Saturday, December 08, 2007

The Prime of Barack Obama

Obama's lost confidence:

Sometime after his sparkling announcement for President on February 10 in Springfield, with his picture perfect family by his side, Obama misplaced his confidence. It was as if he had stuck his confidence in his coat pocket, as he would a speech-- and suddenly he couldn’t find it.

The misplaced confidence showed especially in his halting, unsure answers in the debates. Some said he simply was not comfortable with the one-minute answer format. But, the problems with Obama seemed deeper. The excitement had passed. He was campaigning as if he had been assigned some tasks and he would execute them in a workmanlike manner, but without the passion that marks a winner.

The Obama comeback:

However, in the last few months all that changed. Obama had a few good debates—when he seemed to take charge. He would turn to Hillary and make his points, with confidence and clarity. You got the sense that Obama, once again, thought he could win. Not that he would necessarily win, but that he could. That is no small accomplishment when you are taking on half (or more) of the most powerful couple that the Democratic Party has ever known—Hillary and Mr. Bill.

Tonight was more of the confident Obama. It was a Generation Obama event in Chicago (The Riviera) with performing artists Jeff Tweedy, Jill Sobule, Stephan Jenkins and Leo Kremer. This is an important part of Obama’s base: young, hip, educated, ready to volunteer foot soldiers in the Obama brigade.

The remarks were perfect for the Democratic Primary. Obama has a cadence and a passion that Hillary can’t match. And, Hillary is almost a generation removed from Barack and this base. She can smile and say, “I’m your girl,” but she is never really going to connect with this generation, let alone be their “girl.”

Obama's America of gloom and doom:

Although Obama likes to refer to himself as a “hopemonger,” as the outsider party, he starts his pitch with an America that is filled with gloom and doom: people all across the country are “working harder for less,” and “they have never paid more for health care, college or gasoline.” In Obama’s America, “it is harder for people to save,” “harder for them to retire,” “they may be maxed out on their credit cards,” they may have “taken out a home equity loan and home prices are going down.” They are “nervous,” and they are “stressed.’ And, they have “lost faith that their leaders can and will do anything about it.“ “Nobody is listening.”

My, my. In Obama’s America, it almost seems like the 1930s, with 25% national unemployment and businessmen jumping out of windows.

Obama argued that “the only mission that was ever accomplished was to use fear and falsehoods to take this country into a war that should have never been authorized and should have never been waged, and has cost this country billions of dollars and thousands of lives and has not made us more safe.“

Obama as a change agent:

Obama asserts-- with all of the above problems-- the old, standard, meek politics won’t work. He argues we need aggressive change- and that change must be based on principles and convictions—something he implies Hillary is lacking.

Obama speaks of helping a homecare worker by giving her just “a little bit more pay,” and giving her a “little more retirement security.” Obama says there are millions of people like this homecare worker all across the country that “hope they can find a job that pays a living wage.” They hope they won’t be bankrupt if they get sick. And, they hope they can send their kids to college even if they are not rich. And, they hope they can retire with some security and respect.

Mutually shared obligations:

Moreover, all of this goes back to Obama’s theme of mutually shared obligations, which Obama articulated during his 2004 Senate Primary contest and again last year as he was preparing for his Presidential run. Obama argues the current administration has told the homecare workers, and many others, that they are on their own.

But, Obama believes he is his brother’s keeper and “that’s the reason he is running for President.” He wants to use government to help all those who need help. Is he trying to reinvent the “Great Society,” of LBJ? Perhaps. If he does a press conference in the next year in Chicago, perhaps we can ask.

More Obama solutions: take away tax breaks from companies that are shipping jobs overseas; give tax breaks to hardworking Americans that deserve them [here, it appears that Obama would like to cut payroll taxes of employees who do not earn enough income to pay income taxes]; raise the minimum wage every year “so workers will not be poor.”

Obama promises to “make sure every single American has health care they can count on,” that is at least as good as Obama’s health insurance plan as a U. S. Senator; make sure every child in America “has the best education we have to offer.” As President, he will “reward teachers for their greatness by paying them more money.” And, of course, Obama will bring the troops home from Iraq within 16 months.

Key to winning in the Democratic Primary:

This is great stuff for the Democratic Primary. Promise everybody everything. All will have the best health care the nation has to offer. All will have the best education the nation has to offer. If he had more time, he could have promised the best houses, the best cars, etc., to every American.

Econ 101:

Democratic candidates in their primaries act as if no one knows economics. Not the candidates and not the constituents. Everybody can have the best of everything. If they lack skills, so what? We will pass a law mandating a higher wage. If employers choose to hire fewer workers at the higher wage, the government will mandate that the employer doesn’t do that. Mandates and promises; the key to winning in the Democratic Primary.

For the Democratic Presidential primary, Obama is in his prime. If there is an economic problem, Obama as President can mandate a solution. This is an article of faith among Democratic Primary voters. Further, he has the cadence, the style, and the inspiration. The smart money is now going with Obama to win the Democratic nomination for President.

The general election? That could be a bit more difficult for Obama. But, first things first. No sense in worrying about the General if you don’t win the primary. Just ask Obama’s campaign guru, David Axelrod. Axelrod is back in the saddle, and his candidate is moving ahead.