Do The New Faces Have An Easier Path?
This started off as a different piece about Barack Obama’s appearance at Tom Harkin’s steak fry over the weekend. I was going to do a post on how tired I was at hearing the Next Great Democrat(s) tell us what is wrong with the party and its leaders without sticking their necks out themselves to propose anything of substance. I was all set to agree with SusanG over at Daily Kos and BigTentDemocrat over at Talk Left that these “latest flavors” of the month like Obama and Mark Warner spend too much time saying what is wrong with the party instead of offering solutions or provide a sense that they understand the world’s complexities.
But then I decided to do something besides read the AP piece: I read what Obama was trying to say and the favorable accounts of the New York Times (by the reporter who normally covers Hillary), and the Des Moines Register, where both noted that Obama’s appearance sucked all of the oxygen out of the appearances by Warner and home-state governor Tom Vilsack.
Sure, I dislike the talk about going soft on Republicans because it shies away from holding the GOP accountable for their misdeeds these last six years. But when you read Obama and Warner’s remarks about Republicans, it seems that Bill Clinton could have written them as well. Obama talks about how the GOP has led us astray without getting nasty directly at Bush. Obama (and to a lesser degree Warner) manages to talk about what the Democrats stand for without throwing bombs first. And both talk about restoring hope and opportunity, and moving away from a craven politics of destruction and failure that is the modern GOP.
There may be a method to the madness here. Both Obama and Warner are calling for a return to national consensus in fighting our enemies and in pulling together as a nation to do so, something that Bush and Rove never intended to pursue in the first place. Both talk a good game, and both have yet to tell us how we can pull together and still hold the GOP accountable for these terrible mistakes so that we don’t repeat them. And neither of them have put forward a national security strategy or tell us how the Democrats can communicate it in an environment of GOP-controlled corporate media. But both are talking about inclusion and broadening the party’s appeal at a time when Bush has remade the GOP base into a Stepford cult. Warner sees an opportunity for the Democratic Party to reach out to the business community, which may sound too DLC-ish for many of you but really makes sense when there will be Main Street Republicans up for grabs in 2008 who have no home with the Wall Street-and-Wingnuts base that Bush has bequeathed to the modern GOP.
I would like to see something of substance from both Obama and Warner on national security, and a realistic plan for dealing with the Middle East and Islamic world, aside from the mindless stuff I have seen so far from Warner on Iran, which looks like it could have been written by a bedwetting keyboard commando from the American Enterprise Institute. Obama won’t take any such steps until well into 2007, or about the time Al Gore makes his plans more clear. Warner has some time ahead of him to get his act together and bone up with a realistic set of proposals that go beyond his “missed opportunities” critique of Bush. Add to that the Edwards candidacy, a possible Gore candidacy, the Richardson, Bayh, and Biden candidacies and we may have a good race for the nomination in 2008, aside from what Hillary does.
There is no denying that Obama and Warner get great press as the new faces in the party, while the media continues to burden the party's known commodities with negatives. In an era where the corporate media buries Democrats and sticks them with a GOP-fed label and storyline, that counts for a lot these days. But we have also seen the media adopt the Republican storyline about angry and unstable Democrats whenever a Democrat advocates open confrontation with the GOP. It may be a fact of political life that in this corporate media culture, the only Democrats who can make their way to the nomination and election are those who submerge a desire for immediate accountability inside a call for change in Washington through shared sacrifice instead of privileged exemption, and once again placing public interest ahead of private gain.
If that is the case, then Obama and Warner and the other new faces may be on to something after all.