Two days ago N.Y. Times columnist Frank Rich wrote that it’s time for Barack Obama to retire “change we can believe in” and launch a new campaign theme. That seems to be the general consensus — Obama 2.0 (and it had better be something that’s analagous to Windows XP over Windows 98) needs to begin on Thursday night. And I can’t imagine what he could say that would really make a serious difference in perception except…well, what about saying “it ain’t me, babe — it’s us”?
In July 1960 JFK said the following in his Democratic Convention acceptance speech: “Woodrow Wilson‘s New Freedom promised our nation a new political and economic framework. Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s New Deal promised security to those in need. But the New Frontier, of which I speak, is not a set of promises — it is a set of challenges. It sums not what I intend to offer the American people, but what I intend to ask of them.”
It would be great to hear something along these lines from Obama — no promises, no magic wands, grim up, we can do it — but the conventional wisdom is that the teletubbies are so submerged in their WALL*E lifestyles that being challenged to do greater things would be, like….whuhdesay?
As I wrote earlier this morning, the average middle-class American is (and has been for some time) totally drunk on tech-comfort martinis, and he/she really doesn’t want to know or hear about anything that interferes with the buzz-on. That’s because the narcotic effects of a flush 21st Century comfort life (SUV, iPhone, LCD, Blu-ray, prescription mood medication…the whole schmeer) is far, far more enveloping and reality-diminishing than the lah-lah lifestyle of the French aristocracy in the late 1700s or the family of Czar Nicholas II before the Bolshevik revolution.
Nonetheless, I think Obama needs to go for it anyway by saying “it’s up to you,” “a nation is only as great as its citizens,” and “I can’t deliver any magic potion — no president can — but we can make things better if we all decide to give it up some and pull together, and that means living in the here-and-now of the 21st Century and engaging in the world as it is, not as it was, and that means electing a president who — yes! — uses a computer and knows from Mac Powerbooks, and it also means fighting the corporations tooth and nail for the soul of our country, and that means pushing back on the politics of greed and selfishness, now and forever.”
The people who say they don’t yet know Obama after 18 months of campaigning are either lying. We all know that “he doesn’t share our values” is a racial code phrase, but anybody who’s still claiming ignorance or serious uncertainty about the guy at this stage is basically saying he/she would rather not have Cleavon Little be the town sheriff. That’s what it boils down to. The TV commentators rarely allude to, much less acknowledge, the ocean of racism that lives under this country’s terra firma, particularly in the backwater areas. It’s sorta kinda there, the media says, but not quite as much as you’d think. Bull. They’re doing the old sidestep.
The people who believe John McCain is better equipped to handle the military and political challenges of the presidency are simply coming from a place of dedicated ignorance. McCain has shown time and again that he’s doddering and fuzzy-brained, gets lots of things wrong, misremembers history, and is emotionally invested in bluster and aggression….and yet people say he’s the guy they’d trust more in the Oval Office. It’s insane, illogical. The real reason has to lie elsewhere.
Obama is far from perfect, but he’s obviously brighter, sharper, less macho- belligerent and more in touch with the here-and-now world than McCain is capable of being (or willing to be). He has as much if not more experience than Abraham Lincoln had when he began his first term as President; ditto Woodrow Wilson and JFK. Older conservatives just don’t like the idea of a black guy in the White House — that’s it. People are who and what they are, and you can’t wave a magic wand and change human nature. My mother — well read, loves the arts, never a conservative — used to voice racist reservations about Obama when she first heard about him.
A guy on a Yahoo answer page wrote fhe following about two weeks ago, to wit: “Experience is evidentally not a reliable measure. When judging presidential performance vs. their experience, it’s all over the map. No reasonable correlation between experience and performance.
“Of course, the same is true in business. For example, most of the computer companies that are now mega-corporations were started by kids in garages.
“I myself got hired by a very big, very famous company into a pretty important position with no experience, I just convinced them to do it. I wound up being one of their two top performing executives and brought very significant turnaround to several departments in the company. No experience.
“Nowadays, I hire people because of what they can do, not what they have done (or not).
“If experience was so important, then only the top senators would have a chance in elections, the ones that have been in the senate for 25 years or more. Has this been the case? Ever?
“Experience does not matter, either to performance nor to the American people. Because we’re smarter than that. Experience doesn’t guarantee a person — it just tells you about what type of person they are.”