Saturday, August 30, 2008

What was missing from Obama's speech?

An overall theme and, still, a positive reason for his presidency.

There was no "New Deal." No "New Frontier." No "Bridge to the 21st Century". Not even a "Thousand Points of Light" or "Compassionate Conservatism" expressed in specific, new policies like "No Child Left Behind" and "The Faith Based Initiative."

While watching it, I really liked the speech -- but when it was over I realized I still didn't have an answer to what an Obama presidency would look like, or for why Obama wants to be President. He didn't tell me how his presidency would differ, for instance, from Bill Clinton's -- or Hillary Clinton's, or Joe Biden's, or Dodd if they, instead of Obama, had won the nomination.

He reassured me that he was running as a Democrat -- with a commitment to the issues we Democrats have long fought for and favored; health care, more teachers, more cops, protecting workers rights and social security, working for greater access to higher education, pay equity, equality, etc.,etc. He reassured me that he respected, rather than dismissed, the Clinton legacy. He took it to the Republicans and strongly made the negative case for "change" -- and the argument for why McCain would not be change but "more of the same" that the country can not afford. And he did it all eloquently.

But he did not paint a picture of -- his positive, inspiring vision of -- the future America needs, deserves, will be challenged and helped to achieve, in new and specific ways, by his administration. Nor did he tell us why (other than repairing and returning to better times before the damage inflicted by Bush) these times call for, and allow for, pursuing such a vision.

This speech answered the questions the media and critics inside and outside the party had been asking. But it didn't ask any new questions, or inspire his audience to ask new questions, about how the future should be or provide any answers to how we can move into, meet the challenges of, that new, inspiring future.

I suspect the Obama campaign is fighting the last campaign. From Kerry's loss they learned that one must REACT -- quickly and forcibly. But in the process, they forgot that one must lead, positively and imaginatively.


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