Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama and the eternal grey area

As Obama's camp believes firmly that the nomination race is over -- so they keep telling us -- they're planning for the general. So in between occasional shots at Hillary (unnecessary but done out of habit, apparently), there's ruminations of how to win votes in November that Hillary was won so far. Most of the furor so far seems to be over white, working-class voters. I'd like to think that somebody over at Hope Central is at least thinking about Latino voters. Bit of a blind spot in that campaign's eye, so far. One that worries me deeply. While commenting in this thread, I ruminated on the following I'd like to drop here.

Obama doesn't seem to believe in grey areas. On every issue, he's in-between. And many people see such absolutism as a mark of thoughtfulness and a good education -- which they should. A great deal of the time, things are relative, and it is poor planning and thinking to live in black and white. Most of the time. But there are exceptions. And Americans love a politician who doesn't make exceptions, who says things like "until the last dog dies". Here's a list of Obama's Greatest Hits of Greydom:

  • We need universal health care...but not really universal, sort of universal.
  • A nuclear attack by Iran is bad...but doesn't deserve a full response -- or even a foreign policy that includes that.
  • Kim Jong Il is a bad man...but not so bad as to preclude a meeting with no advance work or agenda.
  • No Child Left Behind is bad...but not bad enough to repeal.
  • We need to pull out of Iraq...but really slowly.
  • The foreclosure crisis is bad...but not bad enough to put a moratorium on it.
  • Social Security is actually doing well...but not so well as to preclude discussing privatization.
  • Separation of church and state is good...but not so good that the government should refrain from pushing Christianity into the public sphere.
  • Wright said some bad things...but not unacceptably bad.

While I agree that there are few absolutes in this world, I believe that there are some. When I listen to Obama, I don't hear any. This is where the patriotism thing ties in. So many Americans want to believe that some things -- motherhood, apple pie, America -- are good. Others -- oil companies, Osama bin Laden -- are bad. I don't get that sense with Obama.

To win working class voters, the ones who deal in black and white -- there's no "grey area" in being laid off or losing your house or having a bare cupboard -- show that you understand absolutes. Leave out the words "but" and "however" in some speeches. Say something is inherently good! Something else is bad and deserves nothing but bad! If Obama starts with the word "always" or "every single one", he wins those votes. He may make some cultured types squirm, but so be it.

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