December 18, 2004


Conviction Politics: One Democratic hero emerged from November 2. His fellow Democrats should study up on why. (Rick Perlstein, 12.06.04, American Prospect)

Here is a better first step to retaking red-state voters. We talk about southern culture, blue-collar culture, NASCAR culture -- which overlaps, in complicated ways, with evangelical culture. Certainly one tenet they all share is this: When somebody punches you in the gut, you don’t smile, stride halfway between his position and yours, and say that maybe the guy has a point. Behaving like that is precisely what has made the Democrats look so unsympathetically unfocused and confused to so many people. You have to convince them that you’ve got a fighting faith, too. Or else you can’t fight.

Fortunately, we do have one: “that government can help provide us with the basic tools we need to live out the American dream.”

Language like this would sound crazy -- paleoliberal crazy -- if this were not a direct quote from a speech the other day from the only Democratic hero to emerge from the mess on November 2: Barack Obama. Amid all the talk of Obama’s shimmering appeal to a post-racial future, his light touch on the stump, and his language of faith and family and responsibility -- all the things that convinced centrists he was fundamentally one of them -- what most commentators managed to ignore was that the core of Obama’s politics is traditional economic liberalism.

He delivered that message up and down the state, even in its conservative southern portions -- rather like in an earlier Illinois Senate race. In the second Lincoln-Douglas debate, Stephen Douglas said his opponent would be singing a different, conservative tune once he was “trotted down into Egypt” -- using the nickname that signified downstate Illinois’ cultural affinity to the slaveholding South. Abraham Lincoln, like Barack Obama, pulled no punches on his core economic message -- anywhere. The difference is that Obama won where Lincoln lost. Obama has a winning message, one whose time is ripe: that government can help people overcome their economic vulnerability. Kerry was not able to forthrightly deliver that message.

This is not to slight Obama’s extraordinary skill at framing his liberal convictions on economics in ways that offended no one’s cultural sensibilities: in terms of faith, family, and patriotism. He did it, however, while never splitting the difference with the Republicans programmatically.

One of the great delights of 2005 will be to watch whether folks like Mr. Perlstein turn on Mr. Obama as he becomes the Administration's point person on the other side of the aisle or whether Mr. Obama forsakes his national ambitions to carry water for the Left.

Posted by Orrin Judd at December 18, 2004 4:11 PM

They're putting an unhealthy amount of hope in this guy.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at December 18, 2004 4:27 PM

Its sort of like football fans who always think the second string quarterback, whom they have never have seen play, will save the team. The less you know the more intense your fantasies can be.

The guy the D's should be looking to is Obie's Boss.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at December 18, 2004 5:54 PM

He's a socialist and a gun-grabber.

Posted by: Sandy P at December 18, 2004 7:07 PM


But he talks real purty.

Here's the real question. 20 years ago, Obama's Marxist, gun grabbing past would have been completely concealed by Old Media. Do they still have that power? Or will other sources dregde up his past?

I suspect that this is what OJ means. His rhetoric and political past aren't compatible. Either he'll have to walk the walk to break from his past or stand revealed as a not-so-crypto socialist.

Posted by: Annoying Old Guy at December 18, 2004 10:26 PM

Robert: good point. It reminds me of when, as a kid, I was impressed with the batting average of some new Detroit Tiger. Dad pointed out that he was still new, and they hadn't figured out how to pitch to him. Sure enough, his average always dropped over time.

Posted by: PapayaSF at December 18, 2004 11:14 PM

The gun-grabbing is a killer for him. You cannot appeal to working class White America if you are opposed to their ownership of firearms. Home protection is a real concern because everyone in America understands the average American cop is far more Chief Wiggum than Sheriff Andy Taylor, except that Chief Wiggum is a little smarter, less corrupt, braver and in better physical condition than the typica American flatfoot. Also, hunting and gun sports are common hobbies in most of the country, not just Red State America.

Economic issues are not discussed in modern politics at all. The corporate-run MSM insures that, the corporate-owned political parties insure that. There are plenty of potential voters out there who feel that their lives are made worse by the modern global economy, and many of them do have a point. The crunch for the Democrats is that many of these same voters have been made to suffer because of the wooly-headed environmentalism of the trendnoid Democratic Left. Spotted owls are more important than lumberjacks, fish more important than coal miners.

How Obama handles the pressure from his party's sources of funds and their MSM trendnoid publicists when this obvious contradiction comes into play will be interesting. If he tells them to take a hike and backs the 'people' he has a shot.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 6:26 AM

Why hasn't the blogosphere revealed Obama's real bio? He was raised white by his American mother's family while his African father was MIA. He found his African American roots when he decided to go into politics. Is Barack Obama the name he was given at birth? Somehow I doubt it.

Since he's smart and well educated, he knows that Arabs, specifically Moslems, were responsible for the slave trade (and still are to a great extent), so taking an Arab name is a purely cynical political move designed to appeal to the great unwashed on the left.

It would be interesting to learn who his sponsors are and why he decided to go into politics when it's clear he could have had a very lucrative career in corporate America.

Did anyone see his wife introduce him at the Democrat convention? Wow. She's a political operative, not a spouse. Look for her to jump into politics too. Husband and wife senators? Not out of the question. Spouses for president and vice-president, not out of the question either.

I smell real trouble here.

Posted by: erp at December 19, 2004 8:13 AM

Barack Obama isn't any Arab name I've heard of.

Posted by: Ali Choudhury at December 19, 2004 1:28 PM

He is a Congolese and a Christian.

Posted by: Bart at December 19, 2004 2:03 PM

You guys are right to be scared and to make up lies about him.

Posted by: Rick Perlstein at December 19, 2004 2:21 PM


Do you say that in reaction to your feelings about Bobby Jindal and Herman Cain?

Posted by: jim hamlen at December 19, 2004 2:52 PM


Scared of him? We're taking bets on when he switches parties. No black Democrat can be elected President--a black Republican can easily.

Posted by: oj at December 19, 2004 4:44 PM

According to NRO, Obama just signed a $1.9 million three-book deal. Sounds like he's taking the John McCain self-promotional route to Senate life.

Posted by: ratbert at December 19, 2004 11:05 PM