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The Obama Standard

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Posted on Nov 3, 2008
AP photo / LM Otero

Sen. Barack Obama smiles for a group photo with volunteers in Austin, Texas.

By E.J. Dionne, Jr.

    A good politician triumphs by adapting to the times and taking advantage of opportunities as they come. A great politician anticipates openings others don’t see and creates possibilities that were not there before.

    John McCain might have been the second kind of politician, tried to be the first, and enters Election Day at a steep disadvantage. Barack Obama certainly seized the opportunities created by President Bush’s failures and the country’s profound discontent, which only deepened after the economic crash. But by creating a new social movement, new forms of political organization, and a sense of excitement and possibility not felt in politics for three decades, he bids to become one of the country’s most consequential leaders.

    McCain began with a triumphant primary comeback and then adapted too much to the wishes of a discredited party. He turned his campaign into a conventional enterprise that defined its candidate down. In the spring, Democrats feared that Republicans had stumbled upon the one foe who might weather the powerful tide of dissatisfaction. They worried that this independent-minded war hero could fully separate himself from Bush and run as a sufficient break from the status quo. In state after state during the primaries, McCain drew heavily on the votes of independents, moderates and Republicans who were unhappy with Bush.

    But instead of carrying on as the un-Bush who defied conservative orthodoxy, McCain embraced the right for fear of losing it. He chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, which finally earned him cries of approval from the right but sent moderate voters scurrying Obama’s way.

    And as the campaign closed, the McCain tragedy became a farce starring Joe the Plumber and casting Obama as a socialist with a radical bunch of friends. McCain was left hoping that a hidden cadre of voters who fear an Obama victory would save him by defying the pollsters.


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    McCain’s default allowed Obama to define the campaign, though Obama’s most important insight came much earlier: He saw an opening for a young African-American senator with brief Washington experience, realizing that the very unlikeliness of his candidacy would enhance its attractiveness.

    He not only gave Americans a chance to lay down the burdens of race. He invited them to embrace his very newness and thereby move past the 1960s, the ‘80s, the ‘90s and the Bush era all at once. “It’s time to turn the page,” Obama would say, and there were many pages Americans wanted to turn.

    His post-everything candidacy, wrapped in a powerful rhetoric of hope, was immensely attractive to the young. They became the happy warriors of campaign manager David Plouffe’s meticulously organized national machine. It worked its magic in neighborhoods never before blessed with even a precinct captain.

    At rallies, Obama heaped praise on his organizers, a natural act of respect from a man tempered by community organizing and disciplined by the rigors of Chicago-style politics. And he married these old-fashioned skills to high technology: Mayor Daley, meet Bill Gates. He created a money machine that fueled his organizers and paid for one of the most extensive and focused advertising campaigns in the history of American politics. He created a brand with a logo and a slogan that barely changed over 21 months.

    Obama understood better than any other Democrat that a vast new progressive movement, called into being by antipathy to Bush and outrage over the Iraq war, was waiting for leadership. Yet Obama knew that the often irate legions of the blogosphere needed to be fused with a soft-spoken center weary of partisanship and division. It was another unlikely marriage that Obama sanctified. 

    All this created Obama’s opportunity. But every campaign offers make-or-break moments of testing, and the key moment this time came on Sept. 24, the day McCain suspended his campaign and proposed postponing the first presidential debate so the candidates could devote themselves to work on the financial bailout.

    Obama quickly rejected McCain’s suggestion, McCain backed down, and Obama established himself as a leader. When the debate took place two days later, Obama’s calm, deliberate performance confirmed his leadership skills for millions in the ranks of the uncertain.

    If any candidate’s recent past stands as a warning against premature obituaries, it is McCain’s. But there seems to be an inexorable quality to Obama’s rise this year because he is the first truly 21st-century figure in American politics. He is the innovator who has set the standard for the next political era.
    E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is postchat(at)
    © 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

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By mrmb, November 11, 2008 at 6:02 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Hi everoyne,

Eventhough it may seem slightly off the topic but I think its still a valid question.

What do you folks think of Preident Obama’s first appointment (pushed onto him by AIPAC) as his chief of staff, who is an Israeli citizen and Israeli army veteran, Mr. Rahm Emanuel, whose father was a member of the Irgun; a Zionist terrorist group.

What does this appointment really mean?

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By cyrena, November 5, 2008 at 5:57 pm Link to this comment

Jim C writes of the imposter “Outraged”

•  “..The democrats are much more in tune with the middle class . I also don’t know where you get the idea that Obama will keep bushs cabinet , I can assure you he will not . I have followed the election quite closely and have heard no such thing . I am sure if he had made such a statement it would have been a headline , you might want to check your sources . What you gave as “ examples “ are really assertions , I didn’t read one valid point in your post , only what appear to be unsubstantiated rumors and hyperbole , get a grip …”

Jim C..

I’d said as much myself after reading this allegation that Obama would keep the Dick Bush Admin cabinet. That is preposterous of course, which is why I responded. This is the kind of unsubstantiated hysteria that crackpots create.

And, these crackpots continue to show up from time to time, so I’m not sure how much there is to do with/about them, other than to make sure he/she knows that WE know – that they’re pretty much full of shit.

Now apparently, (from what I’ve been able to gather) this unregistered version of “Outraged” is not the registered person who has been posting with that name for at least as long as I have, which is nearly two years. I say that because the real Outraged said this wasn’t her. And, I believe it.

So, I don’t know who this new ‘Outraged’ is, but my sixth sense tells me it could be the old Rus7355 that used to post about THE most vile stuff you could imagine. (you may remember him).

Meantime, we already know that Obama is *ON IT*. The guy is sharp, and he’ll get to work immediately, and that will include choosing the right people for the right jobs. There’s lot’s to do, and we’re all heaving a collective sign of relief today that there’s finally someone both WILLING and ABLE to do the job.

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By GrammaConcept, November 5, 2008 at 1:42 pm Link to this comment

By Outraged, November November 3 at 11:59 am
(Unregistered commenter)
By Outraged, November 4 at 1:37 pm
(Unregistered commenter)....:

Honestly Honey, I think you need a nap…

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By Outraged, November 4, 2008 at 2:37 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Replying to what Jim C said,
Really, I don’t think I was harsh at all. In fact, that was me being nice. I’m capable of being so harsh it could be classified as a WMD.
If you have been following the election closely then you have not been paying attention to reality. It’s lie after lie after lie… There is NO democracy in america. it is one party and one party only. The whole election even the very concept and practice of elections is a losers game, a dog and pony show, smoke and mirrors. If you don’t think that is the case then perhaps you can explain how it is so easy to “steal and election” not once but over and over. Perhaps you can explain how it is that the supposed “democratic candidates” keep falling over and giving in without a real fight while they know the “election” was rigged. If they were real about things they could have fought and won.
“Democrats more in tune with the middle class” I think not! Perhaps you can explain why they gave everything to Bush and his little nazis everything they wanted without a fight. Were are talking almost a trillion dollars! Perhaps you can explain why they allowed Bush and his nazis steal $850 billion dollars from me and you and everyone else in the so-called middle class (in my case one notch below middle class assuming the middle class still exist). Perhaps you can explain why that bitch Nancy Pelosy is Bush’s lapdog.
Everything I said in my previous post is fact. You will see when this day from hell is over.

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By coolrebel, November 4, 2008 at 12:49 am Link to this comment

Obama is a superb tactician, and a fabulous orator, but his politics and policy are middle of the road centrist.

he exploited openings that were created by others.

Governor Ryan’s scandal in 2004
George Allen’s self destruction in 2006 (he was a shoe-in to be GOP nominee)
HRC’s failure to account for caucus states during the primaries
Microtargetting advances by the GOP in 2004
The rise of social media + the ability to harness it for fundraising.
McCain’s faustian pact with the right.
Palin as VP

and most importantly

the economic crisis

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By Alan, November 3, 2008 at 10:31 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

All Hallows Eve:
Do you remember when after 12 years of Reaganism you were relieved that Clinton was elected?  Even though he was destined to
sell out your health care to HMO criminals?
Even though he was destined to destroy more of
the social contract than any Republican before him?
Do you remember how happy the Germans were after 12 years of Hitlerism to have a happy
Adenauer regime (please consult Heinrich Boell for details)?  Now maybe tomorrow
we will be happy after 8 years of a
fascist nightmare to see 8 years of

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By Jim C, November 3, 2008 at 4:55 pm Link to this comment

Outraged , I think you are being a bit harsh , while I would agree that the republican party is fascist , actually the republicans are nothing but the political arm of multi national corporations, both parties aren’t the same . The democrats are much more in tune with the middle class . I also don’t know where you get the idea that Obama will keep bushs cabinet , I can assure you he will not . I have followed the election quite closely and have heard no such thing . I am sure if he had made such a statement it would have been a headline , you might want to check your sources . What you gave as ” examples ” are really assertions , I didn’t read one valid point in your post , only what appear to be unsubstantiated rumors and hyperbole , get a grip .

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By Outraged, November 3, 2008 at 12:59 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

How anyone can vote for either of these Nazis is beyond me!
Obama is just as much a Facist as McCain or anyone else in that group, period.
I have heard Obama say over and over again the same things McCain says:
More war
No healthcare for anyone
No breaks for the middle and lower class which most of us are a member of now after the great theft. (Which by the way they both voted in favor of with full knowledge).
There is more, but I think those are enough examples.
The nail in that coffin is that Obama announced that he is going to keep Bush’s cabinet right where they are if he gets in the whitehouse. (I wonder what that “change” is he keeps talking about)? This also proves that he is not only a liar like everyone else in that ilk, but he is using the same tactics as the so-called republicans.
When will it become clear to people that there is only one party and it’s ugly? If one looks into history one will see the name of that party…it’s called Facist!

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By TheRealFish, November 3, 2008 at 12:19 pm Link to this comment

In Re: Chris Horton: “If the worst should happen, we should be prepared to morph the campaign quickly into a great Democracy Movement to take our country back!”

Chris, I’m not disagreeing with anything you say here. However, I propose an amendment to your thoughts.

If the *best* should happen, Obama wins, and there is a landslide smackdown to the neo-fascist takeover attempt of the past 40 years, I suggest “we should be prepared to morph the campaign quickly into a great Democracy movement to take our country back!”

Crimes have been committed by our lame duck leaders. Those crimes need to be punished and the infringements upon our Constitution must be righted.

If Obama/Biden is elected tomorrow, this is just the start of the fight to correct the damage done to this country. And We the People must not just say “Whew! It’s over, we won!”

There is still that hardcore kernel of maybe 25% of the American public (about 70 million people) out there who think we have been on the Right Track over the past eight years. These people have to be denied ever grasping the reins of this government again. Read the John Dean opinion cited elsewhere here on TD @ for just a slight support to my assertion. (In fact, I highly recommend reading the several books Dean wrote within the past few years for an even better, scarier way to fill in the blanks on the damage done to this country and its source. He mentioned a couple of those in the linked article.)

If Obama/Biden wins, it is only the start of repairing the damage, the time when the truly hard work must begin to occur—much of which moderates are loathe to take on.

We need to organize and push, push, push our newly elected officials to fight back against this 40 year long under-the-covers, behind-the-scenes silent revolution which has caused bone-deep damage to our Republic.

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By Chris Horton, November 3, 2008 at 10:02 am Link to this comment

It is looking as though a great Obama/Democratic sweep is shaping up for Tuesday but we can take nothing for granted.  We need to see Tuesday as a transition to a new phase in the struggle for change. This is not easy; the campaign-based structure of American politics works against it.  The norm is for the campaign participants - despite their best resolutions - to let go of the process after the election, go home and leave the power to the winners and to the “permanent government” in Washington and the state capitals. 

We need to change that dynamic.

In politics, as in any sport, a winning stroke requires follow-through. The next few days are a special moment for organizing that follow-through, for talking to the people around us and tapping into their desire to keep this struggle going.  This is the time to talk with them about organizing into grass-roots “Democracy Clubs”. These would be to advocate for our agenda for change, supporting the people we elect when they hold to their promises, and bringing “people pressure” to bear on them when they start slipping.

My choice is PDA (Progressive Democrats of America) as the best framework for building these Democracy Clubs, but depending on your location and who you’ve been working with it could also be through DFA (Democracy For America), your Democratic Party club or perhaps your union or  A Green Party club could also serve this function. (Nader people: how are *you* going to carry on?)  The main thing is to use the networks from this campaign to build an on-going grass roots movement!

Obama has told us that the election is just the start of the struggle for change, and he is right. We need to take him at his word and hold him to it, and this is how.

However we must not lose sight of the possibility that Tuesday Night could bring grim news. We need to be prepared to take that in stride and carry on.

At this point Obama has clearly won the right to be our President, and if he isn’t declared the winner it will almost certainly be because of foul play! Some Obama activists I’ve spoken to are so convinced that we will win decisively - and are so hyped about it - that they could have a hard time re-grouping. However the “fair election” people are very alarmed by what they are seeing around the country.

In many places the struggle over the next few days will be as much about protecting the vote and countering and documenting abuses as about turning the voters out. ( among others is doing great things with coordinating this effort!) Everyone needs to be reminded of the possibility of another election theft, so that they don’t go into shock or rage if one should occur and can act to keep hope alive.

If the worst should happen, we should be prepared to morph the campaign quickly into a great Democracy Movement to take our country back!

The best place for the campaign to reverse an election theft to begin would be with a refusal by Obama to concede! A petition to Obama calling on him not to concede is being circulated, to be submitted to him tomorrow night if a theft appears to be in the offing. See to sign and start circulating it!

In either case, the follow-through begins now, not after the election results are announced!

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