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February 24, 2007

20,000

For a variety of reasons, I'm rapidly warming to Obama. Any political leader who can turn out 20,000 Americans, well, something really special is going on over there, and I hope he has the courage and conviction to turn it into something transformative.

February 24, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Just be careful... Inspiring people is good. Fellating the base is a ticket to a loss of the same proportion the Republicans suffered in 2006 because they didn't grasp the idea that if they didn't increase the minimum wage, the Democrats would win and increase it.

Posted by: Alon Levy | Feb 24, 2007 2:49:27 PM

Obama's not "fellating the base." He's made some remarks (notably, about the role of religion in politics) that have, in fact, pissed off the base.

I've been cynical for so long, it's a hard habit to break. But I'm beginning to think Obama might be the Real Thing - not just in his politics, but in his tactics.

Posted by: CaseyL | Feb 24, 2007 3:17:08 PM

Digby wrote a piece on Romney, Reagan and tribalism

http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2007_02_01_archive.html#4462701349926061820

It has everything to do about the republicans being no-so-much about being FOR anything - they talk about "small government" and being "pro-life" and then they spend BILLIONS on killing people. What the republicans are is AGAINST things - generally being against 1) non-white people and 2) "liberals" - AKA folks who notice #1 and call them on it - aka Dirty F*ing Hippies.

Obama is everything they hate - a liberal black half-immigrant with a funny name? He is by his very nature THE anti-republican.

Posted by: fasteddie | Feb 24, 2007 3:29:27 PM

Similarly, I have taken a while to come around to Obama. One of the things that did it for me was that interview Josh Marshall had up where Obama said he wouldn't vote for war authorization. Keeping in mind that it was 2002 and all the Dems were super scared about being called wusses, not only did he say he wouldn't vote for it, he said it for the right reasons - the current admin couldn't be trusted with it.

That, and calling the Iraq war a dumb war. Thank god somebody finally said it.

Posted by: cerebrocrat | Feb 24, 2007 3:32:17 PM

"Any political leader who can turn out 20,000 Americans almost two years before the next election possesses a civic power that almost has to be positive and, at the least, is filled with potential."
Seriously? I'm warming up to him as well, but in what world does being an effective speaker correlate to being an honest or just leader?

Posted by: Sam L. | Feb 24, 2007 3:34:26 PM

Also:

1) I really don't even understand the first comment.

2) I know we're not supposed to say it, but I admit I am scared about the prospects of a black man getting elected president in this country. He's good, and even some of my conservative, racist, southern relatives like him. But is he good enough to finally whip the history of race in this country?

Posted by: cerebrocrat | Feb 24, 2007 3:34:42 PM

Seriously? I'm warming up to him as well, but in what world does being an effective speaker correlate to being an honest or just leader?

Gee, I don't know. Maybe the same world in which honesty and justice correlate to a chance of getting elected.

Posted by: Tom Hilton | Feb 24, 2007 3:43:07 PM

If Obama becomes the leading candidate (or maybe even before) in advance of the actual primary season, we are in for the worse overt and covert race baiting by the Republicans that can be imagined. Maybe the Dems and the nation are ready to finally electorially punish those who originate and repeat messages of race baiting.

From what I've seen so far, I'm willing to take that risk since Obama comes closest to my ideal liberal/progressive candidate.

I'd contribute to any group that organizes to fight back with relentless counter-attacks on those who attack Obama using race-fear as their tool. It is time to move past this scummy tactic and judge candidates on their real strengths and weaknesses as a potential leader - and the policies that they would advocate.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Feb 24, 2007 3:55:52 PM

I'm warming to an Obama candidacy as well for one primary reason: he's the only candidate about whom the GOP won't be able to say: It's his/her war, too. Obama is the only major candidate who was unambiguously against the war from the beginning.

If the 2008 election is about Iraq, the Democrats will win - UNLESS the GOP can convince the media, and by extension the public, that this is a bi-partisan war. They're already trying to do this; their task will be made much easier in a McCain v. Hillary matchup than it will in a McCain v. Obama.

Yes, Edwards has apologized for his war vote, but the baggage of Iraq still clings to him in a way it doesn't with Obama.

Of course, everything changes if Gore gets in...

Posted by: Jason | Feb 24, 2007 4:21:27 PM

I'll say this for Obama's: he's figured out that the base--especially the netroots part of it--likes tough-talkers. He might be able to keep his message vague (and vaguely moderate) and still appeal to the netroots as long as he keeps ridiculing Dick Cheney. Never mind that Edwards is the more progressive candidate, Obama knows how to talk smack. It's a weird inverted world, this netroots place.

Posted by: david mizner | Feb 24, 2007 4:43:59 PM

"Gee, I don't know. Maybe the same world in which honesty and justice correlate to a chance of getting elected."

So, not ours?

Posted by: Sam L. | Feb 24, 2007 4:49:13 PM

Ezra (and anyone else): have you read Dreams From My Father? If not, do it. Not just because he's running for President, and how often do you get to read a book that a candidate wrote by himself, over a decade before, when he wouldn't have been thinking anything of the kind, but because it's good enough that you should read it even if its author weren't running for anything. It will warm you up even more quickly.

I mean: it's almost scary to think of someone that smart and perceptive actually being our President, after 8 years of Bush.

I picked it up in an airport over Christmas: I was noticing myself starting to lean his way, and I thought: right, must do homework. I never expected it, or any book by a politician, to be engrossing. Whether you agree or not, though, it will tell you what you need to know.

Also: reading it makes it very clear that Obama is not a person with the standard set of political motivations. As far as I can tell, for instance, he doesn't care that much about being liked. It's interesting to try to puzzle out what they are. (And I mean that literally, which makes it a compliment. As best I can see, there would be nothing at all interesting about trying to figure out GWB's motives; the only reason I sometimes bother is because they have such large effects.)

Really: read it.

Posted by: hilzoy | Feb 24, 2007 5:01:44 PM

I wrote a blog post less than a month ago in which I said that it was way too soon for me to pick a candidate, but I have to admit that Obama is looking better and better to me as well.

I do worry quite a bit about the race-baiting problem. The recent TN Senate race is probably just a foreshadowing of how bad it will get if Obama eventually becomes the Democratic nominee.

Posted by: fiat lux | Feb 24, 2007 5:17:33 PM

Plus, the weather was sucky last afternoon in Austin.

Posted by: norbizness | Feb 24, 2007 5:23:18 PM

"Transformative?"

I don't know. Sounds a little new-agey to me. Better check with Kos to see if it's on the approved list of words and phrases.

Posted by: Garuda | Feb 24, 2007 5:35:13 PM

I think his charisma is great, but it might also be the thing that kills him. No one is as cruel as a lover betrayed; to some extent, I think that explains a good section of the Dem netroots.

Posted by: SomeCallMeTim | Feb 24, 2007 5:45:27 PM

I'm going to second the recommendation for Dreams From My Father. A very good book.

Posted by: Korha | Feb 24, 2007 6:10:28 PM

There's a lot of overlap between the people who flat out won't vote for a black Presidential candidate and those who flat out won't vote for a Democratic Presidential candidate. Figure 30% of the electorate? Write them off and campaign for the other 70%.

I also think that wierd bit that's come out of some black political commentary - that Obama isn't "black enough" because his ancestors and family didn't go through slavery, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, etc. - might actually help him, precisely because he doesn't carry that 300 years' worth of baggage. Voting for Obama could be a vote for racial conciliation and at the same time a vote for a clean break with the past.

Posted by: CaseyL | Feb 24, 2007 6:10:36 PM

"I hope he has the courage and conviction to turn it into something transformative."

He's shown no sign that he's willing to alter the status quo. His speech at the launch of the Hamilton Group, Rubin's centrist group dedicated to advancing Clintonomics and quashing populism suggests he's happy to play along.

Although, of course, the fact of him alters the status quo, to some degree. Thusfar it's a candidacy built on symbolism: he holds out the promise of a post-everything presidency, which is appealing. But not transformative.

Of course there's a link between who he is and the positions he takes. A black man offering an economic plan as progressive as Edwards's would scare the shit out of people. It's good politics, probably, his moderation, but it doesn't mean I have to like it.

Posted by: david mizner | Feb 24, 2007 6:32:38 PM

Just a question: what has Edwards actually achieved in terms of governance? Has there been any notable legislation he took a lead on while he was in office? I'm asking, because I really don't know. I guess that is one of the things about Obama I find significant and impressive, for all the talk about his lack of time in the senate, there are issues he's taken a lead on and has gotten something accomplished (voting rights, transparency in government). I'm impressed by edwards's proposals on health care and poverty, but I don't have a lot of reasons to believe he could actually get anything accomplished. I will grant however, that edwards spent most of his senate term in the minority, which probably explains a lot.

Posted by: ruvluv | Feb 24, 2007 7:15:53 PM

Way back in the day, I really liked Paul Tsongas in the primary of 1992.

To be honest, he wouldn't have made a good president. A president has to be elected, and has to be charismatic to motivate his base, and even more so, the undecided.

If Obama can inspire people, he has a chance to get elected, and then a chance to do great things.

Hillary Clinton can't even get firefighters to listen to her without them shouting her down. How can she win the presidency, except by default? She'd be a wounded animal in the White House.

Posted by: anon | Feb 24, 2007 7:29:51 PM

David Mizner, your concerns are exactly why I had not, up until recently, thought much of Obama. I was much more impressed by Edwards' actual proposals and emphasis on economic policies. I'm still not in love with Obama, but I'm sure warming up to him, and at least at the moment, he's campaigning better than Edwards.

Posted by: cerebrocrat | Feb 24, 2007 8:45:22 PM

try 17,000 in 10 degree weather. My husband and I drove 3 hours from Rockford, IL. to Springfield to stand in the freezing cold with 17,000 of our closest friends.
Good time
But, I'm still trying to wrap my mind around 20,000+ in Texas. the most republican state and there he is making fun of Cheney on his home turf. very cool.

Posted by: vwcat | Feb 24, 2007 9:00:55 PM

Austin is a different state, or so those on both sides of the fence like to say. And there are tens of thousands of college students on hand.

Still impressive.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 24, 2007 9:23:31 PM

I think I see Neil there in the photo of the crowd, wearing dark glasses.

Posted by: Sanpete | Feb 24, 2007 9:26:26 PM

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