Monday, May 19, 2008

Michelle Obama

This past evening at the Obama headquarters in Lexington, Michelle Obama paid us a visit. I wasn't sure what to expect - the media seems to have painted her as some abrasive, snobby woman. What I saw was something different. She has a speaking style that is as articulate as Barack's, though obviously not as inspiring. While it was supposed to be just a thank-you speech to all the volunteers (some 300 or 400 showed up, by estimates given), I managed to pick up a few nuggets.

"You can't lead one way and win another."
This is key. As much as Clinton claims to have lived change her whole life, etc, etc, the Clinton campaign style has been pretty off-putting to many Dems. How can we assume we'll be a welcome part of our democracy if the Clinton campaign (or McCain for that matter) runs a less than idealistic campaign? As I mentioned before, Hillary bashed MoveOn.org after her caucus losses, and said that voters "kind of look at us from afar" (paraphrased). Gee, I feel like as a democratic activist that disagrees with some Clinton policies, I would really be welcome at the Clinton white house.
While I really don't want to sound like I'm venting at this point in the game, I do want to point out that this is part of why Hillary lost the nomination - she ran a game that turned off voters.

Getting to know the locals:
Characteristic with the way the Obama campaign has been running a different game, Michelle described how Barack took the early lead by really entrenching his volunteers in every community that he could. The volunteers spent months organizing and really getting to know the people in the communities they set up shop in, and those personal connections crafted over a period of time really paid off. That's why Iowa was a huge win.

A refreshing idea in politics/life.
Regardless of the way this election eventually plays out, the Obama campaign has brought about a new discourse in American life. Michelle stressed that a lot of events on this campaign (I infer Jeremiah Wright and racist anti-Obama people) have shown the need for giving people the benefit of the doubt. Empathy is a crucial skill that really is in high demand - believe me, I've made a lot of people more sympathetic to Obama just by taking a second and listening to what they have to say, even if they're Ron Paul fans. Barack has shown that he's willing to be diplomatic with traditional foreign policy enemies, and listen to people he might disagree with in the US. Michelle urged us to take this to heart in our ordinary lives. I'm glad she made this point - I've been throwing around the idea on TPM forums of trying to get it through our politicians' heads that we can't blame WV, PA and soon KY on racism alone, and that we need to come up with an Appalachian plan that improves their economies and educates their kids better (in regard to education, I speak from my fathers' blunt characterizations of the small town public school system in WV that drove him to commit my siblings to a slightly more educational but religiously themed private school).

These three themes should be understood by more people. As Michelle said, the younger generation is watching, and they notice when we stereotype people, when we do one thing and say another, etc etc. This election has shown us how politics can be a new game that allows for more people to participate. Let's hope that this becomes the norm.

(posted by Matt S.)

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