Anybody notice how the American flag pin has become an almost permanent part of Barack Obama’s wardrobe these days? A few months ago, Obama rarely, if ever, wore the flag pin. Then he started wearing a pin occasionally, claiming it’s a matter of personal whim and his choice of outfits. Nowadays, you rarely see Obama without a pin in his lapel. By contrast, John McCain rarely wears a flag pin.
Obama is unconvincing when he claims that his decision on whether or not to wear the flag in his lapel comes down to the suit he is wearing on any particular day. Political campaigns spend untold hours obsessing over such image questions. A more plausible explanation for his embrace of the flag pin is that he wants to defuse the patriotism debate.
A: It’s not a lot of speeches. There are two lines in speeches that I’ve been giving over the last couple of weeks. I’ve been campaigning now for the last 2 years. Patrick is a national co-chairman of my campaign, and suggested an argument that I share, that words are important. Words matter. The implication that they don’t I think diminishes how important it is to speak to the American people directly about making America as good as its promise. Barbara Jordan understood this as well as anybody. That I had plagiarized from somebody who was one of my national co-chairs who gave me the line and suggested that I use it is silly, and this is where we start getting into silly season, in politics, and people start getting discouraged about it. What we shouldn’t be spending time doing is tearing each other down. We should be spending time lifting the country up.
A: Well, here’s what I think is important. We’ve got to make sure that whoever wins the most votes, the most states, the most delegates, that they are the nominee [and not] somehow overturned by party insiders.
Q: What do you think should happen, then, to the delegates in Michigan and Florida? Shouldn’t their votes be counted?
A: You know, all we’ve done in this process is to just follow the rules as they’ve been laid out. We abided by the rules that had been set up by the DNC, so we didn’t campaign there.
Q: Is Sen. Clinton trying to change the rules in the middle of the game?
A: It certainly wouldn’t be fair to allocate delegates based on a non-campaign. We did not campaign in those states. So there may be ways that we can manage this--having a caucus for example
Clinton is referring to what Obama told the editorial board of the Reno Gazette-Journal on Jan. 14: “The Republican approach has played itself out. I think it’s fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10, 15 years, in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom. Now, it’s all tax cuts.“
There’s a difference between praising someone for having ideas and praising the idea itself. Obama is doing the former--and just as clearly not doing the latter. He says the GOP approach has ”played itself out,“ for example.
OBAMA I did not compliment Republican ideas. That is not true. What I said was is that Reagan was a transformative political figure because he was able to get Democrats to vote against their economic interests to form a majority to push through their agenda, an agenda that I objected to. While I was working on those streets watching those folks see their jobs shift overseas, Clinton was a corporate lawyer sitting on the board at Wal-Mart. What I said had nothing to do with their policies.
Obama has already brought in a new generation of voters. He led a movement in Chicago in 1992 that registered 150,000 new voters--mostly African Americans--and helped Carol Moseley Braun narrowly win an election to become the first black woman elected to the Senate. Obama’s appeal to voters disenchanted with conventional politics could bring many new voters into the political process.
The 45-year-old has done nothing to squelch the growing frenzy. Obama no longer denies interest in joining the race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Obama indicated that he will weigh the outcome of the Nov. 7 US congressional elections. A Democratic takeover of both the House & Senate would increase the likelihood of Obama vying with Hillary Clinton for the party’s 2008 nomination. “When the election is over and my book tour is done, I will think about how I can be most useful to the country and how I can reconcile that with being a good dad and a good husband,” Obama told Time.
Obama had returned to Chicago from Harvard Law with an eye on the mayor’s office [but Mayor Daley was well-entrenched, so] Obama looked at Congress instead, deciding to challenge Rep. Bobby Rush in the 2000 Democratic primary. To Obama, Rush looked vulnerable [because] Rush had tried to oust Daley in 1998--but he was stomped by the mayor. For this reason, Obama saw Rush as an aging politician ready to be replaced by a younger man with a fresh vision.
“Less than halfway into the campaign, I knew in my bones that I was going to lose,” Obama wrote. Obama lost the election by 30%.
The reason was summed up by one elderly woman who explained to Obama succinctly: “Bobby just ain’t done nothin’ wrong.” Obama said it became clear to him that he had put himself ahead of the electorate, that his own time frame for advancement was not necessarily the same time frame that voters saw for him.
It is clear a vigorous debate on the issues could not take place if I remain in the race. What would take place rather is a brutal scorched-earth campaign, the kind of campaign that has turned off so many voters, the kind of politics I refuse to play.Illinois Republican Party leaders were to meet to choose a replacement candidate within a week [to oppose Democrat Barack Obama]. Ryan decided to quit when polls taken after his custody documents were released showed he had a slim chance of winning. The Illinois US congressional delegation unanimously decided Ryan should be replaced. Ryan’s fate was sealed after a secret conference call among party leaders. Ryan was accused by his then-wife, television actress Jeri Ryan, of taking her to explicit sex clubs in the 1990s and pressuring her to perform sex acts in public.
No black before Obama has employed the bargainer’s charms in pursuit of so high an office. We are used to black challengers, like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. Life-long protesters are not likely to have developed an easy reciprocity with white voters. On the other hand, no one ever asks them if they are black enough.
If, to please blacks, Obama does more challenging, he loses his iconic status with whites. He loses white votes because whites don’t want a challenging Al Sharpton; they want the iconic Negro. If, to please whites, Obama bargains more, he loses votes among blacks--a vital constituency in the Democratic party.
What gives people a jolt in their gut about the idea of President Obama is the idea that it would be a ringing symbol that racism no longer rules our land. President Obama might be a substitute for that national apology for slavery that some consider so urgent. Surely a nation with a black president would be one no longer hung up on race.
Or not. Perhaps Obama is being considered as presidential timber not despite his race, but because of it. That is, for all its good intentions, a dehumanization of Obama. What Obama has done is less important than his skin color and what it means. The content of our character is not center stage here. We are a long way from Selma, but not yet where the Rev. King wanted us to be.
Yet, in the grant scheme of things, I will take a little unintended dehumanization over naked bigotry.
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Newly elected in 2008 & seated in 2009:
Newly appointed in 2009;
special election in 2010:
Announced retirement as of 2010:
Up for 6-year term in 2010:
(13 Democrats; 15 Republicans)
Senate Votes (analysis)