Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Obama Reinvents the Game

The Clintons never reinvented politics they just perfected it. Their exceptional ability to grasp and ameliorate existing political strategies has always been their hallmark and their bulwark against massive defeat.

Their -- and let's not mistake the Clinton brand for anything less than a Bill and Hillary team -- first-run presidential strategy back when Bill was priming for the 1992 election was their way-outside-the-beltway status, the image that "heck, we don't know anything about politics Washington style, we just care about America a whole lot and we're not gonna give up till we make it better".

It wasn't the first time this strategy was used in American politics-- but that didn't matter because the Clintons knew exactly how to make it work with precision. They even managed to use it to re-elect incumbent President Clinton -- portraying him as a naive victim of tabloid media tactics and Republican antics.

Unfortunately for Hillary this out-of-town-kid ploy was never applicable to this election, not least because the Clintons are now the definition of DC: the connections, the fake smiles, the practiced and rehearsed perfect answers to every journalist's routine question. And the lobbyists with whom they intimate and who've been a crucial source of funding for Hillary's presidential campaign.

What's gotten the Clintons into a jam in this election is not that they couldn't use their tested outsider status (the one that crawled Bill into the presidency and secured Hillary a senatorship in a state she never lived in) but that their opponent who could have did not.

Barack Obama has never made a gimmick of his presidential campaign and that's what's confused the Clintons and all of Obama's opponents. His overriding theme has been attributed to him rather than manufactured by him. It's one that every American who has gotten wind of any press coverage of this election, be it news junkie depth or intermittent glimpses of the front page headline in the 7-Eleven -- that he's different and different means change.

Most Americans can't admit that they know a great deal about politics or even about their government's policies, be they domestic or foreign, what they can say is that something's very not right and somebody with a new attitude -- not a new vision necessarily -- can make a change.

Yes, Obama the policymaker, the politician, ambitious citizen, is just like every other candidate in the field, past and present, but for one difference: there is something about his poised but firm leadership, his easily confident demeanor, and his detectable wisdom -- in short his personality and attitude -- that set him apart from others of his ilk of political contenders.

He has succeeded in convincing a large number of Americans that he knows something they don't -- something significant, something powerful. And that's spiritually settling for a population with a profound understanding of feelings but not of facts. From this vantage point here and now, Obama seems like he can lead this country away from the direction it's been headed and toward a better more successful and possibly even more democratic path.

This is not about the American people "liking" Obama more than Hillary. It's about the confidence that more and more Americans are having in Obama's ability to steer the United States toward a more inclusive, peaceful and democratic state. The one success that the Bush administration has had -- an unintentional one no doubt -- is that it has perceptibly injected a sense of internationalism in Americans. For the first time ever Americans understand that what happens in the rest of the world -- much of which their own government is critically involved in -- has direct and serious consequences for themselves. Americans are newly cognizant of their position as citizens of the world and even of their own mixed society. Obama embodies all of this for them.

The Clintons can try all they want but their co-history of the Balkan wars, the attacks on Afghanistan, the approach toward Somalia, the taunts of Operation Desert Fox and the horrific sanctions in Iraq, just to mention a few clear indicators of violence, have soiled their international reputation as peacemakers. Their domestic failures on health care reform, free trade, welfare, education and corporate power underscore a devastating inability to positively impact crucial elements of American government, society, and business which desperately needed change.

Hillary may never quit this race until she's literally been ousted by her own party, but she may well quit -- if only temporarily -- the idea that politics is a game that can't be reinvented. Barack Obama has shown her and the Clintons that "change" means a different approach, a different attitude, a different style. Something new.

For the latest Saccharinist coverage of Selection '08 click here.

Labels: , ,