Wednesday, January 19, 2005


Barak Obama

Greg Djerejian reviews (via Instapundit) the Condoleeza Rice hearings. He focuses mainly on the questions posed to her by Sen. Barak Obama. He was very impressed by Obama's performance. I was too.

I'm somewhat conflicted about Obama. He is frighteningly far to the left, particularly for a US Senator at this point in time. But because he won the Democratic primary race without the backing of any local power brokers and decisively won the general election, he is genuinely independent of Illinois' corrupt political establishment. He is a serious, substinative man with an abundance of integrity, qualities which are exceedingly rare among Illinois politicians. (In fact, he posesses at least 98% of the aggregate integrity in Illinois politics.) If he had run for Governor or Mayor instead, he probably would have become the fourth Democrat I have ever voted for in my life (ret. Cong. Lipinski, Mayors Washington and Daley).

I expect Obama will do very well in the Senate articulating/formulating the kind of responsible, substinative, principled positions an opposition party should be taking in order to hold the party in power accountable. The current Democratic obstrutionism just isn't healthy for the counrty. (I also hope that Democrats take notice of his use of God and religious rhetoric during his campaign speeches and the affect this had on religiously minded Democrats here. This too would be good for the country.)

But I hope he fails to advance the progressive cause in any way. The best scenario I can think of is that, after one term in the Senate, rather than immediately pursue any national ambitions, he decides to run for Governor and either forces the Republicans to nominate a serious person of integrity (very unlikely) or wins the job himself. He could then use his considerable talents to finally bring serious reform to Ilinois government. From my perspective, that is the task he is best suited for.


It seems you guys missed my point about Obama. In truth I did a poor job articulating it, so a clarification is in order.

Maybe Obama has a more conventional politcal game plan than I think he does. Perhaps I'm wrong about him and he is just a another ruthless, cynical, self-promoting politican bent on achieving personal power above all else. But at this moment, I see something different.

I do see much idealism in Obama. I also see him as ambitious politician with a long term, strategic outlook; he just doesn't (yet?) seem to be a ruthless tactician, as are most successful Illinois politicians. His track record in the IL Senate, his primary challenge to Cong. Bobby Rush, and his US Senate campaign all indicate to me that he is crafting a reputation for formulating substanitive policy positions and personal integrity primarily as a means to an end. Ideological politicians often mix personal ambition with the advancement of their cause, occasionally subordinating the former to the latter. I believe that the mix Obama seems most likely to choose will be good for long term interests of both America and the state of Illinois.

Nationally, conventional liberalism is an electoral loser. Obama, who is smart and clearly has presidential ambitions, surely knows this. So he is positioning himself as a populist reformer with substantive, solid progressive credentials who can appeal to the religious left. This seems to be the best (to me, probably the only) way to make progressivism electorally palatable. In doing this, he will employ substantive, principled policy positions to keep Republicans honest, appeal to left of his party and hold those in power (perhaps even Democrats) accountable. He will also show the Democrats a way to act like a responsible opposition party and to how become electorally competitive, both of which are vital to the long term health and proper functioning of the country.

Locally, he will likely try to maintain his reputation for integrity and political independence by keeping the Illinois political establishment at arms length, which his prominent national profile will allow him to do. He may also find it politically useful to occasionally defy vested local political interests. (This may also be true at the national level.) He may even be willing to force popular policy changes heretofore blocked by appealing (or by threatening to appeal) directly to the people. This could have immense implications for politics in Illinois. I feel that corruption and an insular political class are the biggest problems facing this state. The way I see it, Obama's strategy for achieving political power will probably place him in a position where he will find it politically opportune to force change, perhaps even as governor.

In short, I see Obama's pursuit of his long-lerm political ambition as likely having a positive political impact at both the national and local level. He could prove a tactical success in most every area, which I see as good, and strategic failure, which (as you guys should know) I see as necessary. This is my hope, anyway.


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