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"America has two great dominant strands of political thought - conservatism, which, at its very best, draws lines that should not be crossed; and progressivism, which, at its very best, breaks down barriers that should never have been erected." -- Bill Clinton, Dedication of the Clinton Presidential Library, November 2004

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Sunday, June 18, 2006


Obama 2008 memewatch

posted by Aziz P. at Sunday, June 18, 2006 permalink View blog reactions
Every few months someone does a piece on Obama's prospects for 2008. Eric Zorn had a piece in the Chicago Tribune back in January that I was singularly unimpressed with. Now the WAPO is getting into the game, with a lengthy profile of Obama Appeal TM. The article does correctly point out, however, that Obama generates so much interest not due to his stance on the issues, but his personal story:


He has yet to carve out a distinctive profile on the policy and ideological debates that are central to how Democrats will position themselves in a post-Bush era.

In his stump speech, he offers a standard Democratic criticism of President Bush's tax cuts as favoring the rich, and promotes energy independence with only modest detail about how to achieve it. Nor does he dwell on the Iraq war, assailing the administration's handling of the conflict but not addressing such questions as a timetable for troop withdrawal.

Instead, it is almost entirely Obama's biography, along with his gift for engaging people in large audiences and one-on-one encounters, that is driving interest.

What the article doesn't note, however, is that the undercurrent to the appeal is how profoundly Purple Obama is with his rhetoric. If you reload Nation-Building blog a few times you'll see a quote on the sidebar from him that perfectly captures the spirit of the Purple movement. It's from his keynote address at the 2004 DNC convention, and the entire speech is just a masterpiece. You never hear Republicans give speeches like that. Just reading the words alone is enough to make a patriot, tired of divided politics, yearn for Obama to run in 2008.

But as I have pointed out before, Obama is just too green to be entrusted to run for President. He barely faced any challenges in his Senate run, and a victory over Alan Keyes is hardly better than McDonald's fry cook as far as your resume is concerned.

No one is as pro-Obama as I am. But we need to keep him in reserve, and let him ripen. There's a lot of work he has to do for Illinois before he is ready for the nation.


Nice blog.


I have never understood the infatuation with Barack Obama. People treat him as if he is something different than your run-of-the-mill liberal (or progressive, if you prefer that term) because he speaks in broad language and uses platitudes about red states and God.

When I see all this love given to Obama, particularly by advocates of "purple politics," I wonder whether the whole purpose of this exercise is to find a way to talk right-wing voters into supporting left-wing politicians. Obama is an excellent example.

Yes, Obama gave a nice speech to the Democratic National Convention. He also didn't really even have to run his campaign in 2004 because Jack Ryan was knocked out of the race, and Alan Keyes is Alan Keyes. So Obama goes around the country as a state senator campaigning for other Democrat candidates, and I imagine he used roughly the same rhetoric during those campaign stops as he did during his DNC convention speech. The only problem is that his talk and his walk don't match up.

Here's some points from his record, and you tell me if this strikes you as a particularly "purple" politician:

- Opposed the Defense of Marriage Act; would work to repeal it in the U.S. Senate; would not vote for any legislation that would restrict the ability of gays and lesbians to marry.

- Opposed the Born Alive Infant Protection Act four times in Illinois. A similar bill passed the U.S. Senate 98-0. The Born Alive bill would have prohibited a baby from being born alive but left to die according to the mother's wishes. Obama inexplicably opposed this bill not once, twice, or three times, but four times.

- Obama took almost $90,000 in bundled contributions from the Council for a Livable World. The council is a well-known anti-defense organization.

- Obama puts rigid ideology before what's best for the people of Illinois, and presumably he would do that as President as well. He has on several occasions made public his opposition to the NAFTA trade agreement and his belief that it must be negotiated. All the while thanks to NAFTA, Illinois exports $1.3 billion in agricultural goods to Canada.

- Obama refused to vote for a bill in the Illinois State Senate that would have increased penalties for drug traffickers.

- Obama voted against a bill that would have delivered the death penalty to gang members who murder first responders.

- Finally, just in case you thought it couldn't get any worse, Obama was the only member of the Illinois State Senate to vote against a bill that prohibited early release for sexual predators.

So whose side is Barack Obama on? Apparently it's drug traffickers, gang members, sexual predators, abortion activists, and rigid left-wing ideologues. Is this what you call a "purple politician"? If so, opt me out.

(For more information about Barack Obama's record, visit Obama Truth Squad and Cao's Blog.)


Obama is a "progressive" politician. The only people who would say otherwise are the far leftists. But "purple politics" is not solely about voting records. In fact many quite conservative politicians - like John McCain, who is hardly a centrist either, or Geirge W BBush when he was givernor of Texas (regrettably not so much nowadays) coudl be considered purple because they sought to actively build coalitions across the aisle.

Obama's speech at eth DNC was important because it too the prime public speaking position for one of the two major political parties and made it a referendum about unity. Not neccessarily lockstep agreement on issues, but about a shared respect for all americans, a willigness to debate, an appreciation for what the others who disagree with you have to say (even as you firmly disagree!).

The RNC in contrast used ther convention to push the meme that half of America is on the side of terrorists. That was the take home message. Not about building a true majority, but about forcing their plurality down the throats of everyone else and WINNING.

Obama's speech was magnificent and is exactly the right direction for the DNC to take. He used that pltform, that bully pulpit, to influence the Democratic Party. The changes may not be immediate but they will manifest - the vast majority of Purple politicians are Democrats nowadays because the GOP has as its raison d'etre an intrinsically anti-Purple mission. Tear down and divide rather than unify around common principles. I applaud Obama for saying it, at that time, at that place.

As for Obama's record, I think that the "gotcha" approach of characterizing votes is meaningless. Every bill in legislatures or congress is a mish mash if things. Obama Truth Squad is an agenda-driven Repblican hack site, and puts as selective a spin as they can possibly find, just as MEMRI does with translations from the middle east. Whether "Obama puts rigid ideology before what's best for the people of Illinois" is true or not is a matter of genuine debate - I'm a native Illinoisan myself (and not a Democrat, mind you) and Ive been following him for many years. The characterization of Obama as put forward by sites like OTS is a cartoon. Cao is a hack, too - how else to explain his otherwise incomprehensible conclusion that Alan Keyes won Debate #2? I saw that debate and Keyes was crushed. It was a joke.


We have a fair difference of opinion, Aziz, and I think that the divide among Democrats and Republicans with respect to the number of "purple" politicians is probably a lot closer than you think, especially with Republican governors that have to work with Democrat legislatures. Mike Huckabee in Arkansas is an excellent example. I also think Bob Riley is a pretty "purple" politician, as is Newt Gingrich when he wants to be. So, you know, I don't think it's quite as lop-sided as you say.

I don't particularly care for "gotcha" politics either, by the way. I didn't go rooting through Lexis-Nexis for quotes from ten years ago to compare to what Obama says now, and then say, "Look, inconsistencies! He changed his mind at some point over the past ten years, he can't be a leader!" That's not something that I support, and it's not something I'm inclined to engage in. Though, let me add, sometimes you have to fight fire with fire.

What I did do, however, is point out key votes in Obama's elected political career that indicate the kind of opinions that he has and the direction he might lead America if he was its chief policy-maker. I don't think there's anything wrong with looking at his voting record and making judgments from it.


I don't think there's anything wrong with looking at his voting record and making judgments from it.

agreed in principle, but I'd trust you to do it yoruself. I don't trust it done from Obama Truth Squad or Cao. And I think if you pick one of the bills you mention at random and go read the original bill, youll find it wasnt as cut and dried as it was made out to be. Sometimes, a bill might suck; even if it does contain a clause that puppies are cute.

I think that a Truth Obama project - run by people without an atack agenda - would be useful. If you do decide to dig further into his voting record (and I'd hardly call the votes you listed as "key" ones, BTW), post on it here! criticism of Obama is a good thing, and better we do it (er, you do it) than a smear artist.


Why are they smear artists anyway? In the case of the Obama Truth Squad, the fellow behind that is an Illinois resident who didn't want to be represented by Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate because he felt Obama's record was incompatible with the direction he felt his state ought to go in.

Because Obama didn't really even have an opponent (if you think Alan Keyes was a legitimate challenger, I'm sorry but I don't think you can be helped), somebody had to bring up his record and inform those who cared to know just what they were getting if Obama was elected in November.

I don't think the Truth Squad was smearing Obama at all. Obama admitted he did cocaine and marijuana in his younger days. I don't recall seeing any Photoshopped images of Obama with powder around his nose on the Truth Squad website. In fact, I don't recall seeing anything about his drug problems.

The fact is that the Truth Squad site was not a smear site but rather a site that was intended to propagate factual information about Obama's real record as a state senator. The only reason why that site was really needed at all is because Obama's DNC speech deceived people who saw it into thinking he was some kind of middle-of-the-road centrist. He is anything but.


By the way, just for the record, I think Dan Hynes was the more "purple" candidate in the 2004 U.S. Senate primary on the Democrats' side. Hopefully he will run for Governor in 2010.


I was watching the Sunday Morning Talk shows when someone finally spoke some realism about all of the Obama hoopla. One of the analysts finally stated the obvious gigantic herd of elephants in the room. When Howard Dean ran for President the so-called "establishment" of the Democratic party started talking a lot about electability. I'm sure that when Obama comes to New Hampshire the Democrats will say, if I knew he could be elected President I would vote for him in a heartbeat, but I just don't think other people are ready for it yet.

Other African American candidates with great poll numbers have stepped out in statewide races and the actual results on election day have showed something totally different in past races. Recently, we've seen results reflecting the actual polling as in the Harold Ford, Michael Steele, Kenneth Blackwell and Deval Patrick races.

The question is, when all is said and done, when all of the stuff come out of the closet and Obama gets attacked for his short US Senate and his Illinois State Senate record, will he emerge as a viable candidate strong enough to defeat a Republican challenger on the merit and conviction of ideas? Even though we are probably light years away in political time from former Secretary of State Colin Powell's retirement from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the long book tour and fascination with how "he's very smart" accolades, Obama should definitely ask Powell what his advisors were saying when he was pondering the decision and consider and reconsider the uphill battle of a run for the presidency.

The advantage is he lose nothing in running if there are no monkeys in the closet or huge gaffs similar to Howard Deans fiasco and John Kerry's "botched joke" of late.


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About Nation-Building

Nation-Building was founded by Aziz Poonawalla in August 2002 under the name Dean Nation. Dean Nation was the very first weblog devoted to a presidential candidate, Howard Dean, and became the vanguard of the Dean netroot phenomenon, raising over $40,000 for the Dean campaign, pioneering the use of Meetup, and enjoying the attention of the campaign itself, with Joe Trippi a regular reader (and sometime commentor). Howard Dean himself even left a comment once. Dean Nation was a group weblog effort and counts among its alumni many of the progressive blogsphere's leading talent including Jerome Armstrong, Matthew Yglesias, and Ezra Klein. After the election in 2004, the blog refocused onto the theme of "purple politics", formally changing its name to Nation-Building in June 2006. The primary focus of the blog is on articulating purple-state policy at home and pragmatic liberal interventionism abroad.