Monday, June 23, 2008

Peeling the Obama Onion

In the months and years since the end of my first marriage, I spent about three years in therapy uncovering the previously-undiscovered layers of experience that contributed to all the mistakes I made. I learned during that time that I was/am a product of my family and my culture. While that doesn't exonerate me from responsibility, it does in a way illustrate the point that "no man is an island."

Similarly, I know that some of you might see my harping on Obama as a bit of cheerleading, or some bizarre sort of liberalist propaganda (though most of you are on the Obama bandwagon already). Actually, for me it is the peeling of his "onion," the revealing of the layers of who he is and what makes him the first African-American nominee for president for a major political party (sorry, Ms. McKinney, that wouldn't include my former party, the Green Party).

Today I came across a Politico piece on Obama which covered his tenure as the first African-
American president of Harvard Law Review in the early 1990s. Very cool read. Sullivan characterizes Obama as "liberal, but open to alternative views." Of course, I characterize myself that way, so this resonates with me in a deep way. The HLR is copyright-protected and not for republication on the internet, so I can't excerpt writings here. However, his first issue as HLR president showcased a piece about Martin Luther King, Jr. which contained a theme that has characterized Obama's speeches during this campaign: "With such mutual respect and openness to each others' pain, suffering and faith, we must work out more fully and struggle towards King's ideal of the Beloved Community and thereby hew from our mountain of despair a stone of hope." There's that hope thing. The passage foreshadows Obama's audacious vision that hope is possible even when we're confronted with that mountain of despair.

Obama showed courage to present alternative viewpoints, as he did in November 1990 when he ran a piece by a former Reagan appointee which railed against affirmative action, calling special rights by groups "sinister" and arguing that such policies would "impoverish the human race."

This willingness to look at all sides of an issue show just how serious a candidate Obama truly is. Since Bush took office, such intellect has taken a back seat to charming homilies, "aw-shucks, ma'am" pseudo-humility, and an aversion to anything more than the merely apocryphal (this continues to be the Republican M.O. as McSame embraces the Bush path).

Populism has reigned supreme, even in Democratic circles, since Gore conceded defeat in 2000. It doesn't take much to seize an opportunity and exploit it -- although I'll concede that Bush's team was especially adept at retaining what was gained through their powerful manipulation of reality and their correct assumption that Americans are easily duped so long as they can continue to go shopping. Reid and Pelosi, for all of their partisan grandstanding, have repeatedly caved when the going got tough, out of fear that they are their party could be painted as weak on key issues. Obama shows, through his deeply intellectual way of approaching subjects, that populism will not have a long life when he becomes president.

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