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Hullabaloo


Sunday, April 27, 2008

 
Obama Tries To Rewrite The Script

by dday

This is a very good article by Digby, noting the correct prediction that the conservative movement would go all-out to use the well-worn, 50-year narrative of Democratic leaders as elitist egghead America-haters and define Barack Obama in this fashion. Today Obama appeared on Fox News and was pretty openly confronted with this label, and he gave almost as good as he got, but the very act of appearing on the network led many to suggest that he was validating the charges and pivoting away from the "far left" in response. He pointedly mentioned how he was attacked on Daily Kos for writing a diary about the Roberts Supreme Court appointment back in 2005, a pretty light Sista Souljah moment but certainly notable.

Digby writes:

Maybe this election will change all that. I hope so. But so far, I'm seeing the narrative playing out exactly as I thought it would and it leads me right back to where I started. I believe that Democrats are nearly guaranteed to win due to the fundamental forces driving this election. But I'm not so sure the Democrats will win with any kind of progressive mandate if they let the media frame the election in these terms and I'm definitely not so sure that our new president will be able to enact a progressive agenda if he (or she) moves right thinking to disable this narrative. (That's the whole point.) The silver lining is that it's being deployed early in the game due to the long primary and that offers a chance to change the storyline before the general. They need to get to it.


Some would say that the Fox News appearance was a signal of this right-wing pivot to disable the narrative, which of course won't work, and would debilitate the effort to enact anything progressive in 2009 and beyond. We'd be looking at Triangulation Part II.

That may be part of it, which is sad to note. But I think the Obama campaign's official response was actually this.

Sen. Barack Obama's presidential campaign is planning to unveil a "massive" voter registration drive, one that will reach all 50 states and seeks to boost confidence in him as a potential general election candidate [...]

"That's why I'm so proud that today our campaign announced a massive volunteer-led voter registration drive in all 50 states to help ensure every single eligible voter takes part in this election so we can take back Washington for the American people," Obama said at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place.


The Obama campaign has plenty more on this effort. The candidate's work as a community organizer included a huge voter registration drive that helped elect Carol Moseley-Braun as the first female black US Senator in history.

I think Obama's gambit is to register so many voters and find so many new people to enter the process that he isn't bound to any particular political structure, from the right or the left or the middle. He really is trying to make his new mass of supporters his power base. It's an audacious strategy, one that doesn't have a lot of historical basis that you can really look to on the national level. But without question there's a tremendous upside to reaching new voters; you're essentially talking about over half the country, between those who don't vote and those who don't even register. And the technology is now in place to more easily find them, target them and talk to them.

There's certainly a danger here of relying on projected numbers instead of traditional power bases, though I don't think he'll be abandoning groups like unions and black churches, nor will any progressive movement structures abandon him. But I really think that the Obama campaign is reacting to this demonization campaign from the right by saying "OK, I'll find voters in so many nooks and crannies and make you work in so many states that you won't have a chance to make this narrative work." His response is not necessarily building a progressive electorate; that would be accomplished by plugging into the nascent progressive structures that already exist. Obama appears to want to build an electorate aligned with Obama's principles and values, and fostering greater participation in politics as a means to move the country forward and break the current polarization. Some Democrats would play on the same playing field and try to win it; Obama's building an entirely new field, one where these narratives and negative ads and the need to tailor the entire general election to 10 independent voters in the middle of Ohio won't matter anymore.

I can't say if it will totally work, but that looks to be the strategy. We've been tantalized with these kinds of efforts before; it's actually a very traditional belief that increased turnout is good for Democrats. There's no question, however, that this is a truly different kind of political campaign, and the benefits could be absolutely earth-shattering.


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