Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've Soured on Obama

Cross posted at DailyKos:

Yes. That's right. I've soured on Barack Obama. Sour. Lemony sour. The thing is, souring on Obama is like eating a bag of Sour Patch Kids. Something about it just makes you feel off, but you can't stop eating until they're gone. At some point you wonder if you should keep eating and if it's going to make you feel sick, but you don't.

Sour Patch Kids test you. They make you question whether candy has to be sweet to keep you coming back. For sure they're not for everyone and the traditional lollipop crowd may not go in for them, but they are candy and they do call to you when you see them in the candy aisle. You bought them once and you'll keep on buying them because despite the fact that you have misgivings about them, they satisfy some unspoken desire that lives deep down inside for a different candy. A candy that breaks the mold of the everyday sugar fix. There's a built in mechanism with Sour Patch Kids that forces you to stop. You can't eat two bags. They're just too sour. Your stomach will turn. They are the politician class of American candy. The candy that you shouldn't count on to do everything, but that work when asked.

I'm being funny here (I hope), but I have a point. I was an Edwards supporter and gradually latched on to Obama as his star rose and the promise of his 2004 convention speech came to fruition in his 2008 campaign. Yes, I was sucked in, but I'm no dummy and I'm no cult member. I'm far too smart and far too cynical about politics to fall for the glitz of hope on its own. For me, Obama represented a model of modern politics that promised to match the 21st century paradigm that most weathered old veterans of the game just don't get.

He knows how to communicate in the mode by which the country is proceeding, by and large. He knows how to stand in front of the masses and ask us to follow him. He admits that he'll make mistakes, but that we'll collectively find the best path to restore America. Obama is complex. Thankfully, he's complex. We've had enough of this simplicity:

In a television feed of the event, Bush at one point can be seen putting his arm around Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua.

"You're a good man, you're a good man," says the president. Bush then wipes his finger below his nose and calls for the attention of Harper.

"Yo Harper. The president of Nigeria."

I can go on and on about what I like about Obama, but we all know what got us here. We also know what's shaking the confidence he built in us. FISA was wrong. Bending to meet the Republican framing of various issues is also stupid. Not being clear and definitive in the populist portions of his platform is also troubling. In essence, the candidate that we "hoped" to have has been replaced by the candidate that we'll somewhat optimistically settle for, at least at this point.

Undoubtedly, a rousing speech in Denver will revive some of the enthusiasm. Until that point, the dynamism of Obama is missing. The Obama of the general election lacks a polarizing figure on the other side between which sparks and lighting bolts fly. The unintentional brilliance of John McCain is his damning lack of charisma. He's so mind-bogglingly uncharismatic in fact that it's hard to imagine why anyone would pay attention with more than half their focus. I call this unintentional brilliance because it turns off the electorate to a certain extent. It dampens enthusiasm and it forces Obama to shadow box with his primary campaign identity. It's a fight that he can't win, but it's also not going to help McCain beat Obama either.

What we're seeing is Obamafebruary vs. Obamajuly in the media. That's the narrative. McCain is so inept and uninteresting that the only compelling story remaining for the media to tell is the Star Trek TOS "Mirror, Mirror" version of the 2008 presidential campaign. You know what I'm talking about. The one where Kirk finds himself in the mirror universe where Spock has a goatee and therefore is evil. Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous are looking for a fake goatee and some glue in anticipation of an ABC debate.

The reason I posted this diary is because I think a lot of people are missing the identity of Barack Obama, at least as far as the presidency is concerned. I expect certain things of Obama after his inauguration and I think he'll deliver.

1. I believe he'll do something about slowing the Iraq Occupation to a minimal crawl and that he'll eventually get us to the point where there is a small US military footprint in Iraq to protect our diplomatic interests.

2. I expect he'll try to pass healthcare reform, but I don't hold out any big hope that it will get done satisfactorily. That's not a knock on him, but a cynical belief that roadblocks in the system will prevent him from achieving more than a bland, compromised version of his platform.

3. I believe he'll invest in green energy. I believe he'll do it in a semi-free market manner that opens the door for Wall Street to reap huge profits, while appealing to the entrepreneurial spirit of Americans ready to take on the challenge of shifting our infrastructure. I think there will be some capitulation to big business in his program, and I think there will be wailing and gnashing of teeth from some labor unions about his fluidity with respect to championing their cause.

4. I think Obama is going to put people on the Supreme Court that balance things out, but I don't think his choices will appeal to the left. I think his appointees will be heavily centrist politically and that he will appoint at least one, if not more, woman to the Court. Abortion will be safe, but I don't expect a liberal Justice from Obama.

5. I bet at least once that Obama is going to have a FISA moment as president where he capitulates with the right wing and pisses off the progressive base of the Democratic Party. He's not through upsetting us, yet. It may be on drilling in ANWAR or in some neoliberal economic decision, but something will burst the bubble that he's a pure left thinking politician, if there are any of us still holding that belief after FISA. I can't say what it is yet, but at least once he's going to set the NetRoots on fire.

6. Obama is going to do stupid, wasteful things to appease the immigration-crazed Lou Dobbs crowd. He'll spend a billion dollars on another electronic fence or something and we'll throw up our arms saying, "WTF?" This particular example is meant to illustrate how the complexity of Obama's position as "President of the whole United States" which is going to get him in trouble with some kind of expensive, senseless pander.

I could go on, but you get the point. Obama is a progressive in the sense that he sees places that need to be fixed and he is going to fight to fix them. He wants a fairer government and a more balanced opportunity for the entire population of the country. He wants to assure strong diplomacy and a commitment to sensible, pragmatic governance. He also represents the interests of business and speaks optimistically about market economics. He isn't all that clear on gay rights and parrots the tired old, "I support civil unions" compromise that falls short of recognizing the issue as one of human rights and equality. He's often too diplomatic in his rhetoric and fails to take clear and firm stands against propagandists like Fox. We may not see a huge shift in the way the FCC operates, for example, and deregulation will likely go untouched.

I'm convinced that Barack Obama will be a good president. I'm convinced that he's the best person for the job right now. I'm convinced to vote for him and support him and work to see his vision of America through. I'm also convinced to challenge him. I'm convinced that he's going to piss me off. I'm convinced that the promise of a grassroots paradigm for American politics is still far enough away that we have untold battles ahead of us, and that some of those battles will put us in direct opposition to President Obama.

So, the next time you feel like I do when watching Obama speak, that his rhetoric is getting thin and drips with questions, remind yourself of Sour Patch Kids. Remind yourself that you're not going to be able to consume a bag of Obama everyday and that sometimes you're going to have to opt for what you know is better. Remind yourself that more often than not you're going to be satisfied by the experience, knowing what it is when you get into it. The truth is, Sour Patch Kids and Obama are both excellent choices on any given day and deserve a premium position in their respective categories. Just don't think they're something that they're not.


kegill said...

Hi, Mike ... found you in the comments on Jessica's Trib post.

I've never been an Obama fan -- when Edwards bowed out, I became disenfranchised after I researched Obama's past (limited) political history. I dubbed him a political opportunist. His actions post-Hillary bear that judgment out.

I do have one friend who has joined a group that wants to appeal to super delegates to have a brokered convention. I'd be all over that if the brokering involved Edwards. As it is, I'll spend my time working on getting my governor re-elected.

Mike Plugh said...

Hi. I understand your feelings about Obama. I actually really like what I see from him for the most part. Aside from the FISA situation, I don't worry at all about the presidency he's going to build.

I think he's neither liberal nor conservative. He's pragmatic. If that also includes opportunistic, perhaps you're onto something. I feel strongly enough about him that I'll continue my support unwaveringly, but I also intend to hold his feet to the fire if need be.

Thanks for commenting!