Tag: Obama

February 11 Barack Obama



This Black History Month I’m Grateful for Barack Obama



“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or
some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that
we seek.”


-Barack Obama




When Jesse
ran for President in 1984 and 1988, his campaigns were considered
quixotic. No one really thought Jackson would be President. However, a
generation later, Obama accomplished what many believed impossible; a Black
President. Nor was this an accident of history. Consolidating his 2008 win with
a sizable re-election margin in 2012 made Obama only the fourth Democrat to win
consecutive terms as President since Andrew Jackson.*   


Soon after succeeding George W. Bush in the White House,
Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. While the award was largely a repudiation of
Bush, Obama has ended America’s war in Iraq and the end of the conflict in
Afghanistan is imminent. With ObamaCare, the President has initiated the most
substantial change in health care since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society created
Medicaid and Medicare.


Obama has also broadened the national conversation on
civil rights issues by publicly supporting gay marriage rights and ending
discriminatory policies in the military. Obama is among the several most
important people in this 21st century and already belongs near the
top of the list for all of American history.


Beyond his policies, Obama has become a global symbol for
possibility. The vision of what America is and can be has been irrevocably
changed now that Obama and his family are the visual representatives of this
country. While Obama’s Presidency is not the realization of Martin Luther
King’s Dream, America has certainly come closer to fulfilling it. Clearly, America’s
first Black President holds a special, soon to be permanent place in the annals
of national and world history.



Today I am grateful for Barack Obama. You should be too.





*- Before him were Bill Clinton, Franklin Roosevelt and
Woodrow Wilson. Grover Cleveland won the popular vote three times in a row but
lost the Electoral College race in between his terms in office. 




Four More Years


A week after the 2012 election, things feel back to normal. There
are no more TV ads telling us the other guys are all awful, no pollster phone
calls or political e-mail blitzes (Don’t worry, Black Friday is coming soon!),
no more Facebook virtual throw downs and no more questions about how much we
love America.


But in one important respect, I think things are really
different. For the past four years, I’ve had people telling me that Barack
Obama’s election was a fluke or an accident or a bizarre mistake. Yes, lots of
things went Obama’s way in 2008. Yes, he had some good luck. But I’ve tried
convincing folks that electing a Black man named Barack Hussein Obama President
of the United States went way beyond any Providence. I have always believed
2008 was a harbinger of things to come. I think that’s even clearer now.


For four years, Obama has been lied about, ridiculed,
threatened and slandered more than anyone could have reasonably anticipated. Questions
about every aspect of his life have been raised and accepted as fact by large
swaths of the public even when the questions were internally inconsistent, even
when they literally could not have been true. Americans had to see their
President demeaned and belittled, not because of what he did but because of who
he is.


The easiest, simplest way to stop all that would have been to elect Mitt
Romney last week. America could have gone back to having a President who looks
all the other Presidents. We could have stopped the hate parade in its tracks
and breathed a sigh of relief that the vicious, race based attacks would go
away for awhile. We could have said, ‘Okay, enough.’


Instead, we re-elected Obama. Despite the dire predictions
from the left and the overwhelming confidence
of the Romney campaign, Obama won a decisive victory. (I call it a Nixon
landslide.) America chose to go in the direction of the man who sings Al Green, embraces
gay marriage and welcomes
the children of undocumented immigrants. I am convinced that this election was
about more than Democrats and Republicans. It was about more than changing demographics
and the 47%. It was even about much more than Romney and Obama.


This election was about the future of America. A future of less
division and more integration. A future of fewer lies and
harder truths. A future of holding hands but not clenching fists. This is the
future we need. This is the future we want. And this is the future we are


So no, thank God, things are not back to normal. But I think
I’m gonna like the new normal a whole lot more.






Four Days Out


lucky enough to work in an environment in which politics gets discussed
frequently, thoughtfully and kindly. One consequence of that environment is
that I’ve been asked to update my Electoral College prediction for next week’s
Presidential Election so here it is: I see the most likely outcome as Obama
332- Romney 206. That margin of victory would decisively outpace the popular
vote difference between the candidates by reflecting many close wins for Obama in
swing states but Romney landslides in deep red states.


think Obama’s EC vote total could range anywhere from 277 to 358. That’s a
lotta swing. I’m on the high end of this projection because I anticipate the
most important late leans are all moving toward the President. Early voting, Hurricane
Sandy, first time voters, Romney's rebuke by the auto industry and the unpolled masses… if there will be voting
benefits from any of those realities, Obama will get them.


reflects my thinking that states like Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin
will almost certainly go blue. New Hampshire, Colorado and Iowa are very likely
to do so as well. And states like Florida and Virginia have a decent chance to
stay in the President’s column. Even North Carolina and Indiana have an outside
chances of sliding away from Romney in his worst case scenario.


Politico’s swing state map suggests that the
race will end up 290-248 for Obama. My guesses that both Virginia and Florida go
for Obama lead to my 332 prediction. Three things stand out to me in looking at
this map.


This map is only about polling averages. No other factors are used.

Two- Florida and
Virginia are gravy states for the President. A few months ago, everyone assumed
those states would be critical battlegrounds. In fact, Romney announced his
choice of Paul Ryan in Virginia for that very reason.

Three- Perhaps, most
amazing, Politico’s current projection means Obama could lose Ohio and still
win the election!


Had you told Mitt Romney six weeks ago that he would win
Ohio but lose the White House, he would have been heartsick. If my prediction
holds up, at least he won’t have to wonder if he could have done something
differently. There’s always a silver lining.





Can Obama Win Indiana (Again)?


A friend recently shared his suggestion that Hoosiers use
this year’s Presidential election to express their displeasure with the two
major party candidates by voting for a third party candidate. Here’s the reason
I don’t want my friend to make that choice this year: I think Obama has a puncher’s
chance to win Indiana again.


My friend’s contention is that Indiana will go red just as
surely as California will go blue so Hoosiers who are inclined to vote for
Obama have options since their votes won’t impact any outcomes.  I was immediately reminded of the massive
efforts to ‘swap votes’ in the 2000 election. In that election year, many
Americans viewed Ralph Nader’s campaign as an attempt to build off the
electoral successes of third party candidates Ross Perot and Jesse Ventura to
help promote a national multiparty system*. I had friends in Oregon and
Minnesota and California and Indiana and Arizona all talking about their fears
of ‘wasting’ their votes by supporting a Presidential candidate who had no
chance to win their state. While the typology of ‘red state’ and ‘blue state’
was not uniform until after the voting that November, the idea of that divide
was widespread and lots of folks wanted to avoid wasting blue in red places or
wasting red in blue places.


Part of the magic of elections is that they can amaze and
surprise. In 2008, I told everyone who would listen (and many who wouldn’t!)
that Obama was going to win Indiana. More than a few people laughed and some
wondered if I’d simply forgotten that Indiana is much more than Indianapolis. I
smiled at the laughter and often reminded folks that I was deeply aware that
many Hoosiers would have literally voted for the corpse of Ronald Reagan before
they voted for Barack Hussein Obama. But in 2008, an odd coalition of Hoosiers
coalesced enough to give Democrats their first Electoral College votes here since
1964. That coalition has frayed but not fractured. Relatively few of those
voters are going to be excited about voting for Romney; if anything, they may
need to be given reasons
to vote for Obama again.


Certainly an ad blitz is unlikely at this late stage but
here’s one ad
that would play fantastically well here.  A White, blue collar, middle aged Hoosier guy talking
about Romney making $100 million by closing his plant? That would be a winner.
It also seems pretty clear that Romney and Senate candidate Richard Mourdock
are a bad pair for driving GOP turnout. In fact, due to Mourdock’s most recent verbal
train wreck it’s possible he will produce a generic bump for the Democrats.
That may happen even though his Senatorial opponent is in a weak position
to benefit. There are an awful lot of folks who typically vote GOP who just won’t
be excited to show up at the polls in November.


However, relatively few people are immune to the largest
media waves and this election will be one of them. Even the folks who are least
inclined to vote will hear about the election all day Monday and Tuesday.  Between smart phones and nearly ubiquitous access
to social media, I anticipate a great amount of social pressure to vote. That
means more people showing up to vote without a deep well of engagement,
interest, knowledge or understanding. As cynical as it sounds, the Obama team
can take advantage of that situation to pull off a real ‘November surprise’ in
Indiana. There are also a lot of folks who are typically not voters but were
directly impacted by recent policies like Governor Daniels' Scott Walker style efforts
at union busting. Not only are those folks off the political grid but they'll
lean strongly toward the President.


With the combination of all these different realities
swirling about and the continuing strength of Obama's Get Out the Vote
campaign, I think this is an election with genuinely different possibilities
than in 2000. Remember that’s when vote swapping reached its apex… and perhaps
helped George W. Bush win the Presidency#. I want Hoosiers to vote for the
person they think will do the best job as President. And I believe their votes
may count more than they might anticipate.




*- I love the idea of a multi-party system and believe it
would help politics and our country as a whole. But it’s a long process and
certain short-term costs seem too high to me.


#- My argument on this point is very complicated. Lemme know
if you’d like me to share it with you. 


Average Obama


I liked President Obama’s Osawatomie speech and recognize the obvious resonances it has with Teddy Roosevelt’s  New Nationalism  speech. That connection has been made in multiple places and is well worth reading and reading about. I think Obama's speech was the start of something else too. Something with great potential for Obama’s re-election campaign against Mitt Romney in 2012*. I mean the re-branding of the President as “Barack Obama, regular American.”


I believe that in this campaign Obama will try to present himself as a typical American with a very American story. Even though he has often been defined as an outsider, I don’t think that Obama has ever believed that to be true. Obama considers himself to be quintessentially American. That belief will be easier to spread to the public at large if Obama is running against Willard Mitt Romney.

(Much in the way that Obama’s middle name became a campaign issue, I’m convinced that Romney’s first name will be tossed about and made the subject of jokes. I assume the story about Mitt being named after George Romney’s best friend Willard Marriott is true. That’s not gonna be helpful.)


Obama’s campaign will work hard to present Romney as the embodiment of America’s elite. Romney is, after all, the son of a governor and was born into a highly affluent family. His own professional career has placed him squarely in the 1% as defined by Occupy Wall Street. In 2000, those would have been helpful characteristics but in the midst of our Great Recession, economic privilege is no longer perceived as indicative of inherent merit. Instead, his extraordinary level of privilege is probably a major detriment to Romney’s candidacy.


Obama’s own American story is well known and his recent speech cleverly emphasized his rootedness via his family of regular folks from Kansas. His single mom spent time on public assistance rolls and Obama only became an elite himself through educational attainment. He legitimately is a contemporary Horatio Alger. Even as an adult, his South Side of Chicago bona fides are clearly intact. Describing his career as working for the people of his community as opposed to having the people work for him will be a winning presentation.


And while folks often describe Obama’s rise to national prominence as meteoric, he will be able to define himself as a political plugger compared to Romney. Obama’s political career began in the Illinois State Senate before moving on to the US Senate and then the White House. He has been an elected official since 1997. Obama can reasonably describe himself as having climbed the political ladder, albeit with tremendous speed. Romney’s sole electoral victory was his one term as Massachusetts governor. In just those four years, Romney made many choices he has since disavowed. While I personally believe Romney’s Olympic experience is very impressive, I doubt that he’ll be able to use that time as a proxy for holding office.


There will likely be one other interesting area in which Obama can define himself as average and Romney as exceptional: religion. Obama’s Chicago church experience was a problem for him in 2008 but in 2012 it’ll be a big advantage. Jeremiah Wright is old news and the President has so comfortably and consistently invoked God that his religiosity seems safe, normal and generically American. Romney’s Mormonism makes him suspect in the eyes of many and makes him an outsider in the eyes of many more.  I don’t want to link to some of the vicious portrayals of Mormonism in the world of mainstream punditry but it’s very easy to find scary talk about Romney’s church. The ham handed “I’m a Mormon” campaign might have helped had it begun several years ago but in the short term it will likely make Romney (and Jon Huntsman) seem even more suspicious to non-Mormon conservative Christians.


In terms of family, work and faith, Obama can claim common cause with ‘the American people’ in ways that Romney simply can’t. It’s a strange world wherein the half-Black guy with the Arabic name can present himself as more authentically American than the White guy who looks like middle age Superman but I think that’s what we will begin to see in the next few months. Perhaps even more strangely, I think it’s gonna work.





*- I've been asked if any of this applies to the President if Newt Gingrich were the GOP nominee.

2 responses- 1- If Newt's the guy, Obama won't have much to worry about anyway. 2- Yes! Obama's team will paint a picture of the President, First Lady and their two young daughters compared to Newt's 3 marriages, adulterous affairs, Clinton era sexual hypocrisy, the cancer-ridden wife divorce story and late in life conversion to Catholicism. That's a lotta grist for the campaign mill.


Combine that with the difference between making lots of money by writing books about your family and making lots of money by using your government contacts to (almost) lobby for corporations and it's game over. 




Obama’s Magic Number


This weekend is the most confident I’ve felt concerning President Obama’s re-election chances. The key element in this feeling is a single number, 8.6%.  That’s our current unemployment rate. It’s a clear, surprising improvement from all our recent numbers. There are lots of important caveats to consider and 8.6% is not ideal… but relatively speaking, Obama can point to this figure as a very clear indicator of positive movement in the economy.


In terms of foreign policy, I’d argue that Obama’s term has been much more successful than anyone could have reasonably asked. Unfortunately for him, America’s so tired of looking beyond our shores, the President’s team will have to work to remind people of his litany of accomplishment. We’re focused on home.


While the economy continues to sag and broad successes are hard to find, being able to tout a specific number like an 8.6% unemployment rate will give voters the impression that the economic climate is improving.  Considering the weakness of the GOP field, this kind of improvement will probably be enough to secure a second Obama term.






Say It Loud!*

*- I've linked to a great article at the bottom of the page. It helpfully amplifies some of what is already here. 



Occupy Wall Street is an interesting manifestation of a new recognition of increased people power. Part of what excites me most about it is that I believe OWS is just one indication of how (many) things are changing in American life.

Two examples: Last month, Netflix announced that it was shelving the revolutionary new business model they’d been trumpeting. Not because the business model made too little sense but because the backlash against it was so strong. People didn’t care how much sense it made; they balked. Similarly, Bank of America has ended its proposed debit card usage fee. Bank of America could have weathered the storm of negative feedback better than Netflix but it recognized that the brand damage the fee generated was coming to dominate every story about the bank. Had these same changes been instituted five years ago, I’m convinced that the public response would have been a brief gasp of distress followed by a long, boring sigh.


Now that sigh does not seem to be enough for us. I don’t want to make any grandiose statements but I do believe that there’s a quickly increasing sense of agency among regular people. While most would probably trace this change to the Arab Spring movements, I think that it goes back a bit further. I am convinced that the 2008 Presidential election was a critical turning point in developing populism for the 21st century. After all, much of the early work of the Arab Spring seemed to take important cues from Barack Obama’s campaign.


Most critically, each of these populist movements created a broad enough range of connection points to transform individual interests into a perceived network of shared values.  Social media was widely credited with the successes of both the Obama campaign and Arab Spring. What I believe to be more true is that both movements used social media as a formation tool. Eventually, the networks grew large enough and loud enough to be perceived as an authentic voice of the people and achieved enough momentum to become virtually self-sustaining.


As much as they’d hate to acknowledge it, the TEA Party has used much of the same style to launch itself as a viable national brand. Much like Obama, the TEA Party presents itself as the representative of the regular person fighting against ‘The System’. They’ve made good use of some pre-existing networks but have built their own communities too as they continue to work outside the existing infrastructure. Preserving their independence provides them autonomy and credibility with their base.  


All these movements have rooted themselves in the belief that individuals and small groups of people can make the behemoths of the world yield power. At least in America, we’d forgotten about the ultimate source of that power. For too long, we’d neglected our own strength. I’m excited to be living in a time when we’re beginning to reclaim our voices and use them.


I’m determined to be one of those voices.





Here’s an intriguing article that addresses some of the issues I wrote about in this post, namely, some of the ways social media is changing the organizational possibilities of broad based movements. The author also suggests some of the ways groups like Wikileaks make information sharing more dangerous.



New Evidence for Expanded Health Insurance


Health insurance should no longer be seen as optional. The CDC has released a new report that indicates more than 59 million Americans were without health insurance for some portion of 2009. Adults between 18 and 64 accounted for 50 million of that total. This is another great indication that broader health care inclusion for this country was a real necessity.


Everyone knows that the costs of health care, or worse, the costs of going without health care, are extraordinary. What has not received enough attention is the depth and breadth of the problem. This issue is not about poverty or race or even the recession. It’s about individuals and families being overwhelmed by systems they don’t understand and costs they can’t manage. That is precisely when the government should intervene. The Obama administration should broadcast this report as loudly as possible to help make the case that health care reform is critical and repealing it would be disastrously cruel. Besides, as I recently asked, when Americans begin receiving additional coverage, who among us will want it to go away?





Governing First, Elections Second


Will Saletan wrote:

Politicians have tried and failed for decades to enact universal health care. This time, they succeeded. In 2008, Democrats won the presidency and both houses of Congress, and by the thinnest of margins, they rammed a bill through. They weren't going to get another opportunity for a very long time. It cost them their majority, and it was worth it.

And that's not counting financial regulation, economic stimulus, college lending reform, and all the other bills that became law under Pelosi. So spare me the tears and gloating about her so-called failure. If John Boehner is speaker of the House for the next 20 years, he'll be lucky to match her achievements.



While I disagree with Saletan on the merits of health care reform, I think his points here are underreported and extremely important. Modern American politics now seems to be more about elections than about governing. Certainly, it’s more about elections than Big Picture governing. (Of course, when one party consistently claims that government is inherently problematic, I suppose that makes perfect sense.)


The transformative legislation that has been passed in the last two years will create long term changes in the US. While some of those changes are currently controversial, how many folks will argue in, say 2015, that they want to get rid of the laundry list of projects, programs and developments embedded in that legislation? Well, how many people want us to get rid of Social Security? Or Medicare? Or the federal interstate system? People may say they hate big government but they sure do like what it provides.


Ultimately, producing valuable results is what people want most from our government and the Obama era has already moved us in that direction. So yes, there is a real chance that Obama will be a one term President. There is also a real chance that in 50 years, he’ll be perceived as the best one term President. Not the trade he’d suggest, but certainly a good one.





BTW- I think Obama has an excellent chance at winning re-election in 2012. He has a great combination of skills for campaigning. He’ll also have an improved economy, the incumbency edge and a long list of sound bite worthy successes. I also believe there will be ‘hate fatigue’ in which many folks will be turned off by the constant barrage of vitriol thrown his way. One of the important lessons of John Kerry’s 2004 race is that the independents who vote in Presidential elections, but not mid-term elections, will be much more likely to vote for someone as opposed to against someone.