I and 17,000 of my closest friends attended the Obama announcement Saturday. What I won’t do for presidents and presidential candidates. The coldest two experiences in my life were covering Ronald Reagan’s visit to Dixon, Illinois in February 1984 and Barack Obama’s announcement Saturday. I was there with long-time friend and fellow blogger Jerome Prophet. I was hoping he’d post some pictures but hasn’t yet. As for the story, I think Darla at Brainspark has the experience covered.
After the event, I had a lot of people asking me what I thought of Obama’s chances. Right now, I think his only competition in either political party is Sen. Hillary Clinton. If he gets past her in the primary, not an easy task, the Whit House is his. The Republican bench is rather thin on A-list candidates. I’ll go so far as to say the George W. Bush is to the national Republican Party what George Ryan was to the Illinois GOP. That is, his failings in office have irradiated the entire party. It’s going to take time to rebuild.
My own take on Obama is generally positive. He is uttering allegedly politically dangerous terms like “universal healthcare” and “withdrawal from Iraq”. But the devil, as always is in the details. We’ll see.
Also, I share this concern: can a president be both a uniter and someone who implements a new agenda:
Then there's the other major contradiction of the campaign, the fact that it is simultaneously promising two things -- progress and unity -- that have an uncomfortable relationship to each other. In his speech, Obama recited moments in American history when politics became something more than the mundane mechanics of governing and effected a true transformation of the polity: the civil war, the New Deal, the civil rights movement. But the problem is that those were moments not of unity, but of extreme polarization. The South only granted rights to black citizens under force of arms, armies of unruly war veterans gathered in Washington DC during the Great Depression to demand the government provide them with a safety net, and when Martin Luther King Jr went marching through the South, he was met with batons and firehoses and accusations that he was dividing people and stirring up trouble.Color me skeptical that he can introduce a new way and still keep the (political) peace. For one thing, there is a significant number of Republican dead-enders that are going to try to block him at every move. Keep in mind that about 30 percent of the population actually thinks George W. Bush is doing a good job. That may seem crazy but what that statistic reflects is blind tribalism. Obama is going to have vocal and very visible enemies. Being the person that “brings the country together” is an admirable goal but ultimately not attainable if you want to get anything done.
Standing on the site of where Abraham Lincoln gave his "house divided" speech, Obama invoked him as a model:
"[T]he life of a tall, gangly, self-made Springfield lawyer tells us that a different future is possible. He tells us that there is power in words. He tells us that there is power in conviction. That beneath all the differences of race and region, faith and station, we are one people."
It's hard to quarrel with the sentiment. But Obama didn't mention that Lincoln was also the most hated and polarizing figure in American presidential history. Sometimes unity is the price of progress.