Friday, April 25, 2008

Thoughts on Obama

As anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time knows, I'm in the bag for Obama. Hell, if I was hot and female, I'd give Obama girl a run for her money.

OK, that's a bit of tragic hyperbole, but you get where I'm coming from, I'm sure.

As I write this, I'm no less pro-Obama (Probama?) than ever before, but I do have some problems. Not with him, necessarily, more likely his message handlers.

Here's the thing (and I'm about to get all wonky on you, kind of)... Obama is straight-up post-materialist. And that's cool. Plus, I'm pretty much post-materialist, too, so it's real cool.


Post-materialist is just a fancy-schmancy way of saying that he is concerned with all the kinds of things people are concerned with when times are good. You know, when food is on the table, everyone is employed, the nation is relatively at peace. (This country is hardly ever at peace, if you think about it, so we have to approach this thing relatively.) Anyway, point is, when times are good, we stop worrying about the basics and start opening our minds and wallets to other things less directly pressing. No pressing job issues? Let's fix the environment then. No crazy violent crime rate? Let's help the homeless then. No problems with inflation? Let's do campaign finance reform. And so on and so on. Reasonable, right? Right.

Problem is, shit is not comfy right now, and it is getting less comfy by the day. It is still pretty ok for the youth (who don't have to worry about mortgages yet) and the well-educated (because they are usually on pretty solid financial ground). Surprise, surprise - I just named 2/3 of Obama's base. The other 1/3, African-Americans, are as bad off as anyone else, but supporting Obama isn't about post-materialism, it is about history and identity and, yes, hope. And sometimes that stuff is as important as anything else.

Hillary is definitely not a post-materialist. I don't think she's capable of it, even if times were great (which they are decidedly not). She's had a bunker mentality since high school (if not birth) and such a worldview does not usually allow oneself to focus on the less immediate things. This is why I'd really like her in the Senate, as a leader, fostering change for a long time to come.

My guy Barack has plenty of policy details to offer, not just on his webpage but in every stump speech he delivers. Focusing on his policy details just doesn't fit with the media's stereotype of his candidacy, so it doesn't make the news, but that's another complaint for another time.

So where am I going with all this? Honestly, I don't know. Mostly just trying to say I wish my candidate would take a step back, realize that the political landscape has changed dramatically since he launched his bid last year, and recalibrate his pitch. He's got all the right positions, he just needs to change the way he lets people know.

He's the candidate of change, which is great and necessary. We want transformation and we desperately need it. But right now people really need to keep their houses and feed their kids and put gas in the tank and get their cousins and sons and fathers home alive from wars abroad.

It is possible to have both, but you have to speak to both. Obama's gone from rhetoric of transformation to rhetoric of electoral calculation (i.e., why HRC can't win). He's as right today as he's ever been, but it wasn't the rhetorical switch he needed to make. He needs to adopt a rhetoric of problem solving, and he can do so without being crass or pandering. All he needs to do is talk about his ideas.

I hope he and his advisors aren't too hooked on the hubris it seems they've been caught on of late to make this change. It'd be a damn shame if we ended up with a lesser leader cause he/they couldn't read the tea leaves.

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