Obama and the Future of the Democratic Party
There's been another uptick in Obama-mania (unless it's really Obama-nia), as we're reminded that there's another presidential election in a couple of years and that Barack himself might actually run. Last week, Illinois state comptroller Dan Hynes, one of Obama's opponents two years ago in the Senate primary, came out in support of an Obama candidacy (although I haven't heard anyone who's quite sure what might've brought that on). A couple of weeks ago, he was in the midst of a triumphant visit to Kenya experiencing a reception which, according to Newsweek, was "more befitting a messiah than a junior senator bearing nothing more than opinions and good cheer." And over the weekend in Iowa, Obama made the big splash at Senator Tom Harkin's annual steak fry. Salon had an article yesterday talking up that appearance. And just for good measure, the Sun-Times released a poll of Illinois voters yesterday in which 63 percent believed he should run for president. The twist there is that a quarter thought he should run this time, and 38 percent felt he should wait.
Put me firmly with the 38 percent. I'm already on the record as wanting him to hold off for the present. I won't spend much time reiterating my arguments, but two years ago he was a member of the Illinois state senate with a failed Congressional primary campaign behind him. I won't deny that he's an attractive candidate, but the reaction he's been getting ever since he gave the keynote address at the last Democratic convention depresses me to some degree. It just underscores the vacuum that is the present-day Democratic party when the first guy with charisma who wanders by becomes a potential front-runner for the presidential nomination. We need to give Obama a bit of time to mature, to grow into the role. I realize that this doesn't leave us with a lot of options, but Democrats have to start developing more depth. The subtext for these midterm elections is not that the Democrats have any good ideas but that the ideas promulgated by the Prez and his party are so bankrupt that we have to do something else no matter what it is. The Dems have tried this tack in previous campaigns, but the electorate hasn't yet been fed up enough to accept the alternative no matter what. The uncertainty that I'm sensing about whether or not the Dems will pull off what they need to this time around is based on whether voters will follow them blindly (and even if they follow the Dems enough to put them in control of either or both houses, the voters will not stay in line for very long afterward). Do the Democrats have a future? Only if they come up with policies, only if they come up with ideas, that can inspire people on the ground that there's something worth following. One charismatic guy--even if he wins an election--ain't gonna be enough if there's nothing to back him up.