Monday, February 04, 2008

The Choice

From my friend James Forman:
A lot of my friends sit somewhat (very far?) to the left of the mainstream Democratic Party, and some in this group really struggle with what to do in this election.  Kucinich and Edwards appealed for awhile, and now they are gone.  Obama is not perfect, as many point out to me, and his record in the Senate has been more centrist than the solidly progressive views that those who knew him in law school and Chicago remember.  So people worry, including Christopher Hayes, Washington bureau chief for our country's most consistent voice from the left, the Nation.  But after thinking it through, he's with Obama.  In this new piece, he makes the most compelling argument I have yet read for why the left should agree.  ("The question then becomes this: which of the two Democratic candidates is more likely to bring to fruition a new progressive majority? I believe, passionately and deeply, if occasionally waveringly, that it's Barack Obama.")  The piece is a must forward for anybody you know on the liberal/left who hasn't made up their mind yet.  It is here:
This article makes some GREAT points:

The question of who can best build popular support for a progressive governing agenda is related to, but distinct from, the question of electability. Given a certain ceiling on Clinton's appeal (due largely to years of unhinged attacks from the "vast right-wing conspiracy"), her campaign seems well prepared to run a 50 percent + 1 campaign, a rerun of 2004 but with a state or two switching columns: Florida, maybe, or Ohio. Obama is aiming for something bigger: a landmark sea-change election, with the kind of high favorability and approval ratings that can drive an agenda forward. Why should we think he can do it?

The short answer is that Obama is simply one of the most talented and appealing politicians in recent memory. Perhaps the most. shows a series of polls taken in the Democratic campaign. The graphs plotting national polling numbers as well as those in the first four states show a remarkably consistent pattern. Hillary Clinton starts out with either a modest or, more commonly, a massive lead, owing to her superior name recognition and the popularity of the Clinton brand. As the campaign goes forward Clinton's support either climbs slowly, plateaus or dips. But as the actual contest approaches, and voters start paying attention, Obama's support suddenly begins to grow exponentially.

In addition to persuading those who already vote, Obama has also delivered on one of the hoariest promises in politics: to bring in new voters (especially the young). It's a phenomenon that, if it were to continue with him as nominee, could completely alter the electoral math. Young people are by far the most progressive voters of any age cohort, and they overwhelmingly favor Barack Obama by stunning margins. Their enthusiasm has translated into massive increases in youth turnout in the early contests.

Finally, there's the question of coattails. In many senses there's less difference between the two presidential candidates than there is between a Senate with fifty-one Democrats and one with fifty-six. No Democratic presidential candidate is going to carry, say, Mississippi or Nebraska, but many Democrats in those states fear that the ingrained Clinton hatred would rally the GOP base and/or depress turnout, hurting down-ticket candidates. Over the past few weeks a series of prominent red-state Democrats, most notably Ben Nelson, Kent Conrad and Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, have endorsed Obama. When I asked a Democratic Congressional candidate in the Deep South who he preferred at the top of the ticket, he didn't hesitate: "Obama is absolutely the better candidate. Hillary brings a lot of sting; he takes some sting out of them."


The Choice


The Nation, February 18, 2008

It's gotten to that time in the primary contest where lines are drawn, camps are solidified and conversations around dinner tables grow heated. My friend Dan recently put it this way: "You start talking about the candidates, and next thing you know someone's crying!" The excellent (and uncommitted) blogger Digby recently decided to shut down her comments section because the posts had grown so toxic. The recent uptick in acrimony is largely due to the narrowing of the field. While once the energy was spread over many camps, it is now, with the exits of Dennis Kucinich and John Edwards, concentrated on just two, leaving progressives in a fierce debate over whether Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama would make the better nominee, and President.


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