Sunday, February 11, 2007

Obama Is In... Now Is California Ready?

Yesterday, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) formally announced his Presidential campaign. And no, I was not surprised by this. However, what did pleasantly surprise me was how he was able to turn his greatest liability into an attractive asset, all in a few choice words:

[T]hat is why, in the shadow of the Old State Capitol, where Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together, where common hopes and common dreams still, I stand before you today to announce my candidacy for President of the United States.

I recognize there is a certain presumptuousness – a certain audacity – to this announcement. I know I haven't spent a lot of time learning the ways of Washington. But I've been there long enough to know that the ways of Washington must change.

Again, this just amazes me. After all, the DC Beltway Conventional Wisdom holds that Obama is not seasoned enough, and does not have enough "experience" to be President just yet. However I've been thinking about it, and I am quickly coming to the conclusion that Obama already may have the right stuff to win the White House in 2008...
And we California Democrats may be in just the right position to help him out.

Would you like to find out how? Well, follow me after the flip for more...

Remember when George W. Bush was the "MBA President" who had all the right "experience" from the business world? Remember the George W. Bush who had a "great resume" as Governor of Texas? Well, after eight years of the horrifying experience that has been President George W. Bush, perhaps we as Americans want something, and SOMEONE, new. Perhaps, we are sick of the same old game of playing politics with everything from climate change to Iraq... To all the nonsense over flags and queers and Terri Schiavo. Perhaps, we are ready for someone who will move us beyond the old political games of the past and start getting things done for the good of the nation:

All of us know what those challenges are today – a war with no end, a dependence on oil that threatens our future, schools where too many children aren't learning, and families struggling paycheck to paycheck despite working as hard as they can. We know the challenges. We've heard them. We've talked about them for years.

What's stopped us from meeting these challenges is not the absence of sound policies and sensible plans. What's stopped us is the failure of leadership, the smallness of our politics – the ease with which we're distracted by the petty and trivial, our chronic avoidance of tough decisions, our preference for scoring cheap political points instead of rolling up our sleeves and building a working consensus to tackle big problems.

OK, so Barack Obama does not have much real Beltway experience. However, he has fast been gaining experience on dealing with tough issues that aren't always considered "sexy" by the Beltway Pundits. For instance, Obama has worked with Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) on nuclear non-proliferation. He's also worked on lobbying reform and ethics oversight. And let's not forget what he's done on energy security, trying to make our nation safer AND stop climate change by reducing American dependence on fossil fuels.

And you know what? These are all issues that matter to Americans, and issues that Californians care about. I know that I want a safer nation, and that I don't want complete nuclear annihilation. I know that I want a more ethical government, and an end to the same old culture of corruption. I know that I want to stop climate change, and for America to break free from its dependence upon fossil fuels. Obama has been coming up with practical solutions to these serious problems. And yes, he has been able to reach across the aisle without selling out his progressive soul.

Perhaps this is what interests me the most about Obama. He has been able to craft progressive legislation that is also practical. He can take important issues that are often ignored and bring them to the forefront. And yes, he is a fresh face with a fresh perspective and fresh ideas. He's something new, and that may help him here in California.

Californians want an end to the Iraq War. Californians want real action to be taken on climate change. Californians want a safer nation, and a safer planet. Californians want practical solutions to tough problems. And yes, perhaps we really do want something new as well. After all, we are ready for some "maverick, non-traditional Democratic politics" for a change.

And yes, I have heard all the conventional wisdom about Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) being the undisputed front runner in the Golden State. Hillary probably does have an early edge here, especially considering her sizable war chest that's ready to be spent on California ad buys. However, I don't think Hillary is a lock here. Perhaps if she can genuinely connect with California voters, and present to us a clear message on such issues as getting out of Iraq and doing something about climate change, then she may very well win here easily. But so far, Hillary has been reverting to the old politics of the past.

California Democrats may very well be looking for something new next February, and perhaps we may be ready for the audacity of Barack Obama's candidacy.

(Side Note: No, I'm not committed to any candidate yet. And yes, I'll be writing about the other candidates very soon.)

(Cross-posted at Calitics)

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