at the time, Gore was playing the DLC game, and trying not to develop too strong an identity, so as not to piss anyone off.
Negative campaigning can only work if the negativity sticks to you, and it can only stick to a candidate if the negative attack is plausible. And the more the public knows a candidate, the less plausible certain negative attacks seem. This is where Barack Obama has demonstrated a greater level of strength than Hillary Clinton, by far. Look beyond the media hysteria, and you’ll see an alarming level of strength on Obama’s part, even when he’s being attacked on all sides.
If you really want to see a campaign that should give you pause regarding an ability to win in November, look more closely at Hillary Clinton’s. Her campaign has been a poorly run mess from the beginning. First of all, she assumed the nomination was in the bag a year ago, and she refused to take any of her opponents seriously, including Obama. She was so absolutely certain that she would have the nomination by Super Tuesday, that she had almost no campaign mechanism in place in any of the states that came after February 5. Plus, it took another month and 11 primary losses in a row to realize that, hey, perhaps she didn’t have it in the bag, after all. For all of the talk of "momentum," keep in mind that Obama has received more pledged delegates from 14 of the last 16 states they’ve contested. She’s demonstrated serious weakness in caucus states, revealing a huge organizational weakness that might have proven problematic in the fall. And she has been walking the DLC line during the entire primary process, which could spell serious trouble in the fall, as well. DLC-run campaigns like to target states they think they can win, and write off every other state, which is a really bad idea. It’s the reason Bill Clinton couldn’t get more than 50% of the vote, even against the second weakest president in modern history, and the even-weaker Bob Dole. Whoever runs this year has to be willing and able to run in all 50 states, and BURY John McCain. The DLC-beholden Clinton simply won’t do that, while I have a sense that Obama will.
In short, Barack Obama will be a far stronger candidate than Hillary Clinton come this November, for a variety of reasons. First, he has demonstrated more integrity than any politician I have seen on the national stage in quite some time. He has never abandoned his core principles just to get votes. He admits to mistakes, and when others try to distract us from his core message and the issues, he has a knack for moving the discussion back on point. Look more closely; Hillary Clinton has attacked him personally a number of times, throwing kitchen sinks and loose nukes at him, and he dips a little when the initial accusations are made, but every time he deals with it, he bounces right back to where he was before. If there is a criticism to be made right now, it would probably be that he’s been slow to react at times, but I think it’s because he’s reticent to attack a fellow Democrat in the same way he would a Republican. You get a sense from Obama that he’s fair, and wants to win that way, whereas Clinton has taken a desperate, win-at-all-costs attitude in the last few months. She has demonstrated repeatedly that her winning the nomination is far more important than anything else. I think it’s for a good reason, in a warped sort of way. She genuinely feels that Barack Obama can’t possibly beat John McCain in the fall. She sees him as being another John Kerry — ill-defined and ripe for definition by the right wing.
Of course, she’s looking through a DLC lens; if she was capable of looking at the situation objectively, she would see that she was the candidate in this race that most resembled John Kerry in 2004, not Obama. I can tell you what Barack Obama stands for; what does Hillary Clinton stand for? What does Hillary Clinton stand for, when she swears that she’ll pull the troops out of Iraq, but that she’ll "obliterate" Iran if they cross her and attack Israel? What does Clinton stand for, when she dismisses the concept of hope as rhetorical nonsense? What does she stand for, when she proclaims that she’s proud of running against Barack Obama one day, and two days later declares, "Shame on you, Barack Obama!" in response to something he said before she even said she was "proud" to run with him?
Basically, what we have with Barack Obama is a candidate who has consciously chosen to stay on the high road, and has at least tried to return politics to the somewhat higher road it used to occupy before the right wing took us off the rails, through the scummy hi jinks of idiots like Lee Atwater (who at least repented before his untimely death) and Karl Rove (who won’t repent until he’s frog-marched into Leavenworth). Obama will win in November, because he represents a significant change not just from the current administration, but also from the current political mindset, in which everyone thinks that the way things have been for the last 20 years are the way things have to be. He will win because he has a personality and an integrity that people can see, and people have been longing for that for some time. Worries about the right wing smear machine are unfounded because, as he has proven time and time again, negative smears don’t stick. Yes, Fox News will continue to bring up Reverend Wright, but no one actually watched Fox News anyway, and he’ll continue to rise above it. The longer people know him, the more they will realize that he’s not an ‘angry black man," and he’s not a far-left ideologue. He’s a guy with common sense, who just wants the government to work for us, rather than against us.
And isn’t that what we all want?