What Do People Expect From Obama?

>> Tuesday, August 19, 2008

There have been a flurry of post across the internet lamenting the fact that Obama is not up by 20 over McCain. One of the growing refrains is that Obama has become too orthodox. Obama has set himself in the center in cruise control according to these people. Obama has seemingly become boring without a big theme or big idea that tells the electorate what he stands for, he has lost his rallying cry. The question is what do people expect from Obama?

Digby sums up the apathetic Obama view,

This convinces me that the central problem for the campaign is that nobody knows what Obama stands for. It's a perennial problem for Democrats, but I think it may be an even bigger problem this time. The hope and change theme was galvanizing in the beginning but it isn't enough to sustain full campaign. What was once inspiring has become a fog.

Let’s unpack this a bit. In the beginning, Obama was for change. A more post partisan, post racial America where we hunkered down and worked on the serious problems facing us. He was for getting us out of Iraq and getting us Healthcare. Obama was going to fix the government by ending the Republican spoils system and maybe even hold the criminals accountable. Obama appeared as if he might be willing to take some political risks and tell people not just what they wanted to hear but what they needed to hear. What happened?

Several things happened. The primary went on a long time. The fight went on to the point where the discussion stopped being about the policy, as it had been in the beginning, and became about flag pins and ancillary crap. It became about whether white working class people were racist and it became about the outrageous sound byte. The media coverage changed in a big way as the media became familiar with Obama and as he took the lead, the media began to treat him less as an outsider challenging the system and started to redefine him as a politician. He was not a leader fighting for principle, instead he was a politician taking positions and doing things for votes.

The second thing that happened is that Iraq coverage ceased. Where at one point Iraq had been the topic every day it now has receded to the background. We have gone from daily tragedy appearing on the screens of TVs across America to a more abstract discussion of political reconciliation. In addition, the time line for withdrawal has become an accepted idea endorsed by even Nuri al-Maliki. The steam behind the get us out of Iraq has fizzled a bit.

Third, the economy is the only domestic issue. We are not being inundated with Obama’s grand designs for health care or for education or infrastructure development. Even his economic plans are not being highlighted as a major reforms or shiny action. Obama is going back and forth between foreign affairs and some minor- energy/economy ideas. He has not made an Apollo program for energy a central theme of his campaign.

Another thing that has happened is that people realize that Obama is not a hard left wing candidate. The biggest wakeup call in this regard was the FISA vote. That took a lot of wind out of the sails that fired up the Obama movement online. Obama was never going to be that Kucinichesque candidate but many people had built him up like that in their minds and have been disappointed because of it. Much of Obama’s orthodoxy is showing through and people are not going to be enthusiastic about an orthodox candidate. Yes, even with the black skin and funny name his candidacy can be orthodox in many ways.

I think the simplest way to describe what is going on is that there is no fire coming from Obama. People want to see a strong Obama using his oratory power to destroy McCain’s positions and his cowardly panders. People want Obama to be a fire-breather, to feel the goose bumps during his inspirational speeches. Right now they don’t feel like they are getting it and it is causing some withdrawals. They do not like the calm Obama as much as the fiery Obama. The media has something to do with this as the coverage of Obama has settled into a more sedate pace. Obama saw a big bump during the coverage of his trip over seas because he was seen giving the big Berlin Speech but after that when the campaign returned to less exciting stuff he came back down. Now, the election is plodding along in a holding pattern until the conventions. Note all the speculation over the VP picks, people are dying for some big news.

There is some good news. The convention is coming. I really think that the convention will be a turning point in the election. That is when I think Obama will shift into a new gear. His campaign has been very good about timing things well this election and the convention is such a natural turning point it is tough to believe they will not use it to launch the new phase of the campaign. We know Obama has higher gears and post convention they will be unleashed. Hopefully…


O-le,O-le, O-le, O-le! O-le, O-le!

  © Blogger template Sunset by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP