Thursday, August 28, 2008

And now what?

As of the time of this writing, the most recent Gallup poll shows that the newly-coronated Democratic nominee remains in a statistical tie with his GOP rival. With this as backdrop, and the awesome weight of history on his shoulders, tonight is the night when Barack Obama claims his place in the annals of politics by accepting the call of his party.

Beyond the significance of this being the 45th anniversary of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech, Obama's candidacy carries its own idiosyncratic burdens. Obama trails John McCain in the perception of being a strong leader, and he has yet to bring conservative Democrats under his wing. Tonight's speech will doubtless need to be more than an exercise in rhetorical flourish if Obama's own dream is to become substance.

Obama will need to help ordinary Americans envision how his presidency will be better - as the message of change for its own sake is no longer sufficient - that that of his predecessor. (The fact that he has been reluctant to do so up to now does not bode well.) He will need to speak to the sacrifices that he would have the American people share in order to nationalize health care, end poverty and dependence, provide for economic prosperity and energy independence and improve America's standing in the world.

His task is complicated by the fact that nearly everyone sees his strengths as hypothetical; the truth is that he has absolutely no record of achievement that would provide concreteness to any perceived ability. And any record that he attempted to appropriate by selecting Joe Biden either undermines or contradicts all that he has put forth as a rationale commending his candidacy. Barack Obama's singular challenge is that of humanizing himself to the end of allowing us to sense and appreciate his credentials, such as they are. He must step beyond the "happytalk" platitudes that got him to this point and allow us to see through the veil of doubt.

Of course, my own sense is that the prevailing dynamic will continue to manifest; the more we know about Barack Obama - his alliances with the Chicago Democratic machine as well as various crackpots and crooks, his lack of depth on anything remotely concerning presidential responsibilities, and his arrogant derangement from the realities of the ordinary - the less we will like him. I know of nothing that says he will be up to tonight's assignment.

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