Yes, it's been a while -- two months, in fact. OKR has always been about providing insights when there's something of value to share in terms of advice, strategy and framing for Democrats. With the on-going Obama/Clinton slug fest, there was really nothing I could add that would help or otherwise matter. Unlike traditional blogs, OKR posts occur only when there's a good reason.
I am not in the prediction game, and I've already committed to not backing a candidate in the primaries. After all, as Our Karl Rove, my job is to ensure the Democratic Party is as strong, relevant and productive as possible. Yet as of Tuesday, May 6, a path appears to be clearing for the nomination of Barack Obama.
Both candidates have been amazing in their own, respective ways. Democrats have had a great opportunity to see two different approaches to politics under a banner of virtually identical policies. As we now know all too well, and with a tip of the hat to our friends in the Bush administration, approach matters.
Democrats - please read this carefully: What we've experienced to-date is a competition designed to divide, so it should be of no surprise that Democrats have, in fact, become divided. If Democrats were not divided, then I could argue that the primary process really didn't work. The good news: it worked. The two remaining contenders have learned how to fight each other in preparation for the fascinating fight awaiting Democrats in the fall.
A Diamond in the Rough
We're at the final stages of what I call the "bottom half of the diamond." Consider the basic, two-dimensional diamond shape. At the bottom tip of the diamond, the two lines are together, and they gradually separate towards the middle. At the middle -- the very widest part of the diamond -- the two lines are as far apart as they ever will be. This is where the Democratic party is now. But to complete the diamond, the lines must converge once again as they approach the top of the diamond. Once the party re-converges, the diamond will be complete.
But because we're currently in the middle of the diamond, Democrats are naturally at odds with one another: I know people who have come to hate Hillary, and people who think Obama is all talk. These are the artifacts of a manufactured fight. It is now time to start clearing the air...
I Hate Hillary
If you think Hillary is a pandering, trash-talking, lying, neo-con manipulator, this section is for you.
What you need to understand is that Hillary has spent her life in politics and sees it more as a career than a civic calling. No doubt, I think she started in politics for noble and civic reasons. But throughout her career, she was pummeled into cynicism.
Hillary is a professional politician, which means that she sees the political arena like a boxing ring. Just like a boxer, when she gets into the ring, she dons her boxing gloves, inserts her mouth guard, and tries to take the opponent down with all of her might. And, just like a boxer, when she leaves the ring, the match is over. There are absolutely no hard feelings. She is a professional. There's also the idea that her approach to politics reflects the culture of 10 years ago, and the divide-and-conquer approach to winning is showing its age.
So, whenever you felt that she was being a lying, trash-talking, pandering manipulator, just remember that those were just the punches that she felt were her job to throw while in the ring.
Barack Obama is an Empty Shell
If you think that Obama is a smooth talker who has a shady past, and is hiding more than he's showing, this section is for you.
What you need to understand about Barack Obama is that he is not an ideologue. He is not a traditional liberal politician whose sole goal is to push through progressive policies. No; Obama is about process. Obama is less the owner of the idea than the "architect" of how the process of politics should work so that the optimal policies are crafted and backed by broad majorities. He believes this is the only way to truly unite a nation that has been governed by 51/49% splits.
In fact, Obama believes his new political architecture will fundamentally change the quality and results of government. He is not going to fight for universal health care; he's going to create an environment where citizens and their representatives will collaborate to work out a viable solution for universal health care. It's bottom-up policy, not top-down. This approach reflects the future of American culture, although I admit Obama is probably introducing it a bit before it's time -- it'll probably be 10 more years before it truly goes mainstream. But at least this puts Obama ahead of the curve instead of behind the 8-ball.
For those who are used to politicians and politics of the past 50 years, this approach will appear foreign, and can be easily mistaken for seeming downright vacuous. But, to Obama, his platform transcends policy ideology, which he believes is infinitely more powerful and meaningful. Obama is not simply looking to steer the country in the right direction -- he is looking to reconfigure and optimize American democracy for a new era defined by globalization, information, and the resulting interrelations. Heady stuff, no doubt. But the framers of the Constitution were pretty heady in their time, too.
The Low Down
Democrats have been intentionally split into two camps through a process designed to divide. It's critical to understand that it's not Obama or Hillary that created this situation -- it's the very nature of a good primary process.
The key take-away is to acknowledge that if you strongly support either candidate, you're experiencing planned animosity towards the opponent. The sooner Democrats step back and understand that this is planned and not personal (and "see the diamond"), the sooner the Democrats can coalesce around the presumptive Democratic nominee.
To help complete the diamond, send this post to your favorite passionate Democrat so that they, too, can see that they are supposed to be angry with the opponent, and gain a wider perspective that this was all manufactured for the good of the party.
Friday, May 09, 2008