10/03/2005

Daily Kos: A Response To Senator Obama

A Response To Senator Obama
by Armando
Sun Oct 2nd, 2005 at 15:22:23 CDT

Against the wishes of approximately 97% of this community, I am posting yet another response to Senator Obama. As I have stated earlier, I greatly appreciate Senator Obama's engaging in a civil substantive dialogue with us. However, I believe the Senator is in error in many of his points.

On his general points on how to wage our political battle with the Republicans, I agree with Peter Daou:

In a paragraph which purports to summarize the attitude and concerns of the netroots and advocacy groups vis-à-vis the Party, Obama betrays a flawed reading of the netroots/party dichotomy:

According to the storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists - a storyline often reflected in comments on this blog - we are up against a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party. They have beaten us twice by energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda. In order to beat them, it is necessary for Democrats to get some backbone, give as good as they get, brook no compromise, drive out Democrats who are interested in "appeasing" the right wing, and enforce a more clearly progressive agenda. The country, finally knowing what we stand for and seeing a sharp contrast, will rally to our side and thereby usher in a new progressive era.

Obama continues[:]

I think this perspective misreads the American people. From traveling throughout Illinois and more recently around the country, I can tell you that Americans are suspicious of labels and suspicious of jargon. They don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced, but have become aware that his administration is irresponsible and often incompetent.

I don't dispute that netroots activists believe they're up against "a sharply partisan, radically conservative, take-no-prisoners Republican party," or that they think Democrats should "get some backbone and give as good as they get." But the `storyline' described by Obama misses the mark on two counts.

First, the root deficiency of Democrats with respect to message is not that Democrats don't match Republicans blow for blow (as Obama puts it, "energizing their base with red meat rhetoric and single-minded devotion.") It's that they fail to project core convictions. . . . Press release speak is endemic in the Democratic leadership . . . What netroots activists sorely miss is the unfettered expression of a deep-seated faith in the inherent humanity and goodness of progressive ideals, the willingness to express that faith in loud, earnest, and most of all, authentic terms.

Senator Obama speaks of Republicans' "single-minded devotion and discipline to their agenda." While there's much to be said for message discipline (and the lack of it on the left), there is a greater point being missed, that human beings respond to those who act on pure principle. . . . Assailed from all sides for seeming meek and unsure, many Democratic leaders and strategists think the solution is a watered down version of Republican jingoism. But the scarlet W for `weakness' branding Democrats is erased not by emulating the structure of the right or by talking tough or by borrowing Republicans' worst traits or by copying their crude exploitation of patriotism and faith, but by ditching the press release speak and the focus group think and rediscovering the sincerity and fortitude at the very core of liberal/progressive ideology.

The second misconception revealed in Obama's diary - and one that I observed firsthand among senior Democratic strategists - is that because a certain segment of Americans holds a particular set of beliefs, Democrats should react to those beliefs and tailor their approach accordingly. That ignores the fact that Democratic leaders . . . can change those beliefs. Obama says the people he meets "don't think George Bush is mean-spirited or prejudiced ... don't think that John Roberts is an ideologue..." Then isn't it fair to surmise that conventional wisdom of that sort, as created by the media, blogs, and party establishment, can be altered? When Democratic leader after leader says Bush is a "nice person with bad policies" and when the media elite repeat the mantra that Bush is a "plain-spoken, ordinary guy," it makes sense to assume that Bush's "niceness" will seep into the public consciousness and become accepted as fact.

I would quibble with only one thing in Daou's excellent piece. In fact, the American People do not disagree with the core principles of the Democratic Party. Rather Democrats have failed to advocate for our core principles. Knowing that Senator Obama is an admirer of Abraham Lincoln, I wish to remind him of these words from Lincoln:

A few words now to Republicans. It is exceedingly desirable that all parts of this great Confederacy shall be at peace, and in harmony, one with another. Let us Republicans do our part to have it so. Even though much provoked, let us do nothing through passion and ill temper. Even though the southern people will not so much as listen to us, let us calmly consider their demands, and yield to them if, in our deliberate view of our duty, we possibly can. Judging by all they say and do, and by the subject and nature of their controversy with us, let us determine, if we can, what will satisfy them. . . .

These natural, and apparently adequate means all failing, what will convince them? This, and this only: cease to call slavery wrong, and join them in calling it right. And this must be done thoroughly - done in acts as well as in words. Silence will not be tolerated - we must place ourselves avowedly with them. Senator Douglas' new sedition law must be enacted and enforced, suppressing all declarations that slavery is wrong, whether made in politics, in presses, in pulpits, or in private. We must arrest and return their fugitive slaves with greedy pleasure. We must pull down our Free State constitutions. The whole atmosphere must be disinfected from all taint of opposition to slavery, before they will cease to believe that all their troubles proceed from us.

. . . They will continue to accuse us of doing, until we cease saying. . . . Neither let us be slandered from our duty by false accusations against us, nor frightened from it by menaces of destruction to the Government nor of dungeons to ourselves. LET US HAVE FAITH THAT RIGHT MAKES MIGHT, AND IN THAT FAITH, LET US, TO THE END, DARE TO DO OUR DUTY AS WE UNDERSTAND IT.

Daily Kos: A Response To Senator Obama

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