Who Hijacked Our Country

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Barack Obama: What He Represents

Why is the entire country swooning over a 45-year-old freshman senator who’s less than two years into his first term? Is it something he said? A promise he made? His overwhelming charisma?

Or does he represent something, an archetype of some sort? He comes across as a real person — something almost unheard of in this endless parade of blow-dried cardboard-cutout politicians whose every word is scripted and orchestrated.

This columnist — Ron Fournier — thinks America’s mass swooning is not about Obama himself. Instead, it’s about “the public’s desire for a change from the polarization and paralyzation of American politics.”

Obama himself said “I think to some degree I’ve become a short-hand or a symbol or a stand-in, for now, of a spirit that the last election in New Hampshire represents. It’s a spirit that says we are looking for different. We want something new.”

An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll shows how cynical and jaded the American public has become. 60% think the country is on the wrong track. 70% think there’ll be little or no change in the country’s direction even with the Democratic victories last month. 72% think partisanship will continue or get even worse during the next two years.

The government’s paralyzed helpless response to Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that government incompetence and unaccountability can have fatal results. Iraqmire has caused a nationwide sinking feeling.

The electorate is yearning for — demanding — something different in 2008 and beyond. A Republican strategist said there is a big opening for a “can-do centrist” in 2008. “If there is a person who can not be from the left or the right, who has a track record of solving problems and making things work, he or she would have a huge market for a third-party bid.”

A Democratic strategist said “I definitely think that we need to think literally about who might run outside of politics and the traditional spheres, someone with a sense of leadership and public service.”

Another possible outside-the-box candidate is New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg. In a 3-way poll with Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton and John McCain, 10% chose Bloomberg. And most people haven’t even heard of him.

Ron Fournier says “Even mouthy sports figures like former NBA player Charles Barkley are capable of connecting with voters better than most politicians.” Barkley is considering running for governor of Alabama in 2010. He once said “You get two rich guys arguing over who’s conservative and who’s liberal and … they just argue for an hour, and nothing gets solved.”

Fournier says “Obama, if not the next president, is a living example of the voters’ desires; people are projecting in him the values they want in their next president.”

A Democratic strategist said “They’re looking for someone who is a uniter. They’re looking for somebody who has their best interests at heart. They’re looking for somebody who is accountable, authentic and relevant. The reason they are excited about Obama, is they’re looking for somebody to inspire them, to make them feel good.”

This strategist was asked whether the excitement was about Obama himself or just a sign of the times. She answered “It’s the times. It could be somebody else. But, right now, he’s filling the gap.”

14 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's an interesting phenomena. I think Obama is very smart to acknowledge that his current popularity is largely due to the fact people are looking for a change.

Bloomberg is also an interesting possibility. He's only a Republican because there was already a long waiting list of people who wanted to run as Democrat in New York City.

December 17, 2006 at 8:54 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

J. Marquis: I agree, that's very perceptive of him to realize that he's largely a symbol, an archetype. He and Bloomberg would both be a refreshing change from the endless parade of talking heads we've been getting.

December 18, 2006 at 12:37 AM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

Your post rings very true. Obama represents something that is much bigger than himself.

I like many of the other candidates such as Edwards and Kucinich, but Obama is the change the country has been waiting for.

December 18, 2006 at 7:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Lizzy: Yeah, I think Obama represents something different that the public is yearning for. I don't know who I want, or who has a chance in 2008.

I don't think Edwards has a chance just because he's already run and didn't get the nomination; and Kucinich is too far to the Left (that's the public perception, not mine). Hope it isn't McCain vs. Hillary.

December 18, 2006 at 9:08 PM  
Blogger Praguetwin said...

Anything but McCain Vs. Hillary. Here is an interesting thought. How much damage would Powell do to the Republicans running as an independent in 08?

He would have to distance himself from the administration by saying he was lied to. It could be ugly.

December 19, 2006 at 6:32 AM  
Blogger Lizzy said...

I really like Edwards, but another huge strike against him is that he voted for the war, as did Hillary & Kerry. Any candidate that voted for the war should sit this one out, in my opinion.

Hillary vs McCain would be disastrous for us.

December 19, 2006 at 8:06 AM  
Blogger Snave said...

In "American Theocracy" Kevin Phillips talked about modern American politics being "sclerotic" and having a sort of incestuous feel. His two examples were the Bush family, of course (he wrote about their dynasty in 2004) and then about Gore being a Senator's son, Kerry having been Skull and Bones just like Dubya, Kerry having worked under Dukakis in MA state government and both of them being beaten by Bushes in presidential elections, Hillary Clinton having been First Lady for eight years, etc.

I think the public is tired of this kind of stuff, and wants something new. I believe we at least want someone who doesn't have such deep roots in the country's finances or politics. I think this is another reason why somebody like Obama is refreshing. As The Major noted, Obama seems to recognize this.

I want to find out more about Obama before I make any personal decisions about whether or not he is "the one", and that might necessitate reading some of what he has written. So far, most indications are good that he might just be what the U.S. needs.

As Lizzy does, I also like Edwards and Kucinich. I would agree with Tom that the public perception of Kucinich is that of someone "too far to the left", and I don't think the media (and thus the voters) will pay much attention to him. Edwards might have more of a shot, but I don't know if he will have the money to match Clinton or Obama (who I suspect will run, and will get lots of financial help because of Clinton's "lightning rod" status... good to see the media talking about her in that way, IMO).

December 19, 2006 at 9:58 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Prague Twin: That would be great, Colin Powell running. I’d love to see the shouting match between military heroes like Powell and the chickenhawk neocons. A lot of laundry would get aired, and that’s what we need.

Lizzy: I think you’re right, anyone who voted for the Iraq invasion should sit out the 2008 election. It might not be their fault, since they were lied to by Bush, but still, we need a clean slate and that’s one way to do it.

Snave: Yup, there’s definitely way too much incest in American politics; to some extent that’s probably inevitable. Everybody seems to dread the idea of McCain vs. Hillary, and yet that’s probably just what we’ll get. 2008 might be the year that an independent or 3rd party candidate takes the White House. At some point the public will have to be fed up with the same few dynasties taking turns in the White House. 2008 seems like a good time for that to happen.

December 19, 2006 at 11:17 AM  
Blogger Kvatch said...

EEK...Obama sounds like the way JFK was described in 1960.

December 19, 2006 at 2:01 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Kvatch: Hmmm, that's kind of an eerie parallel. I hope there isn't another Lee Harvey Oswald waiting in the wings.

December 19, 2006 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger frstlymil said...

I don't think Powell will run. I read years ago that due to a chronic medical condition of his wife, and his devotion to her - he will never run for office because he does not want to put her in the spot light like that. Good guy, Powell.

I think Obama does represent something fresh, new - he has youth - he has gotten to where he is without nepotism - he seems to have a strong understanding of what actual people - not the Paris Hiltons of the world - think is important to them - there is that eerie parallel to JFK and because he is black - unfortunately there will undoubtedly be some sicko in the wings who might try to do him harm - as they would do with a female as well. Third world countries are far more advanced than we are at looking beyond gender and race to who is actually a good leader.

December 20, 2006 at 6:56 AM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Frstlymil: I've heard the same thing about Powell. That's too bad; the best ones never seem to run. I think you're right that voters in most other countries are less shallow; they're less caught up in unimportant matters like race, gender, looks, etc.

December 20, 2006 at 12:53 PM  
Blogger Toad734 said...

Too bad white red neck, NASCAR dads would never vote for:
A. A black guy
B. A guy named Barrack
C. A guy whose middle name is Hussein
D. Someone who isn't related to a Bush.

December 20, 2006 at 1:24 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

TOAD734: Yup, good point. Hopefully at some point the group you're describing will be a minority of voters. Hard to say whether that'll happen by 2008 or not.

December 20, 2006 at 5:09 PM  

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