Saturday, April 07, 2007

Elmer Fudd meets Syd Vicious: Obama Takes the Initiative

by Bernie Quigley Daily Kos diary, 4/7/07

“ . . . seest thou not God's purpose from the first?
The earth to be spann'd, connected by network,
The races, neighbors, to marry and be given in marriage . . . .”

- Walt Whitman, Passage to India

History is in the details, and this week when the ’08 candidates presented the cash available for the upcoming primary season, history turned the corner. I knew it when I went to Canadian Broadcasting Company looking for a hockey game. An ad came up for CBC news with all those fast action photos they run by you – a Bush close up, war in Iraq, fires in California, bears slipping on ice floes in The Great White North.

This time there was a new face: Barack Obama’s and it popped up a few seconds even before Bush’s. Another famous face was conspicuously absent: Hillary Clinton’s.

Yahoo told the same story: Greeting you on the banner head yesterday morning with the campaign cash story were two faces, Obama’s and Mitt Romney’s. No Hillary.

It was reported that Obama raised 25 million in the first quarter, just a million under Clinton. Romney also raised 25 million, far ahead of any of his flagging competitors. But some of this cash is not available to spend on the upcoming primary.

The Daily Kos posted the new figures of available primary cash: Obama has 23.5 million, Clinton 20 million, John Edwards 13 million.

What is possibly more important is that Obama's cash comes from 100,000 donors, Clinton’s from only 50,000 and Edwards from 40,000. I’m betting that Clinton’s cash is coming all from much the same place – from the Northeast and from people of her own generation unable to let go. Hubbie Bill, that perennial Hunka Hunka Burnin’ Love, has been holding event after event on her behalf all over New York City this past month where she wasn’t even present. But the Northeast likes Obama as well.

Clinton's cash is from a DESCENDING POLITICAL SCENARIO - an end game of Billaryism and Democratic Leadership Council influence which has been running now for some 14 years (and the descending end of a generational arc of influence which has been running for 40-plus years). Obama's cash will be applied to an ASCENDING SCENARIO and a political movement just beginning to rise (and the rising front and avant garde of a new generation’s political influence).

Gauging the blog community as an indicator of generational influence, Hillary has almost no youthful support from the critical fourth post-war generation. But the rising generation likes both Obama and Edwards.

It will be increasingly more difficult for Clinton to raise more money in the second and third quarters. It will be increasingly easier for Obama to raise money.

And the press is hungry for a new zeitgeist and a fresh and photogenic face like Obama’s. Hillary is old and stale news and so is McCain. Obama brings the new season. Mad Ave., where the true poets and prophets of America live, actually recognized this months ago. Whenever I pump gas I see a happy and prosperous Obama look-alike doing the same in the gas company’s new ad campaign.

’08 is perhaps one of the most important election cycles since post-war. Like the Kennedy race and the Reagan race, whichever candidate wins now could well determine the direction of the political scene for the next 20 years.

Both major parties have taken new initiatives and both are feeling their Old Guard falling be the wayside; Clinton and the Democratic Leadership Council for the Democrats and the Christian Coalition for the Republicans.

With 25 million in hand Romney could well go the distance for the Republicans. He is a great manager and a decent human being. But his incoherent and ill-mastery of symbolism is bound to trip him up.

Recently, he described himself as a “life long hunter” and it was revealed later that he had only hunted as a child, then again last year for a political photo-op in Georgia. And in explaining it away to the press he carelessly described hunting rabbits with a semi-automatic rifle.

For people who are unfamiliar with firearms, a semi-automatic weapon sounds like a Uzi or an AK-47 or an M-16. The image of Elmer Fudd throwing dynamite down a hole to obliterate the source of his perennial wabbit twoubles caught the public imagination three days before Easter. The blog “Unconfirmed Sources” offered a satire of Romney going hunting over the weekend with Dick Cheney, and the Republican’s answer to Elmer Fudd and Syd Vicious shooting caged birds together and possibly each other on Easter Sunday.

But as the Democrats push aside their own Old Guard, they have also brought forth a whole new group of individuals in the last two years, some of them veterans of the Iraq war: Mark Warner, Wesley Clark, Jim Webb and Joe Sestak have all been key players in the ’06 race and in the current season. And there are more behind them, some of whom were elected to the new Congress and others who will run again or take other roles in the party like Patrick Murphy in Pennsylvania, Eric Massa of New York, Tammy Duckworth in Illinois, Andrew Horne of Tennessee and Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire.

This is the starting line-up of a new political generation. The Democrats have also established veteran credentials with new groups like the Fighting Dems and VoteVets. And consistently, in the blogosphere and in the rising generation, these new candidates have come forward while the DLC candidates are being left behind.

This week Obama has taken the initiative, and he has the opportunity now to put together an entirely new package for the Democrats that will have a long ride.

Obama was first presented to the public by Oprah. I have opposed the "democratization" of political discourse on such a vast and generic level as the Oprah TV show making the case that political discourse on such a low entertainment level will destroy the Republic. I have changed my position over the last years for this reason: Oprah, more than anyone advances the "participation mystique" of American culture and politics and this is perhaps the most important cultural driving force in America.

After his visit to America, Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung said that he found the “participation mystique” to be the pervasive cultural force in America and it was a cultural initiative that came from the African village. It featured a removal of walls and a blending of one culture to another. Historians John Hope Franklin and W.J. Cash also make the point that African-American influence has had an "environmental" or benign cultural influence on all the major institutions and cultural relationships in America, especially in the South. But since WW II that influence has come to the North as well and is pervasive today throughout the Republic.

The Obama candidacy represents a shared cultural identity; that is, there is no distinction between white and black “culture.” Perhaps, as the poet Walt Whitman claimed, this is one of the most essential transitions that people make when they come to America: They come to share culture and consciousness with other races. (And if they don’t intend to, they will anyway.)

Oprah, probably more than anyone today, represents this vast, subtle and pervasive influence and this shared racial destiny. And she is probably one of the five most important people in the world today in terms of cultural influence.

The Obama story is the story of the emancipation of all of the races and cultures in North America and the passing of the Protestant Ethic as the territorial determinant in American politics: It is a story that we have been moving to for 400 years on this continent and it is perhaps the most important story to be told to date about our American condition.

3 comments:

charles said...

You just offered one of the more interesting descriptions of political ascendency recently made. Not so long ago, the engine of this ascendency was called generation X. These Xers are now coming into their political voices and are vigorously exercising them. Also very interesting is this participation mystique which as surrounding tastes and information access levels change, still gets passed down from generation to generation. Naivete, ambition, endowment, history and pragmatism are fueling the mystique even as the african influence you describe changes it in subtle ways. I used to describe it as - If not for Africans the waltz would still be the most popular dance here (of course not!). The benign influence of African American culture can be more easily witnessed in musical history which has made many subconciously vary their inner tones and thereby perspectives.

Anonymous said...

i hope this is a relatively new start but i highly doubt that given that i believe Obama intrinsically has a variety of qualities about him that make him rare.

if jesse Jackson were to run today, with all the advantages of technology and the internet etc i doubt he would have any significant influence as much as Obama continues to have.

in other words, the personality and charisma of obama is rare and his success perhaps less dependent on the changing consciousness etc of which you speak.

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