Tuesday, March 04, 2008

# Posted 8:48 AM by Taylor Owen  

BROOKS NAILS IT: In tour-de-force oped, Brooks, rightly in my mind, identifies the Jefferson-Jackson dinner as the turning point of the Dem campaign. The whole thing is well worth a read and nicely captures what is at stake tonight. Quoted, at length:
Hillary Clinton gave a rousing partisan speech. Standing on a stage in the middle of the arena with her arms spread and her voice rising, she welcomed the next president and declared: “We are here tonight to make sure that next president is a Democrat!”

She described how change was going to come about in this country: through fighting. She used the word “fight” or “fought” 15 times in one passage of the speech, fighting for health care, fighting for education and women’s rights. Then she vowed to “turn up the heat” on Republicans. “They deserve all the heat we can give them!” she roared....

Clinton rode the passion of the crowd and delivered an energetic battle cry. And in many elections that sort of speech, delivered around the country, would clinch the nomination.

But this is a country in the midst of a crisis of authority, a country that has become disillusioned not only with one president, but with a whole system of politics. It’s a country that has lost faith not only with one institution, but with the entire set of leadership institutions. The cultural context, in other words, allowed for a much broader critique, a much more audacious vocabulary.

And Barack Obama leapt right in.

He spoke after 11 p.m. The crowd had been sitting for four hours. In the previous months, Obama had been criticized for being bland on the stump. But this night, he unleashed a zealous part of himself that has propelled his candidacy ever since.

His first big subject was belief itself. Instead of waging a partisan campaign as Clinton had just done, he vowed to address “not just Democrats, but Republicans and independents who’ve lost trust in their government but want to believe again.”

Then he made a broader attack on the political class, and without mentioning her, threw Clinton in with the decrepit old order. “The same old Washington textbook campaigns just won’t do,” he said, in a now familiar line. He said it was time to “finally tackle problems that George Bush made far worse but that had festered long before George Bush ever took office — the problems that we’ve talked about year after year after year.”

Obama sketched out a different theory of social change than the one Clinton had implied earlier in the evening. Instead of relying on a president who fights for those who feel invisible, Obama, in the climactic passage of his speech, described how change bubbles from the bottom-up: “And because that somebody stood up, a few more stood up. And then a few thousand stood up. And then a few million stood up. And standing up, with courage and clear purpose, they somehow managed to change the world!"

All true, but the most critical observation:

Clinton had sounded like a traditional executive, as someone who gathers the experts, forges a policy, fights the opposition, bears the burdens of power, negotiates the deal and, in crisis, makes the decision at 3 o’clock in the morning.

But Obama sounded like a cross between a social activist and a flannel-shirted software C.E.O. — as a nonhierarchical, collaborative leader who can inspire autonomous individuals to cooperate for the sake of common concerns.

Clinton had sounded like Old Politics, but Obama created a vision of New Politics. And the past several months have revolved around the choice he framed there that night. Some people are enthralled by the New Politics, and we see their vapors every day. Others think it is a mirage and a delusion. There’s only one politics, and, tragically, it’s the old kind, filled with conflict and bad choices.

Stewart, put it slightly more bluntly, but no less aptly, last night:
Are you uncomfortable in the role of chastising someone idealism?
And there is the nomination in a nutshell.

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(1) opinions -- Add your opinion

Obama's theme of the campaign strikes me as similar to the theme of the 1980 campaign.

Back then, "political" people were saying the job of "president" was broken, that it was too much for one man, that the system itself was broken & made success impossible.

Voters didn't like hearing that. They wanted reassurance that things would get better, that things could get done; ultimately, they wanted classic American optimism.

The deal was clinched once Reagan got to speak directly to voters through his debate with Carter - given a choice between the dour & obviously ineffective Carter and someone who believed in THEM, they went with Reagan.

I appreciate Obama's basic message that things can get done, that the future can be brighter. I just don't like the changes he's pitching.
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