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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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Wednesday, January 17, 2007


nailing down Obama

posted by Aziz P. at Wednesday, January 17, 2007 permalink View blog reactions
I've been arguing for some time that Obama, despite a compelling personal story, immaculate history of selfless public service and social work, and mastery of unifying rhetoric that does admittedly push just the right emotional buttons for a purple-politics inclined fellow like myself, still hasn't said a single practical thing in terms of policy prescriptions. When he does, his fairytale "above it all" meta-political persona is going to crudely deflate and he will be projected onto either the "wonk" or the "hack" axes like the rest of us mere mortals.

Conservative blogger Daniel Larson, whose weblog is the epitome of Purple commentary, thinks it's the Wonk's Road ahead:

By this time next year, Obama will have had to say something distinctive about substantive policy. He will have to cast votes on the war and numerous other issues that he will have to be able to defend, and this time he won’t have a cartoon opponent like Alan Keyes to overcome.

What he says is almost beside the point. Some people will agree, probably more will disagree, but at that point the dream of an Obama who will reconcile all oppositions within himself will be over. That is inevitable in political contestation, which is why the promise to “bring people together” is always such an illusory, deceitful one. Once he finally does say something, he will no longer be Barack, Font of National Good Feelings, but will become a rather conventional and boring pol who will either reveal himself to be a dreary technocrat spouting, Gore-like, minute details of legislation or the creamless cream puff I take him to be. Because of his inexperience and the superficial nature of his appeal to date, he will probably take the technocratic route to show that he “understands the issues” and he will overcompensate here. He will cease to charm, and he will try to persuade by rattling off facts and figures.

I have to agree that the Wonk persona is more likely than the Hack, perhaps because I hhave also bought into the Obama-as-Saint narrative to some degree and "hack" is such a dirty word.

Of course there is a third narrative waiting in the wings: Barack (Saddam) Hussein Osama the Defeatocrat Surrender Monkey who dresses like Iranian tyrants. I'll leave that sordid meme to for flogging.

At any rate, in a year's time, everyone will have nailed Obama to one cross or another. The question is whether Obama will respond as has been his wont until now: by trying to please everybody? Or will he take a stand, and say I am liberal, I am for single-payer, for public campaign financing, for... (insert Big Idea of Transformative Change here). Time will tell.


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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.