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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:08 pm 
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As many of you are, I am sure, aware, the junior Senator from Illinois, Barak Obama, took the first step towards a presidential candidacy this week, forming an "exploratory committee". There is little doubt that he will precede to announce a full-fledged campaign next month. He generated tremendous buzz in the early battleground states of Iowa and New Hampshire, drawing huge crowds in appearance in both states.

Obama first burst on to the national seen with his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. Conversely, I think that speech helped lead to Kerry's defeat, because the difference between the two men could not be more stark. Obama has more charisma in his little finger then Kerry has in his whole being. And that is Obama's main selling point. He has some good ideas, but his record is painfully sparse for a serious presidential candidate. Yet he has rocketed to a position of being considered the co-favorite for the Democratic nomination, with Hilary Clinton. Indeed, I have heard it said that his biggest asset is that he is not Hillary. I'm not sure how much that is directed towards dislike of her personally, and how much of it reflects the idea that people are not ready to support a serious female candidate for president, so to show they are "progressive" they turn their support to an African-American candidate.

And there lies the rub. I would like nothing better then to be able to write this message without even referring to the fact that Obama is African-American. It should not matter. The only question that should matter is whether he is the best qualified person for the job (similarly, of course, I should not matter that Hilary is a woman). But the reality is that that will be a major issue in his (and in her) campaign.

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Last edited by Voronwë the Faithful on Thu Mar 22, 2007 9:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:28 pm 
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Whatever Obama's merits, I would think there is only one consideration for the Democrats. Which potential candidate is both able and capable of attracting voters away from the Republicans. What the primaries ( have I got that right - the process of whittling down the candidates within a party?) seem to do is to select candidates that appeal to the party's core voters. This is not necessarily an election winning process.
I asked a question over at Manwë; which possible Democratic candidate did Republicans have any respect for. I got no answer.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:29 pm 
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I hate to be cynical, but I can't imagine the party would actually allow either a black man or a woman at the top of the ticket. I think we will see a white man who has run before, maybe Edwards, there, with either Clinton or Obama as vice president. That way the progressives can still feel they're making history when they cast their ballots, but everyone will know that the real power is in the "right" hands. :roll:

We will hear a lot about Clinton's negative baggage (people who would never vote for a Democrat in a million years hate her, so she's obviously unsuited to appeal to Democrats) and about Obama's brief experience (how much better it would be if he ran next time! Rather than cluttering things up this year!).

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 4:40 pm 
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Quote:
I asked a question over at Manwë; which possible Democratic candidate did Republicans have any respect for.


Leiberman. And now he is an independent.

Of those who are running or are likely to run? Probably Joseph Biden would be the closest. He is the only Democrat to actually propose a comprehensive plan for ending the Iraq conflict. And thus, he has little chance of winning the nomination.

Edit to add: Prim, I'm not so sure. I have a 'feeling' about Obama. And my 'feelings' are often right.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:14 pm 
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If George Bush, as polarizing as he is, can get 50% of the vote, than surely Hillary Clinton could as well.

And if Bush, as inexperienced as he was, could be a serious candidate, then surely Obama can as well.

If the Republicans run someone reasonable, then I'll likely vote for that person. If they run someone who is too much like W, then I will likely vote for the Democratic candidate.

I can't see Edwards winning the nomination. He's so underwhelming. The only white male Democrat I can see winning the nomination is Al Gore if he ran.

Right now it sure seems like it will come down to Obama vs. Clinton. And betting against a Clinton is like betting against the Patriots. Just don't do it.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:23 pm 
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I think is going to be risky for the democrats fielding either Obama or Clinton. I've been speaking to a lot of people, and everyone says the US is not ready for a woman president (which shocks me), and I doubt they are even more ready for an African-American president (which shocks me again).

I go with Prim on this..

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:29 pm 
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My gut tells me a black man could get elected but a woman still couldn't. I would not mind being proved wrong.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:42 pm 
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Faramond, who would you consider a reasonable Republican? McCain? I think that his support of the President's "new" Iraq policy might strengthen his position in the Republican primaries, but weaken his position significantly in the general election.

Edit: Should I give this thread a more general title?

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 6:44 pm 
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I have to say that I’m kind of disappointed that Obama decided to run. Not because I don’t like him. I do. In fact, I think he is most definitely presidential material. But not now. He just doesn’t have the experience. And I worry that he’s committing the same mistake that Edwards did of jumping the gun. Edwards was another one who had great potential but lost it (in my opinion) because of his over-eagerness.

I don’t know who to like in this race. So far I can’t say I’m crazy about any of them. Out of the group, I like Obama the most, but I don’t think he can win. I think it has nothing to do with his race though, just his lack of experience.

Where experience is concerned, I’m not sure the Bush comparison is quite correct either. Granted, W had little experience when he took office, but he did have the advantage of family ties, growing up in a political family and being the son of a former president. Not that that mattered in terms of his abilities (I personally think he had none) but it matter in people’s minds. Who he was gave him a gravitas that made up for his lack of experience. Neither Edwards or Obama have that luxury.

As for the race issue, it is notable that Obama does not carry much of the cultural and social baggage of most African Americans. He is not a descendant of slavery. His father was a native Kenyan and his mother was a white American. That doesn’t mean that he hasn’t experienced discrimination like other blacks (he may or may not have, I don’t know), but that he approaches issues of race from a different perspective, and I think that comes across in his personality. I think that will play a big part in the way Americans react to him - they will not see him as a “black” candidate in the way they have seen other black candidates like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.


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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:06 pm 
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At least nobody can say that Hilary's husband is going to run the country if she gets elected. When Bill was President, everyone was saying that SHE was the one really running the country.

Obama is overwhelmingly charismatic, and in Americe that's seems to be requirement #1. Intelligence, experience, will to compromise, integrity - none of that matter if the candidate can't look good on TV. :(

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:10 pm 
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V, although I've been following the news, I haven't had the time to do in-depth research into either Obama or Clinton, so I don't yet have a position on either (except that I have reservations about Obama's lack of experience; I do think he is jumping the gun.)

That said, I have one comment on your view that you should not have to mention Obama's race or Clinton's gender. What I am beginning to understand is that as infuriating as it is to see someone's legitimacy debated based on any fundamental attribute, including race or gender, it is a necessary conversation to have. What would be still more infuriating is if the nation was not yet prepared to have the conversation. We do need to talk about what it would be like to have a "black President" or a "female President" (or, for that matter, a "non-Christian president"). However heated and painful the debate becomes, however prejudiced the ideas that emerge - they need to be aired openly and addressed. I want to hear people talk about all the reasons why we just can't have a female President or why it's just more comfortable to have a white President. I want those ideas expressed out loud, and I want people to hear just how ugly the ideas coming out of their own mouths sound.

As disappointing as this prejudice will be to hear, it will be far better than the present situation, in which we are laboring under the fiction that white male individuals are always selected for the highest positions in elected office (and usually, appointed office) because they always just happen to be the most qualified for the job. Glass ceilings and unspoken preferences and higher comfort levels with seeing only (or primarily) white "red-blooded" men in leadership positions - these are "uncomfortable" to talk about, and so we too often do not.

So let's talk about it. Let's mention race and let's mention gender as often as is necessary. Let's endure this phase in which we must debate the perceived relevance of race or gender (thus continuing to stall Dr. King's dream) so that we can break through to a "new age" in which the irrelevance of one's race or gender to one's fitness to hold federal office is a foregone conclusion. If we do not talk about the race and gender of otherwise qualified candidates openly now, we will continue to stagnate in this phase in which we pay lip service to racial and gender equality while maintaining (as a society) a high level of comfort with allowing our country's 225 year history of "all men are created equal, but white men are more equal than others, and...oops, it looks like we forgot to include women at all" to continue.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:17 pm 
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I agree with you, nel. Except that it won't happen that way. People won't talk about "the reasons why we just can't have a female President or why it's just more comfortable to have a white President". They'll just vote that way.

:(

To some extent, I am wrong of course. I've already heard some of these conversations on NPR. But for the most part, people will not admit that they are voting based on ingrained prejudices. But, as you say, it is a process that we need to go through, even it is slower then I would like. (Some here know just how inpatient I can be.)

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:20 pm 
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Honestly, I think most people will get used to the idea pretty quickly if either Obama or Clinton turn out to be the Dem candidate. After a few months, anyone who was shocked or uncomfortable will probably get over it.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 7:31 pm 
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I hope you are right, yov. Also, let's not overbend the stick the other way. Some people are genuinely concerned about what they see as Clinton's overly leftist stance or Barak's lack of experience. It is not fair to assume that all such criticism is purely a smoke cover for bigotry.

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‘No. It ain’t. When people say things are a lot more complicated than that, they means they’re getting worried that they won’t like the truth. People as things, that’s where it starts.’
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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:01 pm 
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I've not seen the man in action, but hearing that charisma is his main asset scares me.

The first time I've heard his name was in a comedy show where someone joked about the impossibility of someone with that name getting elected. In spite of it being satire, I think that was a good point. Wouldn't an African American with a name like "Will Smith" have a better starting point than one called "Barak Osama"?

As to a woman, I'd never have thought the German voters would elect a woman either, but they did. :)

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:05 pm 
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hobby, don't get me wrong. Obama, is very, very intelligent. And what I like best about him is that he does seem to be able to think outside the box. He has a best-selling book called "The Audacity of Hope" which I haven't read, but from what I know of it is very impressive.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:17 pm 
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That speech that he gave in 04 was amazing. It wasn't the speech of a merely charismatic man, but of a man with ideas of how to shape a better future.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:19 pm 
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Oh, I didn't doubt he was intelligent. The question is what does he do with his intelligence - what sort of ideas does he stand for?

It's that both you and Frelga immediately said that charisma was his main claim to popularity. Someone who gains support through charisma more than through the ideas they stand for scares me, because people will follow someone with enough charisma blindly, irrespective of the policies they propose. So, let's hope that his political aims and ideas are alright.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:35 pm 
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The charisma question puzzles me, because as I have said elsewhere, I think George W. Bush has zero charisma (for me, negative charisma). I think even some of his political supporters would agree that he often comes across as fuddled and inarticulate. And yet there is a subset of his supporters who seem to be under his spell in a way. (A subset. I am not saying that no one could have intelligent reasons for being a Bush supporter.)

I do admire Obama. His running will help us have that conversation that (I agree with Nel) we need to have. I would be sorry to see him crash and burn so badly in '08 that he has no chance in '12, and I think the experience issue can be used against him, particularly given his race. :( And the same goes for Clinton. There are some people who would vote against a black man or a woman for reasons of racism or sexism, who will publicly cling to other pretexts for voting against them.

People also sometimes lie to opinion polls, saying they will vote for a black candidate when they have no intention of doing so. Historically a minority candidate needs a wider lead in the polls to be sure of winning.

I need to know more about both Clinton and Obama before I could support either. At this point I support no one.

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PostPosted: Fri Jan 19, 2007 8:38 pm 
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nerdanel wrote:
I want to hear people talk about all the reasons why we just can't have a female President or why it's just more comfortable to have a white President. I want those ideas expressed out loud, and I want people to hear just how ugly the ideas coming out of their own mouths sound.


hear!! hear!! :)

Personally, I don't like Hilary :P .

I am glad I am objective enough to view a person without thinking... "she is a woman, I am a woman, so she should win". Of course, this view may not be the case in US, but I found it applicable in a few places in India. This Chief Minister of a state - a woman who had just been caught by the CBI (India's FBI) with VASTS amount of money and gold stacked away - corrupt to the bone - was reelected. And there can be several reasons why she was reelected (and is again CM right now) - but one woman on the street saying "I will always vote for her, because she is a woman too" really rankled me. Still does, apparently.

ME, I am equally prejudiced about all men and women. :D

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