November 2, 2007

A Boxer, Bullhorn or Statesman for President?

As always, categories are generalizations, but the pundits' unending armchair quarterbacking of Obama and his campaign have snapped my last nerve. I literally groan when political reports sound, not even like sports casts – at this point racing analogies would be a relief! – but like boxing match pre-game hype: “He’s gotta move in, really let her have it!”

Even liberal talk show hosts I used to love to hear and join in the "amen" choir have picked up the same blood-lust, gladiator-arena political style that they used to criticize when it was all we saw/heard from FOX, CNN, MSNBC, etc.

Look, entertainment choices are one thing, I love to be entertained, but when it comes to who will lead this nation and represent us here and to the world, I'm not looking for entertainment. I'm looking for a statesman or woman. Unfortunately (since I’m a woman wanting that ceiling broken through, too), the woman the Democrats gave me does not meet my standards in any way, so this term, I found my statesman, thankfully and amen!

Did any pundits mention Barack Obama was the most presidential, statesman-like candidate at the Democratic Debate? No. Was he? Yes, if "statesman" means the most rational, the one least easily flustered, the least incendiary, the most well-informed and prepared with details, facts, and real contrasts in the most important areas of all - character and judgment.

Do debates allow candidates to present detailed facts? What do they tell us about policies, plans, advisers? What do they tell us about who is behind our candidates, funding them, getting earmarks from them, getting donations to their favorite organizations? Why do these moderators act like we don't pass that very information around among ourselves from everywhere we can get it, because they won't?

Do debate moderators want the debates to be contentious and full of arguments and even anger? Yes, it keeps people from changing the channel and justifies their absurd advertisement rates. Does a contentious, in-your-face President help or hurt the U.S.? We've got one right now, it isn't hard to answer that one: It hurts us!

The reason for liberal talk radio was originally (or so I heard) to provide real balance, real coverage of the issues and the background players usually not exposed or analyzed in mainstream media. So how are we doing?

I just watched/heard a Young Turks clip (Air America regular program), just aired Nov. 1st, hosted by Cenk. Cenk reminds me more of Chris Matthews than Amy Goodman, not that Amy walks on water for me; she's better than most and certainly not as confrontational and pugnacious as Matthews. Perhaps that's Cenk, the host's, intention. Cenk phone-interviewed Mr. James Traub of the NY Times and nicely and quickly covered Obama's positive aspects from Traub’s article on Obama:

1. Foreign Policy - distinctly different philosophy, different from Hillary on policies and plans that favor containment and multilateral as well as face-to-face diplomacy and negotiations without preconditions, and Obama serving on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee gives him standing.
2. Foreign and Domestic Policy Advisors - a Who's Who of the most widely read and respected experts on all matters of foreign relations, and national security - not to mention on disarmament of both conventional and nuclear weapons, and on preventing and reversing genocide, which Cenk and Mr. Traub did not mention! That little oversight is chronic in left, right and center media, and it irks me no end, as you can probably tell. If I ever hear Obama's policy experts listed again without including Stephanie Power, Pulitzer-Prize winning author of The Problem from Hell: America in the Age of Genocide, I might start pulling out my overabundant hair!
3. Judgment: Obama has the experience, not to play insider-politics, but to use good judgment in the most important decisions facing us.

Right after listing all that, Cenk launches into a [planned] longer segment yelling at Mr. Traub that Obama has to fight, fight, fight! Cenk says Obama should be leading the charge to impeach Bush and Cheney! Cenk says Obama should have led the charge to impeach the Attorney General! Cenk says even though he would lose those fights! And, get this - Cenk says Obama has to keep saying Hillary's Republican Lite. Of course, Obama did, but not lately, because is that really smart when so many moderate Republicans and Independents are leaning toward him, even changing their registration where needed to vote for him in the Democratic Primary?!? And when both Republicans and Democrats are sick of their parties?)

At this point, Cenk roars at Mr. Traub that Obama must keep saying he has the best judgment! Oh yes, I know, you're laughing hysterically by now, because how often have we devotees who read/watch and listen to everything Obama says heard him say just that?

Mr. James Traub, you did a magnificent job pointing out exactly what Obama has done right, including what Cenk was roaring he should, and you kept your cool despite some no-doubt irritating moments. Traub led discussion back to audience perception; he could've analyzed his own media peers more to be more informative, imho, but he's the smart one who sees Obama's approach may be the most appealing to voters in the end.

There are two general reactions we - the people who know the difference between the candidates and choose Obama - have to the unending and often baseless criticisms from the left, right and center pundits (not many analysts, unfortunately - more pundits, horse-race announcers, armchair quarterbacks):
1. disgust with the entire process, and/or
2. a rush of energy to pick up the phone, help organize another phonebank, another canvass, another event, and shut them all up with our latest Committed Voters for Obama tally from our precinct, city, district and neighboring early voting states!

I will continue to work to help organize all of the above here in Northern California, and help with phonebanking for rallies around the country for Obama. Before I do that, let me share why the pundits are dead wrong, imho:

* We will register many new voters; already have, and we've only just begun.

Even with all the new voters, if we raise voting by a whopping 10% in the primaries nationally, we would still only have about 28% of the eligible voters actually casting a ballot to choose the Democratic Party candidate. The dismal voter numbers are a major reason we want BO to win – he inspires civic action!

Of those primary voters, how many are party loyalists, how many are candidate-loyalists, how many are there for self-interest (read: to protect their beliefs and/or investments), and how many are there out of real love, respect for, defense of the democratic process?

* Of party loyalists, there are less every day. The percentage of Undeclared/Independent voters has skyrocketed - no surprise, given the frustration on both sides. Of all the Democrats, Obama draws the most Independent voters. Would coming out rabid against Republicans help or hurt him with Independents? Hurt, most likely. Lots of Independents were Republicans once, and they're often fiscal conservatives. Demonizing Republicans loses that growing segment of Democratic primary (not just general election) voters.

* Obama has the most loyal supporters. Sure, some fell off based on one issue, or simply on pollster/pundit negative messages - there are more than enough hot-button issues and negative messages to discourage all but the most determined civic-minded or devoted-to-a-candidate voters. Still, compare Obama's polls to Edwards, and he's holding or gaining ground the better people know him, not losing ground.

What's kept so many original supporters still on the bandwagon, after all that negativity? Obama's character, his refusal to pander, his refusal to straddle the fence, his insistence on giving us complete answers, even when he has to say:

[paraphrasing BO] Conditions might change, we may have to re-think this later, but you will always know what I'm thinking. You will always be informed of the options. You will always come before the lobbyists and political profiteers as a reward for wresting our democracy back, back for the civic participants, back for the people who've been slowly added to the list of "citizens" with full voting rights, back for the people who always had those rights but no longer felt their votes mattered.

See, Obama's made many more of us members of the last category I listed above: those here out of real love, real respect for democracy. With that and BO to work and vote for, it's become a serious not just willingness but burning desire to work for the democratic process. It turns out it's a joyful process, for all the hard work it is. It's a social process, and there's no way to do it without making new friends, learning new things.

We know the alternative to democracy and we reject it absolutely. We know we're at a crossroads and we will not be seduced again to hand over our authority to people who treat this like a game for personal profit.

Obama's not a savior; he's not going to end our (sometimes fatal) self-interest completely. He's only human and so are we. But as much as pundits want to belittle that sentiment, that love for democracy that's made so many of us hard-core cynics so starry-eyed again, it's that very aspect of Obama we see, feel and hear that inspires us to keep on keepin' on. Primaries are marathons. We're here 'til the Finish and we're here to Win!

It's not Obama's debating style that makes him the candidate with the highest "favorable" rating of any candidate, Democrat or Republican (a little publicized but consistent polling fact) - at least not in those moderator and advertiser gladiator-fests they call "debates".

It's Obama communication style when he has the podium or the stage, when he's got a microphone but also provides one for participants to ask him hard questions, in those hundreds of homes, back yards, meeting halls, and school auditoriums. Obama connects to everyone from there, and it is from the podium and the world stage, and always with hundreds of microphones trained on him, that Obama will lead us as President.

In the end, when we're alone with that ballot and these choices before us, we are self-interested, we want to vote for a “probable” winner, but we are also more conscious than ever before that the world waits to see how we choose.

Will we give ourselves and the world the most serious, most genuine, most intelligent, collaborative and open leader, with the seriousness and character and advisors the office merits, and with the most all-embracing and genuine smile presented from our shores in too, too long - or more of the same old plastic politics?

No comments: