Friday, January 4, 2008

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My one thought on the Iowa caucus

In the wake of Obama's victory speech after the Iowa caucuses, I was bemused to read this take by Matt Yglesias:

The Obama who gets panned in Paul Krugman columns and sundry blog posts -- the one who just wants to make nice with Republicans and doesn't care about progressive values -- doesn't seem to be on the podium tonight.
Now, I have no doubt that this is what Matt saw when he heard the speech -- but compelling political speeches are often like Rohshach tests -- you see what you want to see. The speech I heard was one where Obama certainly touched on a lot of progressive themes, but one in which he also took pains to speak in very nonpartisan terms:
You have done what America can do in this New Year, 2008. In lines that stretched around schools and churches; in small towns and big cities; you came together as Democrats, Republicans and Independents to stand up and say that we are one nation; we are one people; and our time for change has come.

You said the time has come to move beyond the bitterness and pettiness and anger that's consumed Washington; to end the political strategy that's been all about division and instead make it about addition – to build a coalition for change that stretches through Red States and Blue States. Because that's how we'll win in November, and that's how we'll finally meet the challenges that we face as a nation.

We are choosing hope over fear. We're choosing unity over division, and sending a powerful message that change is coming to America....

Hope—hope—is what led me here today – with a father from Kenya; a mother from Kansas; and a story that could only happen in the United States of America. Hope is the bedrock of this nation; the belief that our destiny will not be written for us, but by us; by all those men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is; who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.

That is what we started here in Iowa, and that is the message we can now carry to New Hampshire and beyond; the same message we had when we were up and when we were down; the one that can change this country brick by brick, block by block, calloused hand by calloused hand – that together, ordinary people can do extraordinary things; because we are not a collection of Red States and Blue States, we are the United States of America; and at this moment, in this election, we are ready to believe again.

Now I'm not saying Matt is wrong and I'm right. What I'm saying is that a politician who can make different people hear what they want to hear -- or just be compelled to actively listen -- is not someone who is going to be brought low easily.

Or maybe it's me. Watch for yourself and post your reaction:

posted by Dan on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM


The whole country wishes Obama well, for all the obvious reasons, but HRC is too formidable over the long haul. Interesting, though, for her to make a concession speech calling for 'change' while surrounded by her husband and his entourage. I wonder if she understands the unintended irony in her messages: vote for me as an agent of change; vote for me as a continuation of the dynasty. If the voters pick it up, or if Obama starts running hit pieces showing Bill constantly over Hillary's shoulder, she might be in some trouble. But otherwise, Obama is about to get steamrollered in states which have a primary instead of a caucus.

posted by: a Duoist on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

Well, maybe you won't say that you are right and Matt is wrong, but I will. Matt is almost ALWAYS wrong. It would not surprise me if blogging were his full-time job.

Regardless, as a conservative, I am happy to see an Obama victory. I hope that his campaign successfully defends his character against the Clinton smear machine and solidifies the disdain that Americans have for Hillary Clinton and her co-conspirator. I hope that Obama finally drives Edwards from political life - a sound defeat and his inability to get elected in NC will hopefully send him the way of Daschle and Gephardt. I want Obama to get the nomination, so that he can get thrashed by *anyone* that the Republican Party nominates.

America is ready for a President of any race, color, creed, sex, et cetera, but America is not ready for a sophist with no experience, whose only credentials are that he is black and charismatic, and whose only foreign policy experience consists of eating at the International House of Pancakes (nothing against IHOP, but c'mon).

posted by: Saint in Exile on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

"....and whose only foreign policy experience consists of eating at the International House of Pancakes (nothing against IHOP, but c'mon)."

The irony, it burns.

posted by: Sinner in Exile on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

"whose only foreign policy experience consists of eating at the International House of Pancakes" - LOL !! This might be the funniest poke at Mr.O

I too believe that he is the least qualified to be Prez - but you have to give credit, where its due - he absolutely crushed HRC and that too by bringing in first time caucus goers - he picked the right people for his get out the vote campaign - he defintely showed an ability to manage and inspire people. For all his lack of executive experience, Obama showed that he can get things done.

His speech was truly Presidential, goose bump inducing - although i think its nothing more than empty rhetoric. Sincere, but empty.

Obama has made use of all his talents/advantages - as a community organizer, as a noted orator and as a darling of the media to great effect.

Cant wait to see the next video from the incredibly hot "ObamaGirl"

posted by: NS on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

What really bothers me is the lack of substance from the political system. I am sure Obama has more substance than the Clinton Mafia does, but you would not know that from this entire campaign system. For the last several months, all i have heard is about polling results. I have yet to see a single main stream media source compare policy positions of any candidates. As a result, it is very strange that we only hear that Obama is about "hope" and "Change" and Oprah, not that he is to the left of Clinton, and generally similar to Edwards. What this has done is made the American "democracy" into an ad campaign for a TV sitcom or something, not an actual policy discussion or anything...

This comes out when you hear (on NPR or elsewhere) consistently of republicans saying that they have always been republicans, but now they are voting for Obama. All that means is that they have no damn clue what they are voting for (or that they had no clue what they were voting for when they were voting republican). But that is really really sad.

I will just add that I have tried much harder than most to follow this election and I still have no clue about Obama's positions. I am pretty sure that I am solidly left of Obama, but he is opening himself up to being nothing by focusing on abstract ideas like "hope" and "change" at the expense of trying to improve the electorate by feeding them information. Plus, I get the feeling that the republicans are much more vicious than he expects and they will rip him to bits if he gets the democratic nomination.

posted by: Joe M. on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

As a right-leaner, Obama scares me because I think his "let's all get along" shtick is very effective and serves as a cover for a pretty statist and pacifist agenda. He would be a formidable candidate in a general election, very hard to attack without it backfiring. If he wins the nomination the Republican is going to have to try to drag him down into the policy details and then catch him saying something unpopular. Not an easy task.

posted by: srp on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

Try an experiment. First, watch Obama's speech with the sound muted. Then, try to imagine Obama's speech being delivered by Carl Levin.

Which is more inspiring? How much less inspiring is it than the actual speech?

The questions, I think, all but answer themselves. The muted speech -- the sight of a black man reacting to his victory in one stage of a Presidential contest -- makes a much bigger impact than what Obama actually said. I was mystified by some commentary I read to the effect that Obama sounded Presidential, until it occurred to me that much of his text was recycled from speeches Bill Clinton started giving as far back as 1992, right down to the many changes rung on the chord of "hope."

As for Dan's idea, I'm not sure that what we're dealing with here is Obama's ability to make people hear what they want to hear as much as it is the depth of his audience's desire to hear what it wants to hear. It wants -- lots of Americans want -- a candidate onto whom it can project its own feelings and some of its illusions, and Obama fills that need better than anyone in the race in either party (though Gov. Huckabee, in a very different way, doesn't do badly at all).

Obama couldn't do this if he were a stiff, of course (or for that matter if he were Carl Levin). He delivers prepared remarks well; I think it's important that his voice modulates nicely even when, as here, it has plainly suffered from overuse after days of intense campaigning. Hillary Clinton, Obama's principle competition, has by contrast a voice that one must force oneself to listen to after no more than a minute or so.

But is Obama really creating anything here, or was he in Iowa just a little better able to pick up on something Democratic caucus attendees wanted to believe? It's worth remembering that he was only a little better -- as the media herd has formed up after Iowa it has emphasized in unison Obama's "big" margin of victory, though he actually got only a few thousand votes more than Clinton and Edwards -- but he does seem to have a lot of people projecting onto him. How durable a thing this will be is hard to say, but it is formidable now.

posted by: Zathras on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

i have a dif take on the results.
poor mr or mrs president

posted by: rawdawgbuffalo on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

When Obama was in the Illinois Senate (from a Chicago Machine controlled district elected with no opposition) we was a very popular person that every one assumed he was a moderate Democrat. His voting record was one of the furthest to the left in recent history. His US Senate experience is similar.

His other election experience was running for congress without machine endorsement and losing. In his run for US Senate both the primary and general election candidates were mired in scandal.

Iowa is his first victory against solid opposition and he fully deserves the congratulations. But the cynic in me asks is this also perhaps a sign of Clinton electoral weakness.

Having a very hard left voting record does not hurt in a Democratic primary, if he gets the nomination it will be interesting to see if the Republican candidate can portray to independents that he is to far on the left.

posted by: Hank on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

I am a Reagan Republican and have never voted for a Democrat for national office, but I am so sick and tired of the B.S. about various Democratic candidates being "far left," "hard left," "radical left," etc., that I'm just about prepared to vote a straight Democratic ticket this year to jam my thumbs into the eyes of mouth-breathing historically ignorant morons who spew such nonsense. Barack Obama's "very hard left voting record" would put him to the RIGHT of many national Republican politicians of the 1960s through early 1980s. Shut up and learn some history about American politics of the past 60 years before you people embarass yourselves further. There are many legitimate critiques of Obama, Clinton, et al., but being radical leftwingers isn't one of them.

posted by: Denver Lawyer on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

I'm glad to see Dan say this. Contra Matt, I felt all the stuff that Krugman hates was on display in that speech. And I am obligated to love pretty much anything Krugman hates.

posted by: jim47 on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

I'm glad to see Dan say this. Contra Matt, I felt all the stuff that Krugman hates was on display in that speech. And I am obligated to love pretty much anything Krugman hates.

posted by: jim47 on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

Was watching the Orange Bowl at a friends house when we clicked over for the caucus results. My friends grandfather was there watching the game. An 80+ year old crotchety old white Texan roughneck who was a Marine in WW-II and spent most of the rest of his life working on oil rigs. A less politically correct individual does not exist. Your typical old West-Texas Republican.

As we see the results on CNN flash up on the screen he seems to wake up, take notice, and out of the blue speaks the first words he said all evening:

"Ye-ep, this time I think I'll be voting for that 'nigra' Obama."

Then he went back to sleep.

That's the moment I knew this election is all but over.

posted by: Kent from Waco on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

What this has done is made the American "democracy" into an ad campaign for a TV sitcom or something, not an actual policy discussion or anything...

How many times in the 2000 election did you hear people say they would vote for Bush because he seemed like a nice guy to have a beer with, or because Gore just seemed too unfriendly? I have to admit, I lost count. For all we talk about issues, it's worth remembering that a fair portion of the electorate will base their voting decision largely or even solely on how much they think they would enjoy each candidate's company at a social function.

posted by: crane on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

He certainly is charismatic and has a wonderful voice, but he is running a contentless campaign. He calls for Change, but in what direction? The nearest I can make out is that he wants Change from 'disunity' to 'unity'. But real change, real innovation in policy, we necessarily provoke 'disunity' as advocates of new initiatives come up against entrenched interests. So the call for Change and the call for Unity are essentially contradictory.

posted by: Mitchell Young on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

Obama has created an immense amount of buzz, some of it among moderate to center-right Republicans.

I see a hunger for something new, a major change, and a leader more than a resume. Could be a rerun of 1960.

And I'm with Denver Lawyer, I am so sick of the jabbering dittoheads I intend to vote for a Democrat for president.

(my wife, a Reagan Republican, says she is wildly impressed with Mrs. Obama, she is "not scripted or phony")

posted by: save_the_rustbelt on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

Something for your amusement…

A 2008 Presidential Candidates Net Worth Graph in which the candidates are sized relative to their net worth…

You might be surprised at just how large Romney turned out.

Don’t forget to read my rant below the pic and links

posted by: Onslow Memling on 01.04.08 at 02:04 PM [permalink]

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