Sunday, June 17, 2007

I agree with most of this, but I think Steve is a little unfair to Senator Obama. Obama is going for a post-ideological image, as Dukakis tried to do, but not as a technocrat. Obama is certainly no Dukakis; he's capable of inspiring people in a way Dukakis wasn't (try to imagine Dukakis giving Obama's 2004 convention speech).

I think a better analogy would be Jimmy Carter in 1976, who ran on a platform of...well, basic decency. His pitch was, in effect, that electing a nice not-too-ideological guy like him would help heal the nation from the trauma of Watergate. Obama, I think, is betting that a similar pitch will work after the trauma of Bush. At the same time, Obama's instincts are more progressive than Carter's were, and he's trying to frame progressive values in non-ideological terms--as American values. Which, I think, is exactly what we have to do.

(As for the much-derided part about toning down the rhetoric and healing divisions, I don't have a problem with it; I think some kind of rhetorical de-escalation is exactly what we need right now. Whether Obama can deliver it, whether it's possible at all at this point--those are separate questions, to which I don't have answers.)

From what I've read, where Obama falls short is that he doesn't have the I-feel-your-pain emotional connection to people that President Clinton had. He goes into a room full of seniors, say, and goes into all kinds of detail about policy...but doesn't establish an empathetic connection with them. That, I think, is where he gets the all-head-no-heart rap. He can ace the stump speeches; he can show passion; he just isn't as good at the retail-level emotional thing. (Which, I think, is one of Edwards's strengths.)

So I don't know. I still think Obama has a very good shot at the nomination, and a very good shot at winning if he's nominated. On the other hand, I don't really know anything this far out.

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