Friday, August 29, 2008

Presidential Politics

It's been a fascinating week of presidential politics:

The Democrats: Knowing that Hillary appeared out of contention from the outset, I thought Obama picked by far the best candidate from his short list in Joe Biden. And the two looked like a great team at the convention. (Though after watching her at the convention and seeing the polls, I think picking Hillary might have clinched the election--can you imagine the bounce?)

The Republicans: I also thought John McCain had to make an unconventional, risky choice to stay competitive, and he certainly did in Sarah Palin. But I think it was a risk worth taking--the others (Romney, Pawlenty) would have added nothing to the equation. (But given her longer resume, Kay Bailey Hutchison would have been the most formidable). I will say that some Democrats' initial decision to fiercely and immediately attack Palin showed bad judgment and could backfire. If she's not ready for prime time a la Dan Quayle, it'll show pretty quickly.

The Message?: While I certainly prefer Obama's, I don't think anyone's hit the home run message yet.

I may be speaking for myself, but I think the Beijing Olympics (and how imposing a confident/booming China appears to be, with their biggest cities more modern than our own), the feeling that we've lost control over our economy (China being our largest banker and all, and no control over energy), the new strength of Russia, the fear of terrorist attacks, along with other broader trends, have together left citizens wondering if we are slipping as a nation. I know all this worries me about where we are today, and where we are going. (see Fareed Zakaria's recent book:

Put a different way, 20% of Americans think we're going in the right direction. (More than 80% of Chinese citizens think THEY are going in the right direction.) This woeful number is not just a tactical opportunity to win the next election by promising change. It's far more. It reflects a people losing their confidence in our place in the world, worried we are losing control--losing our ability to shape our own future. And it reflects a people desperate to see leaders forge a new way.

A call to find this national purpose, to put together a strategy to regain our stride and confidence and place as a country, is the most unifying message out there, and is still up for grabs. That message would frame the rebuilding of our economy/infrastructure, and becoming energy independent, and getting all kids educated far better than today, and helping those who are poor find skills that allow them to contribute as much as the well off, and rebuilding our alliances, as not just important ends in and of themselves, but as the building blocks of the broader strategy that will keep us competitive and preeminent in the world.

In the same way, outlining the problems we face today should not simply become an exercise in decrying our woes one by one. Yes, the problems we see with education, stagnant growth, the middle class squeeze, and other issues are critical concerns we must solve for many reasons. But more deeply, every uneducated young person, every high school or college dropout, every idle or unemployed or undertrained citizen, and all that oil we import from the Middle East, are problems that hold us back from being our best in the fierce global competition we find ourselves in. With these issues together, we're competing with one hand tied behind out back.

This election presents a huge opportunity to lay out that broader, unified mission, and tap into every citizen's belief that we can and should do so much better. That we always have. To call upon the Olympics again, I think citizens are looking to feel about their country the way they did when they saw Michael Phelps win those eight golds. That our best, a kid from Baltimore with a single mom, outperformed the world and all it had to offer, over and over. And he did it in a quintessentially American way.

So while I have no doubt that "small" issues, tactical skirmishes and negative ads will occupy much of the the next 70 or so days, if one candidate taps into this often unspoken, nagging worry that America is losing its place in the world, and proposes a broad, bold, confident and credible strategy to turn that around, I humbly submit it will be the message that transcends our many divisions and puts him over the top.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, David, but if it can't fit into a 30 60 second commercial it's a squandered opportunity. Even if it's the right message - it's the wrong message.

The saddest thing is, McCain has taken a historical election and made it into a farce. Women have become the punch line of a bad joke by him picking a woman based on her stereotypical role, instead of her worldly role. By picking an unqualified woman, he denigrates all of the them.

Who in the DNC had the bright idea to squeeze in the announcement of a VP and the convention so close to the GOP convention. Poor planning strategy.

This whole thing has me bummed.

I just want to know: did she back the bridge to nowhere or stay on the sidelines to let it happen, and how cozy is she with Stevens.

Shakes The Clown said...

I like Sarah Palin more than McCain, Obama & Biden combined. It is about time we got a libertarian on the ticket. I hope in four years she will be President.

Our problem is big government and bad incentives. People think things are going the wrong way because the country owes too much money and is about to collapse. Obama won't change that with a slew of government programs and additional spending.

Anonymous said...

Shakes, after my previous post, I did alot of reading about "Saint" Sarah Palin:

1) She's under investigation and some are seeking impeachment because she abused the powers of her office attempting to seek revenge against her ex-brother-in-law. She fired a subordinate after he refused to fire her cop/ brother in law. She denied pressuring officials to fire him, until last week a phone recording came up with her chief of staff demanding action against him.
2) Her chief of staff is now the campaign manager for Stevens Jr - the bridge to nowhere guy (she publicly denounced the bridge)
3) As the mayor of a small city, like all GOPers, ran on the line, cut taxes and spending. However, annual city tax revenues including a new sales tax, went through the roof and she grew gov't considerably during that period.;
4) She claims to be pro life, but had a test to determine if her baby had Down's Syndrome and states she CHOSE to have the baby regardless. Beautiful result, but the point is she had the test so she could make her own choice - that means she is Pro Choice, not Pro Life or she wouldn't have needed the test - and wouldn't have "made the decision" to have the baby
5)When she entered office as mayor and Governor - she cleaned house across the board - despite them being GOPers - she's not a maverick, she's a loner.

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