The adrenaline of super tuesday is building, so apologies in advance for being so mentally disorganized. It seems like everyone in my life is politically engaged right now at a level of intensity that I’ve never seen. I’m having constant discussions with all of you, of course, but also coworkers, family, old high school friends, etc. it’s nonstop.
It’s clear that people are inspired by him and the hope that he embodies. I think that makes people nervous. It makes me nervous. Can we really, after all these decades of disappointment and cynicism, just start trusting someone? How can we possibly fall for the promises of a politician? How can we liberals, so accustomed to shame, feel this sudden, dangerous pride in our country rising up within us?
Yet, there he is, saying the things that we didn’t think anyone in his position would say, moving to the top without selling off the integrity that we thought anyone in his position would have to sell.
I’m rambling. Here’s an actual thought: Obama’s policy positions (and his 700+ dream team of advisors) has serious substance. And, what is often misunderstood as a lack of substance is actually his strongest asset. I was commenting on a blog post of Logan’s about this, and I’ll copy most of it here.
I recently came across a videotaped meeting that Obama had with the editorial board of the SF Chronicle (link below.) First of all, he inspires in this conversation not because of grand rhetoric but rather because of his command of the details of policy in an enormous range of domestic and foreign issues.
More importantly, he really makes clear that that ability is not enough, and that it certainly isn’t all he has to offer our country. If you just have time to listen to a little of it, check this out at about 39 minutes in: One of the editors challenges his targets for fuel economy legislation, asking if he is promising too much. After all, the president has to work with Congress, right? The implication (intended or not) is that Clinton, with her type of insider “experience” would be more effective.
Obama’s reply is perfect:
“The problem is not technical. The problem is not sufficient mastery of the legislative intricacies of Washington. The problem is: can you get the American people to say ‘This is really important’ and force their representatives to do the right thing. That requires mobilizing a citizenry. That requires that they understand what is at stake.”
I had a longish argument with AB about whether everyone’s infatuation with Obama would really add up to any effective movement in Washington. Here, Obama makes clear the mechanism by which seemingly nebulous qualities like leadership and vision actually effect change.
Obama views the presidential office as more than a position of political leverage for sausage-making in the legislative branch. He views it as an office that should inspire all Americans. He views change as something that comes up from the bottom. His campaign — overwhelmingly funded by small individual donors, rejecting PAC and lobbying money — is an unequivocal expression of that vision.
His vision of America is one where thinking people like you and me are the drivers of progress. His vision is of a populace that shares so much in common that our individual actions will be powerful enough to push back against the concentrations of power and capital that stand in the way of the well-being of average people.
It’s an incredibly idealistic vision; one that has been absent perhaps since the civil rights movement. But I look around and see so many people I know out on the streets for Obama, canvassing, making phone calls, donating huge portions of their paychecks, having heated discussions with strangers on the ferry to work… I get the feeling that he may just be able to make that vision real.
logan’s blog post:
obama’s meeting with the editorial board of the chronicle: