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January 24, 2008

Comments

So if HRC becomes the nominee how much of this Obama organization disintegrates?

I suspect some, but not most. For one thing, identifying people who are willing to work hard is part of the problem of organizing from scratch. For another, often when people get involved for the first time, they stick around.

Even if they won't turn out to work for Clinton -- which I suspect many Democrats will -- they will be identified and trained and ready for future races. In local races, in particular, they might have a lot more say in who runs than in national races, and thus might be much more likely to turn out.

No way this doesn't help the party.

"So: in both cases the Obama campaign found itself locked out of the normal Democratic party structure, and in both cases it went on to build very impressive organizations from scratch. I think this is interesting in its own right. But it also helps me with a question someone asked in comments a while back, namely: would Obama be good for the Democratic Party as a whole? Would he be a charismatic figure who left the Democratic Party structure either unchanged or weakened, or would he help to reinvigorate it, and leave it stronger and more effective than he found it?"

It depends on how much the traditional Democratic power structure feels threatened by it all.

Democratic players largely back Hillary because it's a sure way to improve their position in the party power structure. The operatives I know have all described joining up with Hillary as an easy way to advance in the party (whether she wins or loses). It's all about the job.

Little things like improving the country are mere "tactical" concerns. Little things like winning elections pale in importance to preserving their positions. Those who care about anything, care only about "beating" the republicans.

If/when Obama loses, these people will systematically take apart what he has built. They will grab as much of this infrastructure as can non-threateningly be consumed by their existing organization. They will pull in some of his people. But they will take no more than they can digest without changing the status quo.

This party is an organizational disaster. The government desperately needs repair, and we're pissing away the chance to really do something in favor of picking someone who will enrage the republicans as much as Bush enrages us. Pushing Clinton is a petty way to get back at them. "Now comes the fun part" indeed.

On the other side of the aisle, more details about Rudy's loveable side.

I can see myself voting in the primary for Obama, since Edwards will likely be gone by the time Ohio rolls around, but I have to say that this makes me extremely reticent.

Well, perhaps this seems an unlikely possibility, but what if he gets the nomination and then loses? Wouldn't that do an awful lot of damage, sort of like what happened with McGovern in '72?

(I know absolutely nothing about American politics, so this is purely off the top of my pointed head.)

screw the party. any entity that supports Harry Reid deserves to fracture and fail.

Even if they won't turn out to work for Clinton -- which I suspect many Democrats will -- they will be identified and trained and ready for future races.

Yeah - but how many of these people are ONLY interested enough to get involved in politics because they buy into the idea of Obama as "not like all the other politicians", the transformational, outside-the-machine embodiment of hope and unity? All campaigns are to some extent a reflection of their candidates, and I think there's a case to be made that Obama's is sui generis in the same way he is, and that your run-of-the-mill Democratic candidate won't galvanize or be able to mobilize these people in close to the same way.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't this -- rebuilding local, grassroots Democratic organization -- what Dean has been up to for the last 4 years?

Thanks -

Phil, the overt god bothering bugs me too, but I think Greenwald does Obama a disservice by comparing his brochure with Huckabee's "Christian Leader" vid. As Greenwald himself acknowledges, a major factor in Obama's playing up his Christianity is to rebut the "Obama is a secret radical Muslim" email campaign. Greenwald wonders aloud why Obama didn't release that brochure until SC since the email campaign started long ago, prior to Iowa & NH. Well, because SC is in the Bible Belt. That's where the email is more frequently deployed and widely believed. Makes perfect sense to me.

Phil, the overt god bothering bugs me too,

What's so bad about it? I'm no Christian, but I can't fault the guy for trying to find points of cultural commonality with the voters. America is still overwhelmingly a religious country, and candidates who are completely secular are going to have a hard time until that changes. If he's not violating the 1st amendment (and nothing in Obama's platform comes remotely close), what's the issue?

This is definitely a good thing. The Dems have let their ground organisation slide horribly in places that they don't think they have a chance - red states and rural areas. If they're at all serious about building a "permanent" majority, they can't afford to give up on those areas.

If he's not violating the 1st amendment (and nothing in Obama's platform comes remotely close), what's the issue?

Like I said, I get why Obama's doing it, and I trust him to not try to undermine the separation of church and state in any meaningful way. But to imply that he is called by god to lead -- that sort of phrasing flirts with a line I'd rather my candidate didn't cross.

Speaking of Howard Dean, where the hell is he?

Here's the deal. Clinton and Obama will need each other next November. Clinton's people and Obama's people will need each other. They will need each other's tactics, too.

Quite frankly, I don't care if Obama appears in T.V. ads dressed as the Pope and hops up and down and hoots the Rosary like Daffy Duck, and I don't care if Clinton becomes imbued with the soul of Phyllis Schafly and vomits bushel baskets of cherry pits all over the debate stage ...

.... whatever it takes to beat the Republican Party in 2008. The general election tactics of the Republicans will make all of us forget the idiosyncracies of OUR candidates, because the former are professionals when it comes to ruination of the Republic.

I'll feel badly that Clinton is not Barbara Jordan and Obama is not Robert Kennedy soon after the election. I'll have four years to get over it.

I'm not going to get over it if we have another Republican President.

An interesting observation on several fronts. Reviewing a little history you may not be familiar with back when McGovern was running the farther leftish part of the party mounted a sincere, effective and successful effort to seize control of the primary nominating processes but especially the party platform machinery. This helped Mac win the nomination and sealed his doom against Nixon. It also helped trigger Nixon's Southern Strategy which eventually led to the right-wing backlash against the "excesses" of the 60s (of which admittedly there were many) and the rise of the Reps in the South, i.e eventually Reagan. Over the course of two decades the party machinery on both sides has drifted to its' own extremes as the centrists have been disaffected and driven out. The result is trying to govern from Rove's 50% + .01 strategy instead of appealing to the mass of acceleratingly disaffected moderates and centrists. I see many signs that this has all worn thin. And also would argue that Obama is tapping a vein of popular feeling as well as laying the groundwork for the re-construction of the Dems machinery and possible re-connection. An RC priest of my acquaintance has been active in state Dem politics for decades and observed to me that the they became the white wine and Brie crowd and got detached from their roots and fundamental constituencies. If it changes it's all to the good.

you know, a constant message of "suck it up!!!!!!!!" to your supporters is not a way to build enthusiasm, even if the right thing to do is indeed to suck it up. I'll vote for Clinton in Nov. if she gets the nomination but why I should volunteer for her campaign instead of working on issues she's all but certain to betray me on in office, or donate to her instead of some underfunded Congressional challenger, is beyond me.

My roommate just told me last night that he likes Obama, but the idea of having a Muslim as president freaks him out. ARRRRRRRGGGGGGGHHHHHH!

My roommate knows almost nothing about politics. Where did he pick that up? (I asked, but he said he had just 'heard' that).

Oh yes, the "he's a Muslim thing" is PERVASIVE. People yelling it at caucus sites, the campaign tells volunteers to be ready for it during phone calls, etc. etc.

Obama telling people he's Christian is just like Huckabee--if you entirely ignore the context & content of what he's saying. (Please let me know when Huckabee denounces homophobia & intolerance of atheists in a Baptist church in Georgia).

"I can see myself voting in the primary for Obama, since Edwards will likely be gone by the time Ohio rolls around, but I have to say that this makes me extremely reticent."

As the others said, this is just countering the Muslim rumors. He's laying it on a bit thick, but that's arguably required to adequately rebut the bogus charges. He can't just say 'I am a Christian', he probably needs to use evangelical Christian tropes before he'll be believed.

“But I think it's important that we try to maintain some -- you know, level of honesty and candor during the course of the campaign.”

-Obama on Clinton

At this point in the campaign, one can still make the argument that Obama believes what he is saying. Which doesn’t speak well for his intellect.

Forget the Democratic Party, it will be overcome by events within a decade. The system that created Obama is terrible for the working class. Did you catch the first Black President’s South Carolina statement that ‘no candidate is losing votes based on their race’? Maybe the calculus was that whites could catch the hint but blacks couldn’t. Black leaders did. Maybe a mistake, maybe not.

The Clintons know that Hispanics will not vote for a black candidate, and also know that a certain percentage of black females will not vote for a black male. So maybe, given their five-year outlook, throwing the black race under the Clinton bus benefits the machine. But Bill’s due another $20 million from Yucaipa soon (UAE), so maybe once the Clintons are finally really, really financially self-sufficient, they will back off racial pandering and start looking out for working families. Ha ha.

No, the losers of the system that created Obama are average families. The ethnocentric splintering of the Proletariat has destroyed its ability to organize. And when the money runs out (see Moody’s recent warning to the Federal government), working-class families will be delegated to the same status that their peers have in the real world.

Congratulations.

The Clintons know that Hispanics will not vote for a black candidate, and also know that a certain percentage of black females will not vote for a black male.

This seems a bit extreme and odious. I very much doubt that this is true.

Nice piece, Hilzoy. It's not just SC and Nevada, either.

100,000 You Need To Know About Barack Obama in California...

Or the 5,080 things. Or the 53 things. I'm talking about the "insane" Obama campaign strategy: running a grassroots field program in California. Can't be done, right? Too big, too expensive, not worth it. He's doing it anyway. And I love being part of it.

Here's just a few of the elements: 100,000 phone calls statewide in a single day. 5,080 precinct captains. Volunteer-based organizing teams across California's 53 congressional districts. Canvasses and phone calls up and down the state.

[snip]

Last summer, I came to a campaign organizing meeting in Oakland for Congressional District 9 - Barbara Lee's District. (I'm proud that she's endorsed Barack Obama.) At that meeting, I found out about the plans for California: multiple levels of volunteer-based organizing teams in every CD across the state, all the way down to the precinct level.

[snip]

Right now my week is all about this Saturday: one day, 100,000 phone calls statewide. Apparently, it will be the largest single-day phone bank in California history.

That's from FemLaw at DKos. She links to this article from the SF Chronicle:

For generations, politicians with cash have campaigned one way in statewide races in California: Carpet bomb voters with TV ads and fill their mailboxes with direct mail.

But the Barack Obama campaign is trying something different, something that that even its top organizers jokingly say is "insane" to try in a state that's 163,695 square miles broad: They're approaching voters as a community organizer might. Neighborhood by neighborhood, precinct by precinct, block by block.

[snip]

Sure, the well-funded Obama campaign is airing TV commercials in California and using the latest online tools to help its army of volunteers harvest potential voters. But the core of the campaign is based on a model developed by Harvard Professor Marshall Ganz, a former national organizing director of the United Farm Workers, who has spent years advising nonprofits and unions.

The strategy is a nod to Obama, a former community organizer in Chicago before he ran for office. Since July, the campaign been training a pyramid of organizers in many of the 22 states that vote Feb. 5, including California.

Back to FemLaw:

it is no accident. Senator Obama has made it a deliberate strategy from the beginning to build an alternate political power structure.
=====

I also don't think this should be a surprise if you look at his history. Obama got his start in politics by using the techniques he learned as a community organizer to put together an incredible voter registration project, good ole' Project Vote!.

This article from 1993 really shows you how this type of campaign is a natural out-cropping of Obama's talents:

In the final, climactic buildup to November's general election, with George Bush gaining ground on Bill Clinton in Illinois and the once-unstoppable campaign of senatorial candidate Carol Moseley Braun embroiled in allegations about her mother's Medicare liability, one of the most important local stories managed to go virtually unreported: The number of new voter registrations before the election hit an all-time high. And the majority of those new voters were black. More than 150,000 new African-American voters were added to the city's rolls. In fact, for the first time in Chicago's history-including the heyday of Harold Washington-voter registrations in the 19 predominantly black wards outnumbered those in the city's 19 predominantly white ethnic wards, 676,000 to 526,000.

The election, to some degree, turned on these totals: Braun and Clinton had almost unanimous support among blacks. But just as important, if less obvious, are the implications black votership could have for future city and state elections: For the first time in ten years, more than half a million blacks went to the polls in Chicago.

[snip]

At the head of this effort was a little-known 31-year-old African-American lawyer, community organizer, and writer: Barack Obama.

[snip]

By 1991, when Obama, law degree in hand, returned to Chicago to work on a book about race relations-having turned his back on the Supreme Court clerkship that is almost a given for the law review's top editor-black voter registration and turnout in the city were at their lowest points since record keeping began.

Six months after he took the helm of Chicago's Project Vote!, those conditions had been reversed.

[snip]

Within a few months, Obama, a tall, affable workaholic, had recruited staff and volunteers from black churches, community groups, and politicians. He helped train 700 deputy registrars, out of a total of 11,000 citywide. And he began a saturation media campaign with the help of black-owned Brainstorm Communications. (The company's president, Terri Gardner, is the sister of Gary Gardner, president of Soft Sheen Products, Inc., which donated thousands of dollars to Project Voters efforts.) The group's slogan-"It's a Power Thing"-was ubiquitous in African-American neighborhoods. Posters were put up. Black-oriented radio stations aired the group's ads and announced where people could go to register. Minority owners of McDonald's restaurants allowed registrars on site and donated paid radio time to Project Vote! Labor unions provided funding, as, in late fall, did the Clin¬ton/Gore campaign, whose national voter-registration drive was being directed by Chicago alderman Bobby Rush.

"It was overwhelming," says Joseph Gardner, a commissioner of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and the director of the steering committee for Project Vote! "The black community in this city had not been so energized and so single-minded since Harold died."

Burrell agrees. "We were registering hundreds a day, and we weren't having to search them out. They came looking for us. African Americans were just so eager to have a say again, to feel they counted."

"I think it's fair to say we reinvigorated a slumbering constituency," says Obama. "We got people to take notice."

I think that last, bolded line sounds exactly like something Obama could be saying now about his current efforts with 1st-time voters, 1st time volunteers, the youth vote, political independents...pretty much captures the essence of his campaign for the Dem nomination, IMO.

These lines also stand out:

Nor can Obama himself be ignored. The success of the voter-registration drive has marked him as the political star the Mayor should perhaps be watching for. "The sky's the limit for Barack," says Burrell.

Some of Daley's closest advisers are similarly impressed. "In its technical demands, a voter-registration drive is not unlike a mini-political campaign," says John Schmidt, chairman of the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority and a fundraiser for Project Vote! "Barack ran this superbly. I have no doubt he could run an equally good political campaign if that's what he decided to do next."

And, in light of that, this comment from the opening section of the article:

"It was the most efficient campaign I have seen in my 20 years in politics," says Sam Burrell, alderman of the West Side's 29th Ward and a veteran of many registration drives.

I'd also note that these types of efforts are not unique to SC, Nevada, and California. He also had similar organizations, political machines built from basically the ground-up, in Iowa and NH. If I can, I'll find the articles I read describing those, but they basically said Obama's Iowa ground game in particular was the most impressive in the state's history. That seems to have resulted in some pretty favorable results for him beyond just the caucus victory.

My understanding is that he's doing the same in something like 19 or 20 of the 22 Feb 5th states, as well. In a lot ways, this makes him truly Howard Dean's heir. Indeed, in a lot of ways he might be the most-able person in the country to implement Dean's philosophy and make it a reality. It's kind of exciting.

Hispanics WILL vote for Obama. The only politically active Hispanic I know (and I know quite a few INACTIVE ones) is an Obama supporter.

Speaking of Howard Dean, where the hell is he?

He's where every DNC chairman is at this point in the campaign--staying out of the way and letting the candidates fight it out. He's not supposed to take sides, right? So he stays out of the spotlight, works on the convention stuff, and basically waits for whoever wins the nomination to replace him with his or her new person.

It's all well and good to say that Obama needs to use this mailer to combat the "stealth Muslim" crap, but if Sebastian says that people in California are picking up the whispers, then saying he's only distributing of on SC because its the Bible Belt is a little disingenuous. There's clearly some pandering here too, and I don't care for it.

As to why it makes me reticent, it's because it tells me nothing about how he will govern. The Republican party has pretty much destroyed the usefulness of using "Christianity" as shorthand for any consistent - or even discernible - set of principles. And I really don't care if someone enters public service because he or she was "called by Christ," was ordered by the Great Gazoo, or did it on a tequila-filled dare. It tells me nothing interesting, relevant or useful about how they will govern. But it does tell me that THEY think it is relevant, which I vehemently disagree with. We need a lot less of that crap in public life, not more. And pandering to the people who DO think we need more is, IMO, the wrong way to go.

It's all well and good to say that Obama needs to use this mailer to combat the "stealth Muslim" crap, but if Sebastian says that people in California are picking up the whispers, then saying he's only distributing of on SC because its the Bible Belt is a little disingenuous.

Sorry, I'm not following. Because it's being picked up in California would seem to me that it IS ingenuous.

Interesting: I've been wondering how much of a backlash against Clinton's tactics there will be. Here's one piece: the former President of Chicago NOW has switched from Clinton to Obama over Clinton's attacks on Obama's record on choice.

Phil: But it does tell me that THEY think it is relevant, which I vehemently disagree with. We need a lot less of that crap in public life, not more. And pandering to the people who DO think we need more is, IMO, the wrong way to go.

Well, I can't argue with that since I agree with every word of it. "It's just politics," while no excuse, is, I believe, the correct explanation.

Gwangung, the CA and SC primaries are only 10 days apart. CA has a lot more voters to reach. Yet the "committed Christian" pamphlet is apparently only going out in SC, even though the Muslim rumor is alive and well in CA. That says to me that it's pure Bible Belt pandering, and I don't like it. Doesn't mean I won't vote for him, but it still ticks me off.

Do we know that the committed Christian thing is going out only in SC? (I'm not trying to be snarky I just don't know.)

I think it is a fairly good way of addressing the Muslim issue. Saying, "I'm not a Muslim" 500 times is just playing into Clinton's hands.

Gwangung, the CA and SC primaries are only 10 days apart. CA has a lot more voters to reach.

Yet, because it is in the Bible Belt, that sort of thing would be more cost effective in SC as opposed to secular CA. It matters more in SC than in CA.

Pandering? Perhaps. But it still seems to be more a political reality you have to deal with. Fraid it's not something that raising my hackles that much.

Seems to me that these two styles of campaign appeal--the top-down "do as we say" Clinton tactic and the method of persuasion through community outreach Obama is trying--are pretty good metaphors for how both would govern as well.

I don't think Obama is pure or holy or any of the things Clinton-backers allege of Obama supporters. But what I love about the guy is that he seems to want to engage the electorate. His core message--the same as Dean's in 2004--is that it's about the people, not the politicians. With the Clintons, it's always and forever about the Clintons, and we should just be grateful for the opportunity to support them.

Seems to me that these two styles of campaign appeal--the top-down "do as we say" Clinton tactic and the method of persuasion through community outreach Obama is trying--are pretty good metaphors for how both would govern as well.

Hm. I suspect that this is a more powerful point than most people would give credit for. I think it true that Clinton would work through established networks and is most comfortable with them. Obama would, as a leader, have instant access to those established powers, but would make use of community level/activist networks. And working as an activist IS a valuable type of experience that is underappreciated.

"..... or did it on a tequila-filled dare."

There is something to be said for the days when a person would tip back the shot glass, wipe his mouth on his sleeve, stagger out of the bar, and devote herself to public service to take on the monied interests on behalf of the underdog.

I'm a little sick of the strict separation of tequila and State in politics since the reactionary South decided to inflict its peculiar brand of holier-than-thou moonshine on the rest of us.

As to Obama, I don't see that he has much choice when it comes to pandering to a few Christians (all very well and good in its place) if they can be peeled away as cross-over voters. They deserve to be pandered to, and since they apparently are unwilling to be pandered to as part of a pluralistic society, then specially-tailored pandering is what they get.

What's he supposed to do, run commercials in South Carolina declaring his creds as a secular humanist to counter the Muslim thing?

I'd love it if he told them he IS a devout Muslim and when he gets done as President they will bow to Mecca in thanks for all of the good things he has accomplished with their increased taxes, which Christ, Allah, Buddha, and the Wizard of Oz commanded him to raise in a vision.

That's really the only vision in which God might appear that might make them rethink their devotion to religion in politics.

Wake me when Obama shows up at Bob Jones University like whoever is the Republican candidate will ... twice between now and November.

THEN, I will rediscover my admiration for Hillary Clinton's in-your-face cutthroatedness.

Meanwhile, things couldn't be any worse for the pandered-to then it was when they were getting their knees dirty sucking up to the pandering of Karl Rove, Lee Atwater, and the cast of thousands over the past 30 years.

Such is the plight of those who expect the Kingdom of Heaven to show up as the result of an election.

With the Clintons, it's always and forever about the Clintons, and we should just be grateful for the opportunity to support them.

I'm still holding out for Edwards, but I discovered something interesting asking both Clinton and Obama to respect the Dodd on FISA:

On Obama's site, the "Action" menu has an item "Contact Us", which takes you to a page with a button labeled "Other thoughts and messages." It sends a message.

On Clinton's site, the "Take Action" menu has no such item. There is an "Action Center". Its sidebar doesn't mention sending a message, but there is a "Featured Action" labeled "Send a Message of Support". If you scroll down enough to see it, you can "Let her know that you are standing with her at this crucial moment by sending your personal message of support and your thoughts about the direction of our country."

Hmm.

"Hmm."

Clicking "Send Your Message" opens up a message box for you to submit your name, email address, location, and a space to write your message, with no apparent space limit.

I'm unclear what your point is in comparing two apparently essentially identical website functions: what's the "interesting" part?

BTW, eff the effing stimulus package that Congress just agreed to. Businesses get a 50% writeoff on new plant and capital purchases, but Pelosi dumped food stamp and unemployment increases so that, basically, people who most need THOSE benefits will instead get $300 that will last them about a week.

Beautiful.

I am a Mexican-American (note my last name,) and I quite like Obama. I do know some very racist Mexican-American, but then I know some very racist: WASPs, Korean-Americans, Jews, ... I really don't see where the perception could come from that there is any more anti-African-American racism among Hispanics than there is anywhere else.
On another note:
I have to say that I am really confused with the Christianity thing. What makes this pandering? He is Christian. It seems to be an important part of his life. Should he be ashamed of this fact? In my life, there has been one president that I believe really felt like his Christianity was an important part of who he was. That was Carter. (I will note my opinion here of the following distinction. It is very important to Bush that he is the chosen instrument of God. That is not the same thing.) I think that he would have said that he felt called upon by God to run for president, just as he felt called upon by God to join Habitat For Humanity. Called upon by God, or called upon by his Christianity, I think that it would be much the same to him. And it is the Christian thing to do to help people out if you have the chance to do so. What is so bad about this? Would we object if instead Obama said, "I find the current course of this country to be distressing. I feel that I have the ability to make a beneficial difference, and I feel that this gives me the obligation to try to do so." While I am not especially Christian, my parents are. I am pretty certain that that is how they would understand Obama's statements. If Obama is not to be ashamed of his Christianity, then why should he not use the language that he shares with other Christians when he is talking to them? Likewise, when he is talking to people who are not by and large so devout (such as the mass of Californians,) why should he not use the language which he shares with them?

Businesses get a 50% writeoff on new plant and capital purchases

woo hoo! new computers this year!

Dajafi--I couldn't agree more re: style of campaigning tells you how each would govern.

You can see this everywhere, too. Not just the "media buys" and establishment endorsements vs grass-roots activism; also in their stump speeches, Clinton constantly talks in the 1st person, whereas Obama constantly emphasizes the actions his audience will have to take to make his vision a reality. With Obama it's "we" and "you", with Clinton it's "I" or "we" (as in she and Bill).

Further, it was the real take-away of the LBJ/MLK flap. Yes, it did take a strong-arming politician to push that legislation through Congress, but he was also a politician who'd previously come out against civil rights legislation. His commitment to the issue, and a political climate that allowed his talents to be effectively put to work, were created by social uprising.

Put another, politics is a trailing indicator of cultural change, not a leading one. It will almost necessarily always be reactive large social forces, not drive them.

In some sense, Obama's campaign to merge social policy activism, civic engagement (like volunteering and working in your community), and political action is kind of breath-taking, and starts to give one an idea of just what he means by a "new politics".

I'm delighted to learn that there is a Democrat with some organizational skills.

Losing elections is bad enough, but losing them because we have a bunch of stumblebums running things is even worse.

The Clinton philosophy of governance is clearly rather paternalistic. What is refreshing about Obama's candidacy is the focus on "we" and what we are capable of when we decide to engage each other and share in the work. It is my impression that this instinct runs deep in American culture, but that we only remember it in times of crises.

The cynical (including, I believe, Senator Clinton) would say that Americans are an apathetic (and not-so-bright) people, and that we should all just sit back and let the smart, powerful people take care of us.

Jack Robles: I will note my opinion here of the following distinction. It is very important to Bush that he is the chosen instrument of God. That is not the same thing.

I don't quite agree. Being "called by god" to run for office seems dangerously close to believing oneself an instrument of god. That said, I don't think Obama interprets his "calling" the same way Bush does. I support Obama. I just wish he'd refrain from some of the more overt religious appeals, though I fully understand why he's doing it. There's no need to be ashamed of one's religion (or lack thereof), but I don't think it's appropriate to make it a central issue in a campaign for public office.

"There's no need to be ashamed of one's religion (or lack thereof), but I don't think it's appropriate to make it a central issue in a campaign for public office."

Something mentioned in an obscure pamphlet or two, and alluded to in brief and anodyne phrases in some speeches, and one major speech, is not something that is a "central issue" in a campaign.

Mike Huckabee makes his faith a central issue in his campaign; Barack Obama's campaign is visibly quite different in how it places, and deals with, the issue of religious faith and politics.

Speaking of Howard Dean, where the hell is he?

He's where every DNC chairman is at this point in the campaign--staying out of the way and letting the candidates fight it out.

That's about right. He's been head of the DNC and, supposedly, pushing forward a "50 state strategy" which is supposed to rebuild local, grassroots infrastructure for the Democrats. My understanding is that he's gotten some good things done, but I don't really have the details.

His brother is running Democracy for America, a progressive advocacy organization he started and used to run before he was with the DNC. They support explicitly progressive candidates, for instance this guy who's challenging Kerry for his Senate seat. So, I guess they're not afraid to mix it up. I'm not sure how that squares with Dean's DNC position, but my guess is that he doesn't worry about it too much.

Thanks -

Gary: one site asks for "Other thoughts and messages." The other asks for "a Message of Support" and makes even that harder to do.

That's interesting, juxtaposed with:

With the Clintons, it's always and forever about the Clintons, and we should just be grateful for the opportunity to support them.

On the issue of Obama's "pandering to Christians," I think this has to be viewed in the context of the smear campaigns claiming that he is a "closet muslim."

Obama's "pandering to Christians"

You know, I understand the political realities in play here, but I would have been delighted if Obama had simply said, "My personal religious convictions, whatever they may be, are not important to anyone but me and my family. They are not what we are here to talk about."

Or, even, as a concession to everybody's frightwig paranoia about teh Muslims, "I happen to be Christian, but my personal religious convictions, etc...".

There really ought not to be a religious test for public office in this country, either de jure or de facto. Or, rather, there *may* not be a de jure religious test for federal office, and there ought not be one de facto.

Answering prejudice as if it were something legitimate only gives it more weight and influence.

Thanks -

You know, I understand the political realities in play here, but I would have been delighted if Obama had simply said, "My personal religious convictions, whatever they may be, are not important to anyone but me and my family. They are not what we are here to talk about."

Now THAT would have been pandering if he didn't feel that way.

He is Christian. It seems to be an important part of his life. Should he be ashamed of this fact?

Of course he shouldn't, but what does it have to do with his ability to govern or what his platform is? (Answer:Nothing.)

And it is the Christian thing to do to help people out if you have the chance to do so.

Given the large number of our current Congressmen and -women, and Senators, who call themselves Christians, this is almost certainly not axiomatic. Which goes back to what I said: Just calling yourself a Christian does not itself lead to any discernible or consistent set of principles that are relevant to governing, and should therefore be left out of the equation altogether.

russell's 6:26 says better what I'm trying to say anyway. The very fact that it has to be brought up at all, by Obama or anyone, speaks to something very wrong in this country.

gwangung, how on earth would that be pandering? If Obama (or anyone) feels that his personal religious convictions are somehow the business of people besides himself and his family -- particularly if he feels that his personal religious convictions are the business of the United States of America -- then I can say with utmost certainty that I don't want that person anywhere near the Oval Office.

Insightful, for sure.

In the end, I believe this election is transitional one.

Voters are beginning to demand that candidates answer to them and not the other way around. Endorsements mean less and don't deliver. The MSM can't gauge and measure voter inclinations and they seem less likely to steer their constituency.

When the MSM finally get around to asking Hillary about the 941 FBI files of Clinton enemies and how they ended up in her office (in the most secure building in the world) and whether or not her campaign has engaged private detectives to intimidate and dig up dirt on her opponents, the tipping point will have been reached.

Insightful, for sure.

In the end, I believe this election is transitional one.

Voters are beginning to demand that candidates answer to them and not the other way around. Endorsements mean less and don't deliver. The MSM can't gauge and measure voter inclinations and they seem less likely to steer their constituency.

When the MSM finally get around to asking Hillary about the 941 FBI files of Clinton enemies and how they ended up in her office (in the most secure building in the world) and whether or not her campaign has engaged private detectives to intimidate and dig up dirt on her opponents, the tipping point will have been reached.

Now THAT would have been pandering if he didn't feel that way.

Actually, quite right, and thanks for pointing that out.

I'll amend my comment upthread to say this:

Faced with accusations of being a Muslim, I wish that Obama had responded by saying that, as far as his running for public office, it didn't matter if he was a Muslim or not.

If his faith is important to him and he wants to present it as part of who he is, as a candidate, mazel tov. We can call make of it what we will.

Thanks -

Faced with accusations of being a Muslim, I wish that Obama had responded by saying that, as far as his running for public office, it didn't matter if he was a Muslim or not.

For people that have casually absorbed the meme that Obama is a Muslim, I don't think this would be very effective. The people who can't accept a Muslim president believe that Muslims are evil and lie a lot; if you say that you're a Christian and then immediately contradict their beliefs about "Muslims are evil", you won't be very convincing. That's what they'd expect an evil crypto-Muslim AQ agent to say.

Obama is trying to address a fundamentally irrational constituency. For most of them, I don't think there is anything that he (or anyone else) can say that will change their crazy ideas about Muslims. But he does have a shot at getting their votes.

I thought that pandering meant to give way when one shouldn't in order to get votes or money. It is pandering to deny global warming in order to get oil company money.

It isn't pandering to refute a lie by stating the truth.

BTW what the heck is wrong with openinng a dialog with Christians? Most Americans are Christians. For thhat matter most Deomcrats are. I think some of this claim thhat Obama is panndering comes from people who have a tereotype of religious people inn their head--the image of rightwing wackos-- and assume wrongly that anyspeach which is not hostile to religion is some home panndering to the religious nuts on thhe nuts.

Which is not so.

Hmm...mmm..

Actually, I think Obama is saying is, "Yes, I understand you think I'm different, but, deep down, with the values YOU hold most dear, we are on the same side. I can speak the language in a way you understand. Yes, we have different values and tactics, but at the core, I am not different from you."

That's not pandering. That's removing himself from the Shadow of The Other, and provides common ground for them to relate to them. If religion is important to him (perhaps not the most important thing), then it would be pandering to the non-religious if he never spoke about it, if he never used it as a tool to show how alike he and voters were, particularly if he used it in an arena where he and the voters WERE alike with respect to religion.

While the insider / insurgent campaign can find several historical analogies, the most significant one may be that of the RFK/Humphrey battle of '68. That division, largely over war, stayed with us for the next generation in Michigan, up to some sort of truce in the Clinton run.

This division of activists, or this reactivating of this division of activists and Regulars puts the Democratic Party at risk. Already the botched Michigan primary-- initiated by the Regulars-- has opened the door for the GOP to enter back in and contest a state that is crucial for the Democratic Party's national chances.

Meh. As someone who will, when talking to a certain sort of person, point out that I left graduate school to teach because I feel that I have been called to teach. It isn't because I am trying to speak a certain code, or reassure them that I am their type of guy, etc. I am simply speaking in a language common between myself and that person.

I don't always phrase things that way since there are plenty of people who hear phrases like that and automatically look down their nose at me, as can be fully evidenced on pretty much any liberal blog's comment section when the topic of religion comes up.

I think the answer to a lot of this flap is that he isn't talking to you. There is a large world out there who feels that the calling is an important part of their life and for whom that flier resonates. If you want to know what sort of policies he will enact or how he will lead, he has messages for you as well. That message likely means nothing to people who feel that the Presidency is a character vote and think that why someone is running is important (such as being called to serve versus being super-self-interested). It isn't unreasonable to expect him to share a common understanding with the Christian community when it is, in fact, shared.

Shorter Me: What wonkie said.

For people that have casually absorbed the meme that Obama is a Muslim, I don't think this would be very effective.

I'm sure this is true.

I would just find it unfortunate if, instead, Obama decided to respond the rumor that he is a Muslim by advertising his Christian faith.

I have no, none, zero problem with anyone engaging in public life in response to a personal religious vocation. Not one problem.

I also have no, none, zero problem with anyone talking, frankly and openly, about that.

In fact, I'll go far beyond that. I would applaud it, and encourage it. IMO religous faith, of whatever kind, sincerely held, can be one of the truly transformational energies that one can bring to life, in either the public or private sphere.

I just think it would be a damned shame if Obama's Christian flyer is intended to head off the rumor that he's a Muslim. It would be a shame because it really, really should not matter, and it would be a lost opportunity for Obama to make that clear.

I can't read Obama's mind, so I have no idea what motivated the flyer. I'm quite happy to give him the benefit of the doubt.

I just think it would be really, really great if, somewhere in all of this brouhaha, somebody somewhere made the simple statement that Obama's, or anyone's, religious faith or lack of religious faith should neither privilege them, nor exclude them, in seeking public office.

If these things aren't insisted on, then the precedent is set, and the creeps win the day.

Thanks -

Good point russell, and well said.

Just want to throw in that I am fascinated by reading Jill Derby's comments. I paid some attention to races in Nevada in 2006 -- and found on her website that she was (apparently proudly) displaying a local newspaper article that said her positions were indistinguishable from the Republicans. This was a campaign site, so the link is dead. Seems an odd person to be interested in the rebuilding of Democratic infrastructure.

Having gone through several rounds of injecting grassroots organizing competence into elections where the Democratic Party apparatus was incompetent/non-existent, I can say with some confidence: first they laugh at you; then they try to freeze you out; then they claim credit for your work; finally they hire some of you -- and ten years later you have to start the process over again. Worth doing, always, tho. It's real democracy.

But it does tell me that THEY think it is relevant, which I vehemently disagree with. We need a lot less of that crap in public life, not more. And pandering to the people who DO think we need more is, IMO, the wrong way to go.

That's perfectly reasonable, but the perfect is the enemy of the good. Unless you want the Republicans to continue to be able to stereotype the Democrats as the party of militant godlessness (and win elections by doing so), you're going to have to be willing to talk about religion. At least for the forseeable future.

Does "talking about religion" necessarily entail saying, "See? See? I love Jesus just as much as you all do!" It shouldn't, yet somehow it does.

"None of your goddamned business" should be a perfectly acceptable answer, and the fact that it isn't is a real problem in this country.

It shouldn't, yet somehow it does.

Agreed. But that's just the way it is.

"None of your goddamned business" should be a perfectly acceptable answer, and the fact that it isn't is a real problem in this country.

I'd prefer a less religious politics myself, but so long as it doesn't imperil secular government, I don't view it as a huge problem.

His brother is running Democracy for America, a progressive advocacy organization he started and used to run before he was with the DNC. They support explicitly progressive candidates, for instance this guy who's challenging Kerry for his Senate seat.

Russell, I'm pretty sure that DFA-Link page just means Ed O'Reilly has signed up as part of a DFA group and is seeking DFA's endorsement, not that he's actually being supported by Democracy for America. There are all sorts of candidates who have pages like that, and some are complete kooks. The actual DFA-endorsed candidates are here.

Does "talking about religion" necessarily entail saying, "See? See? I love Jesus just as much as you all do!" It shouldn't,

Well, for you it would.

But I think it generates some justifiable annoyance when you try to speak for or decide for others who may not feel the same way.

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