Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two concerns about Obama

lasvegastan has been pressuring me to join Team Obama every since Gov. Richardson dropped out of the race. I haven't gotten on the bandwagon yet because I have two concerns about Senator Obama as a president. Since he Obama won all three Chesapeake Primaries tonight and it looks increasingly like he'll be the nominee, I feel duty bound to share my concerns.

I'm not worried about Obama winning the general election. As a candidate, Obama has been masterful. It might even border on absolute genius. The theme - "Change" - is so easy, so bumperstickerish and fits in with the American psyche. Americans equate change with progress. It also automatically frames his opponents as defenders of the status quo and, therefore, standing in the way of progress.

Second, his mantra - "Yes, we can" - immediately invokes feelings of teamwork and implies his opponent doesn't believe that "we can." Combined, those two are so open ended, that his supporters can plug in virtually any policy question and be happy with the result without getting his hand dirty with the nitty-grittyness of reality. It is am absolute feel good message when Americans don't feel so good about themselves or the state of things. It is clearly the right message at the right time.

But I've still got 2 concerns about Obama.

1) My first is a short term concern about Obama as the President - Obama is promising change, but can he actually bring change to a town that is institutionally, fundamentally, Constitutionally designed to slow things down? Related to that is what change will be his first priority? Will Obama's first "change" be to get America out of Iraq? Or will it be to extend his universal health care plan to everyone? Will he change the rules to keep lobbyists from influencing the legislative process with offers of cash and fundraising? The reality is that Democrats have about 12-18 months to bring change before the 2010 midterms halt everything in this town. Obama won't have time to change everything. Where are his priorities? And will does he have the executive experience to not squander his precious time with stupid moves and silly missteps?

2) My second concern is "Change" as a long term loser for the Democratic party - When Obama beats McCain and enters the White House, he'll enter with such high expectations that he just won't be able to meet them. It isn't that I think Obama won't bring change. He will, but the expectations are so great and so contrary that he won't be able to satisfy everyone. This will only lead to disillusionment by those that Obama brought into the political process, especially the young. Like voters who are disillusioned with Republicans now, this new generation would be easy pickings for Republicans in the future. I understand that voters will swing, but this election is a generational one. For the first time, the Echo Boomers are voting. They are deciding their personal beliefs and political opinions. FDR was able to gather the Greatest Generation under his arms with his leadership. Ronald Reagan was able to control the Baby Boomers with his masterful communication skills. The future of the Democratic Party for the next 20 years could be decided by this election and its results. Will the unreal expectations associated with Obama drive that generation into the arms of the Republicans?

I know big ideas sell real well, especially purposefully vague ones, but is it in the best interest of the Democratic Party (and America) to have a leader who promises us the stars, but can only deliver us the moon? Maybe it would be better to have a leader that promises use the clouds, but delivers.