A Response To Joe Klein Affirming the Virtue of Obama’s Campaign

I’m responding to an article in Time magazine (Link) regarding Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The article showed me why a large number of people have not been able to understand the recent Obama craze, and why Hillary’s political technique of claiming to be the more experienced candidate has failed so badly. Why am I posting this on a sports website? Because I can and because I haven’t really felt inspired to write anything about sports recently.

When I was in college I had a super-liberal English professor and as a class we studied Norman Mailer’s book Armies of the Night. It is a book about the 1967 march on the Pentagon. The interesting thing for me about the book and consequently our discussion of the book, was Mailer’s logic concerning the protest: that in order to defeat the logical minds running our nation’s governments and armies we needed to not use their same ‘brick-work logic’ to defeat them. Rather Mailer made no claim as to what the effect of the march would be, only that there would be an effect and hopefully it was a productive one. The idea of there being virtue in a lack of logical understanding and/or analysis is an idea that was simultaneously very hard for me to wrap my head around, and very inspiring. Now our country is on the verge of a monstrous economic crisis and perhaps rather than go the path we know it might be better to take a machete to the woods and see where it takes us. Anyway onto Joe Klein’s Obama analysis:

“That is not just maddeningly vague but also disingenuous: the campaign is entirely about Obama and his ability to inspire. Rather than focusing on any specific issue or cause — other than an amorphous desire for change — the message is becoming dangerously self-referential. The Obama campaign all too often is about how wonderful the Obama campaign is. ”

The philosophy I described above takes these same events and views them differently. That an amorphous desire for change is far inferior to a specific plan of change is the assumed fact this paragraph is premised on, but it is that premise I am disagreeing with. Instead the idea of having a leader who does not claim to have the answers or a grand plan is hugely refreshing to me. While the author tries to construct an argument apparently rooted in facts, to contrast against Obama’s lack of specificity:

“Hillary Clinton, has proved herself tough, specific and reliable — qualities that become increasingly important as the economy teeters and as worries about the future gather in the land.”

The truth is this argument is itself largely disingenuous. Constructing logical statements with premises that are vague subjective attributes contrasts poorly in my mind the harmless circular logic of Obama. Obama argues that he is going to create change because he is the candidate of change. Clinton argues that she has more experience to do the job better. The former is less a real logical statement than a sentiment expressed as an emotion – I want to change things. The latter is a statement whose foundation is self-aggrandizing.

Obama does not claim to know exactly why he will be a great president, and that is what inspires me, that uncertainty. I think if Clinton returns to the White House it will be just that, a return. For a person weighing a known quantity versus an unknown one, it is a difficult task and it ultimately becomes a referendum on the known quantity. That however can change if you believe, as I do, that there is a large implicit value in that unknown quantity being unknown. In this case a politician who is not indebted to campaign promises, but rather indebted to a notion or a sentiment, is in my opinion freer to do good work. He ends:

“In a country where freshness is fetishized — and where a staggering 70% of the public is upset with the way things are today — the “same old thing” is not the place to be. Unless, of course, the next new thing turns out to be a mirage. ”

Rarely has a sentence made so little coherent sense to me. This is what we call in English a mixed metaphor, as a mirage is a binary idea. It is something that appears to exist but does not – it is there or it isn’t. The sentence is meant to instill fear that you will not get what Obama promised you. But if he is only promising change then the only way we get our mirage is if he doesn’t change things, in which case aren’t we in a similar position as if we elected Clinton or McCain? Instead the worry should be that the change he institutes will be bad change. That being said, I am of the opinion that the United States is in as bad a place as it has been in my lifetime, and thus even if change were to be assigned randomly it would have predominately positive effects. At this point I’m willing to gamble because we are already so indebted as a nation that the possible joy of revolution would be must stronger than another sting of repression.

Lastly, his ability to inspire which seems in this article to be painting him as a pied piper, is instead an attribute that has value unto itself, which in my opinion correlates very highly with an ability to succeed. The idea of him as cult of personality rather than studious politician is a very troubling one for this author, and a very exciting one for me.


One Response to A Response To Joe Klein Affirming the Virtue of Obama’s Campaign

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