Thursday, December 07, 2006

Who is this Obama?

Obama photoBarak Obama is very much in the public eye this month, as he undertakes a variety of travels and discussions that appear to indicate an interest in the 2008 Presidential campaign. Is it too soon, in terms of his experience at a national level, or in terms of the nation's readiness for a mixed-race leader? Is he too centrist, too disappointing to progressives at touchstone moments? Or is his ability to reach out to a wide variety of Americans and touch their sense of national pride and community spirit exactly what the country needs? Everybody has an opinion, nobody knows.

Some interesting takes: Pastor Dan at Street Prophets says that Obama is not a political triangulator, but genuinely trying to change how national politics are done.
Obama is going to drive progressives up a wall because they'll be looking for him to take their side in the partisan dogfights, and he's practicing a ministry of reconciliation. Which doesn't mean that he doesn't agree with them on the issues: it just means that he defines leadership in a very different way. Unlike many in the netroots, Obama doesn't believe that liberals need to do the same thing, only better - ie, outwork the Republicans. He thinks that it's time for fundamentally new tactics and a fundamentally new strategy.
. . .
People talk about Obama's limitless ambition coupled with his odd lack of apparent passion for controversial topics. It's all there, but the ambition isn't to build a stronger party and the passion isn't to craft legislation. It's to fundamentally change the way Americans talk to one another, and the way they go about solving problems.
He might be right -- it would certainly make sense of many of the seeming conflicts in Obama's behavior. If he's right, is that something liberals will get behind, or are we so aware of the damage done in the last eight years that we need a push on policy now, and are willing to leave reconciliation and transformation of the dialogue for a different era? Can both happen?

Meanwhile, over at Hullabaloo, Digby is worried that Obama seems to be running against his own party by arguing against straw-man sketches of liberal positions (see also Bauers). I agree that that's frustrating, but it could be a sign of inexperience as much as of ill intent. However, intriguing to me is that Digby's conclusion runs thusly:
This is the political moment for the Democrats to seize the mantle of the mainstream --- to argue that we are the big tent, where people of conscience from all over the political spectrum are coming together, concerned about our nation, ready to work in common cause. The Republican party has abandoned the concerns of the American people. The Democratic party is the party that will secure the future.
That sounds an awful lot like what Pastor Dan thinks Obama is working on. If he can get his rhetoric in line with his larger goals, maybe his campaign would become unstoppable . . .

(links via kos)

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