Obama as a Rorschach's Test and his use of language

Quick! "Universal healthcare." Define it for me.  How about defining what "is" means. Or "diplomacy." Better yet, define the word "secular" for me. How about "people of faith" or "civil union." What does "consensus" mean or "socialist?" What does "poverty" mean in this country?

David Mizner has a great diary up right now about how Obama's use of language is misleading. In his diary, he hits on three important elements of politics: a) language; b) character; and c) strategy.  Rather than rehash the arguments here I wish to talk about language.

When I say language, I mean how we define things. When I say define things I mean "to state or set forth the meaning of" and "to explain or identify the nature or essential qualities of." Without commonly understood language that is well defined there can be no real discourse, civil or otherwise. This isn't a theory. This is human existence. If you don't believe me, find one example in which understanding each other in a society isn't crucial. Of all our qualities as a species it is language, which has allowed progress.

For example, when I say "secular" I mean according to the following definition found on dictionary.com: Not specifically relating to religion or to a religious body. There is nothing anti-religious about being secular.

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Yet, some seem to use the following definition: "of or relating to the doctrine that rejects religion and religious considerations." At first blush, this language seems to suggest that secularist indeed can be at odds with people of faith.

This first blush would make sense if not for the following: a) most secularists are people of faith; b) most Democrats are people of faith; c) nearly all, if not all, of the Democratic leadership are members of one of the Abraham traditions. You would have to ignore all of that to conclude the logical syllogism that "All Democrats are against religion" and just as problematic that "most Democrats are against religion" or "important Democrats are against religion."

Why do I apply facts and history to find out which definition is most applicable when most people are talking about secularism? Because of a simple reality- we cannot understand each others definition if we approach each debate like blank slate. Progress requires us to understand reality around us.  Brown v Board was able to redefine "equal opportunity" under the law because we gained an understanding of it that relied on facts rather than supposition.

 The only thing that happens when you ignore history is that you are doomed to repeat it.  We can see this now. We've seen it with Enron. Bush's Iraq policies. Our healthcare situation. There is nothing new under the sun about these things. They've happened before. If we had the discourse of history and meaning and context in 2001 or 2002, I don't know if Iraq would have happened. I am not even sure 9/11 would have happened if we had the right discourse abroad and at home.

Discourse then requires understanding context and history as well as denotations of words to give a connotative sense of meaning. If we do not understand that the second meaning is the one commonly used by Christo-conservatives or that "Most Democrats are both secularists and people of faith," we cannot understand why it would be offensive to tell someone that they are anti-religious for wishing to retain the better parts of the advancements of the Enlightenment.

I suppose if one saw history as weighing one down as it does in the rest of the world this might not be true. Obama's `new politics' seems to be about end of history type of theorizing. The struggle is considered divisive and therefore something to be avoided rather than understood for what it is- how progress happens.

One of my areas of interest is the Black civil rights movement. Did you know that from the time that the NAACP Legal Defense fund took up the strategy to end segregation until it met its goal in Brown it took almost 50 years? Some might see that as a sign for supporting Obama's approach, but they would be missing the deeper history. Each of those 50 years was a struggle.

Many of you may say- well, but I don't believe that. We will have to agree to disagree is the common refrain when hit with the factual assertions such as FDR's approach to politics etc.

This bothers me to know end. Not because I don't think there can be legitimate disagreement, but because in order to reach that point here the approach is often to contort historical facts and revise them to a point where they no longer make sense. We aren't disagreeing over pure opinion. We disagree over facts and definitions. There can be no civil discourse whatsoever if we aren't able to understand common facts and definitions.

I can give a non-Obama example with one commenter who talks of Edwards being the closest to socialism. The dictionary defines socialism as "a theory or system of social organization that advocates the vesting of the ownership and control of the means of production and distribution, of capital, land, etc., in the community as a whole." That definition is pretty strong, but it's not as strong as the connotative meaning of the word in the U.S. When people hear socialism, they think communism. They think about the Cold War.  All this unsaid history and emotions come flooding into our collective consciousness.

Why is all this important you may wonder? Because when listening to politicians and to each other we have to talk in a common language no matter how partisan we are. If we do not- we aren't having a discourse, no matter how politely you say what you are saying. Democracies depend on a common understanding of discourse or else democracies fail.  My tax law professor once told me that the most insidious thing about the Nazis was not that they changed the laws. It was that they changed the meaning of the law without changing a word of the statutes written on the books in some cases. He gave me this warning- Beware people keeping the same words, but giving them a meaning that isn't commonly understood. Always know what people really mean by what they are saying.

Bush has been called the MBA president because he understood that after Clinton one could fill the vacuum left by Clinton with whatever one wanted. He understood Madison Avenue even as the Democrats still do no understand PR. It worked for 6 years. I don't doubt but-for Iraq it would still be working.

I was talking to a rather nice Obama supporter about my chief issue over Obama. Namely, his language is like a Rorschach's test in which the listener fills it with whatever meaning the listener wants. Those who want to believe in him will hear good things because they will take from his words the meaning that fits their views of him. Those who don't feel the spirit can fill his words with something else entirely.

The danger is that in a world with history and meaning he allows room for others to define what he is saying. As to why this bothers me, you must remember I see Bush politics as a natural outgrowth of Clinton politics.

Let me be clear, there is nothing wrong with compromise. There is something wrong with compromise as your chief strategy. One of the problems with it is definition. It politics it is defined or be defined. Whatever we Democrats don't come in Day 1 ready to define is what the GOP will use as an opening to attack. It's how they do politics. That's not going to change for at least another 5 to 10 years until this generation of younger activists push out members.

I had not wanted to talk about healthcare, but I think an example here would help. Many of Obama's apologists  in Mizner's diary were essentially arguing "it's the best we can hope for." I don't know what the eventual compromise would have been or will be for healthcare. I do know that starting off with your opponent's position too much in mind without already having defined your goals is a license for disaster. Negotiation is about not only the other guy, but also yourself. To forget this is to constantly be beaten because you assumed you would be beaten.  Or, in other words, if you start off with half a loaf, the other guy is going to ask for half of that loaf so you will get ¼. If you start off with the whole, you get the half of loaf.

This isn't a perfect analogy. Obviously, we can't know what is the other side's breaking point. But, that's rather the point. We don't know. We assume that we know, and proceed from their based on our fears. The problem with this is that we aren't thinking of definitions or facts or context or history. We are just thinking of fear. To me, although people say Obama is the politics of hope, he feels like in practice the politics of fear.

Edwards' position certainly has its limitations. He will have to compromise. The question isn't whether he will have to compromise in fact. The question is whether he should start off from this position.  We've tried the compromise theory. Again, an honest assessment of history would demonstrate this. When I look at definitions and common language that's what I am looking for his language to reflect. More importantly, one should understand if some people think you are saying one thing, and you mean another, and another set thing you saying something else--it doesn't matter if his supporters "get him." This confusion doesn't allow for a mandate or for the ability to build consensus.  Many of you will spin this- but that remains a truism.

Tags: Barrack Obama, Bill Clinton, consensus, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Language, mandate, meaning, understanding (all tags)



Re: Half a loaf

This was a great, thoughtful diary.  In fact it was a welcome change from the tit for tat exchanges.

Ronald Reagan had to deal with a Democratic House his entire tenure.  Reagan's MO was to take very extreme positions and then compromise at the last possible minute.  In many cases, the man came away with an extreme position (just not so extreme).  As you state, the willingness to compromise from the start gives away at least half a loaf, maybe more.

by David Kowalski 2007-07-26 05:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Half a loaf

That is a good point.  Ask for the moon, fight for the moon, in the end you STILL get a major increase in AIDS research funds, an increase in the EITC, national consensus that we need to raise the minimum wage again, etc.    Obama is talking a lot of bipartisanship, when in reality we have a great chance to ask for our moon and end up with a bunch of things we like, rather than have everything watered down and "consensus-built" right down the compromise middle.  

by georgep 2007-07-26 06:16AM | 0 recs
Re: Half a loaf

Why do you think we're supporting Edwards? Edwards is the only one who has a history of winning against corrupt greedy bastards. He might compromise, but it WILL be on his terms, in this case-our term, cuz he's representing US, the people. I'm tired of schmoozers and negotiators playing the politics of who gets, and who begs and who drops dead.

by cosbo 2007-07-26 10:41AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama as a Rorschach's Test and his use of lan

Very good diary, indeed. It looks like it's cut off, though? Did you have more?

by domma 2007-07-26 06:14AM | 0 recs
Obama's use of language

I agree with you that an aspect (maybe even a key one) of Obama's appeal is his use of language.  

However, you seem to see him using this skill in order to please all people (please correct me if I've misread your diary).  I see Obama choosing his words just as intentionally as you do.  But I see his purpose as making sure not to exclude anyone from the conversation before the conversation even begins.

Now you and I and he may disagree about whether all parties are worthy of participation in any given conversation, but that is a separate matter.

On the subject of negotiation skills, I actually feel pretty comfortable with Obama on this.  His record speaks well about his ability to achieve positive results, even ones deemed supposedly impossible (like video-taped confessions in Illinois.  It's probably relevant too that he apparently achieved this by going straight to the "lion's den" to negotiate/discuss with those who were most opposed).

by kiwing 2007-07-26 06:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

His campaign strategy and time in Congress hasn't indicated a strong negotiator. If this were poker, I would say he has too many tells. We know when he will fold before he even folds. His strategy produces predictability in the worse possible way, but offers no definitions in the worse possible way. A bad combination. I don't question his desire or his progressive creds. I question his effectiveness for shaping the national agenda with such strategy. Most of the Presidency is about symbolism in terms of shaping the agenda as anything else. His failure is there- just as it would be in a game of poker.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:08AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

It sounds like you are looking for an advocate.  I believe too that you're supporting Edwards?  There's a good match there in what you're seeking and the area Edwards excels.

For me, I think I am seeking not so much an advocate as a problem solver.  Yes, both need to know when to fight and how to fight, but it's also a given to me that their styles would differ.

I should say too (though this might be heresy on this site)... just as I don't believe Christianity has any monopoly on truth, I don't believe the Democratic party has any monopoly on good ideas.  Now, I do believe the Democrats have better values and that's why I call myself a Democrat (since Dean's invitation in 2003).

by kiwing 2007-07-26 12:00PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

the function of the president is to be an advocate- problem solving is only produced through advocation. it's not what i want as you say. it's what hte job entails.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 12:26PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

I think we will have to agree to disagree on this.  I enjoyed the conversation though.  Thanks for that.

On a separate but related (and I think interesting) note, I recall reading an opinion piece recently about how Hillary Clinton never found her groove in politics until she stopped being (just?) an advocate.  I'll post a link if I can recall where that was.

by kiwing 2007-07-26 01:21PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

that would be cool thx

by bruh21 2007-07-26 01:33PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

One more note that seems relevant:

In the videotape confession agreement, I understand that there was no watering down of what defense-advocates wanted.  Rather Obama approached those who most opposed videotaping, and tried honestly to understand their concerns and interests.  Having done so, he was able to point out to them that what they opposed was in fact in their own best interest.  Law enforcement became among the main forces pushing the bill forward.

This is not triangulation nor what one typically calls compromise.  

Now, I'm not going to daydream that this approach can solve all the problems in our country and world today -- sometimes our best interests may truly conflict at all levels.  But it's apparent to me that where it works, we will have solutions with the greatest chances of working long term.  

(btw, I'm not an Obama expert.  I'm still in progress learning about all the candidates).

by kiwing 2007-07-26 12:22PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

you talking about a different point here. there is a difference between understanding others and shaping polciies according to them.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 12:28PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama's use of language

Part of my point is that policies shaped with an understanding of all parties have the greatest chance of long term success.  

Yes, sometimes that's not possible and we need to proceed anyway...

by kiwing 2007-07-26 01:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Obama as a Rorschach's Test

Excellent, well-reasoned analysis.  You indentifed what I do not like about Obama. First, the disguising of views in intentional.  Second, he gives up way too much before he starts.  Those who have taken so much will not give up without a fight.  Neither are willing to risk for real change.

I also agree that Edwards may have to compromise.  But because he is upfront with what he is fighting for, he will have popular support. If we do have to compromise, we will get more.  Clinton does not want deep change and Obama gives up way too mcuh before any negotiations start.  

Edwards is more FDR than Eugene Debs.  I might prefer Debs, but we need a new FDR now.  We need real changes.        

by TomP 2007-07-26 06:28AM | 0 recs
Excellent piece

Orwellian, in the good way. Orwell taught us that when the powerful start perverting langauge, we should be concerned. And the converse is true: precision of language, truth, is a prequsite for positive change.

by david mizner 2007-07-26 06:30AM | 0 recs
I agree, David.

Mystification of language hides power relationships.  I do not trust Obama.

by TomP 2007-07-26 06:32AM | 0 recs
Re: I agree, David.

So you trust Clinton? She is a flip flooper who tacts with the latest polls.

by BDM 2007-07-26 07:32AM | 0 recs
I said nothing about

Hillary Clinton.  I said that Obama's use of language to obfuscate makes me not trust him.

I know where Clinton stands.  I disagree with her on many issues.

by TomP 2007-07-26 07:39AM | 0 recs
Re: I said nothing about

Who do you support?

by BDM 2007-07-26 07:45AM | 0 recs
John Edwards.

I see little fundamental difference between what Barack Obama offers and what Hillary Clinton offers.  Obama may be slightly better on a few issues, but his vaguness of language and choice ot avoid real issues makes it impossible for me to know.

by TomP 2007-07-26 07:49AM | 0 recs

Let's imagine that John Edwards dropped out (hope he doesn't and don't think he will).

What kinds of things would Obama need to do to gain your trust?  To what extent is it about communication vs. policy vs. strategy/tactics?

by chicago jeff 2007-07-26 08:39AM | 0 recs
Re: Trust

Those things are interelated. How he chooses the communicate, what he chooses to do, etc are all signs of how he will choose to govern. The chief power of the presidency outside of executing laws is the power of the bullypulpit. The chief concern that I with Obama is that he doesn't seem to "get" this aspect of the job he's wanting to take on. If John Edwards plans see like more than we can get that's because they m aybe are- the difference is that the point of leadership. To go after your goal. It doesn't mean you don't compromise along the way, but it does define the vision thing. Consensus isn't a vision.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:21AM | 0 recs
Mystification of language hides...

...power relationships.  Jesus.  Unless you're a college sophomore trying to impress a date, that's lame as hell.  This diary is a long (very long) winded way of saying Obama doesn't always say what he means.  Wow.  You guys really get it. Politicians sometimes hedge on things to increase their options.  I think I already knew that.  

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 07:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Mystification of language hides...

I thought the diary was well written.  I have a J.D.

You missed the whole point of the diary. Nice attempt at a strawman, though.

by TomP 2007-07-26 07:50AM | 0 recs
Oh, TomP has a JD...
and I dared to critique you. My apologies.  Thanks for putting me in my place...
This stuffed shirt, pseudo-intellectual bullshit is the kind of stuff that needs to be weeded out of this site and Kos.  JD or not, Tom, you're full of it.
by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 08:57AM | 0 recs
Well, you are quite

rude.  I do not find your use of language or sneering manner to reflect much intelligence.

by TomP 2007-07-26 11:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Mystification of language hides...

if you are uninterested in someone making their case by being thorough in their analysis perhaps you should stick with MSM. They are good at soundbites.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Mystification of language hides...

um...very effective use of language there.

by cosbo 2007-07-26 10:46AM | 0 recs

That could mean problems for Obama, especially the more debates, the closer to the primaries, as things get more intense and more people are paying closer attention.

I think many still aren't paying to close attention to the presidential campaign - many I talk to think it is still to far out. So this could become more an more of a problem as more people start paying closer attention.

by dk2 2007-07-26 08:12AM | 0 recs

I'm not even sure what you're trying to argue here. You seem to be implying that Barack Obama is less than exact with his language, but you give no examples or arguments to prove your point. All you do is rehash the old argument about whether partisanship is or is not the best way to get things done.

Contrary to your assertions, Obama doesn't start off with half a loaf--he starts with a whole loaf and butters that loaf with a little thing called diplomacy. With his approach, in the end, we end up with the whole loaf. It's the road of partisan bickering that leads to everyone splitting the crumbs that are left over.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 08:23AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

Or, to take your "loaf" analogy even further, let's remember we all make the loaves every day. If our government is too busy engaging in petty childish squabling then that means they aren't making any loaves. In that case we all go hungry.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 08:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

About the only thing you add to the conversation is this:

"If our government is too busy engaging in petty childish squabling then that means they aren't making any loaves"

And this statement is why you don't get politics or what's at stake. Of course there are squabbles- that's because things like healthcare and Iraq matters. You assume agreement where there is none, and then you are bothered when you find out that there isn't any. That sums up the mentality of too many Obama supporters in a nutshell. There are very real differences among Americans that can not be glossed over by wishful thinking.

This reminds me by analogy of Bush in the 2000 debates. When asked what he would do with the Israeli/Palestenian conflict, his answer (and one of his supporters loved the answer) was "I will sit them down to get them talking to each other." He never explained how the process would occur. You like the woman who accepted that answer don't seem much interested in the process. Politics isn't a nice easy process. That's one of the cornerstones of politics. Things get done in this conflict not outside of it.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:15AM | 0 recs
bruh21, no one cares.

Your posts always reek of condescension, ie "this statement is why you don't get politics..." We get it. We just don't agree with you.  Your arguments are immature and harsh, always.  You're the kind of person people who care about politics have to put up with in order to play in this game.

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 09:25AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

if you don't care why are you here?

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:32AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

I care about this election, this country, and this candidate. I don't care what pontificators like you say.  

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 09:35AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

again- why are you here in my diary? there are multiple other places you can show you care. i am one blogger with an opinion. maybe the real issue is its hit a nerve for you.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:38AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

I have an addiction to faux philosophical discussions, larded with terms like "syllogism" and "historical context"...I love that crap.  Kos and MyDD have way more than their share of self-important lecturer-types, people who probably can't get anyone to listen to them in other parts of their lives, but they can drone on here endlessly, educating the ignorant hordes.  I can't avoid this stuff.  And you're the king of it.

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 09:46AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

okay if you say so. still dont know why you are here otehr than you don't like the content. but no that cant be it because you are about a new approach to politics.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:59AM | 0 recs
Re: bruh21, no one cares.

I'm here because you're ragging on my man Barack.  No other reason.  Clark was my first choice, so I'm not some starstuck type.  I just think he can win, he's positioned to do this right, he has less baggage than HRC...I do think the fixation on language definition is a waste of time.  I don't begrudge you your right to raise it, just the condescending way you do it.  

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 10:04AM | 0 recs
Talk about

projection.  Your posts reek of condescension and, frankly, ignorance.

As for your "man, Barack," you sound like a teenager.  

Bruh is being kind about Obama.  

by TomP 2007-07-26 11:25AM | 0 recs
Wow, you just

are a real jerk, aren't you?  

Insulting people right and left.  Quite arrogant and adding nothing to the discussion.  I wonder why your ego is so weak as to find it necessary to come here and tell people how much more intelligent you are then any of us.  

by TomP 2007-07-26 11:21AM | 0 recs
Hey, I'm not the one lecturing the peasants..

that's you and Bruh.  Your feigned intellectualism is boring (and in Bruh's case, badly written as well).  My ego is weak? You're the one feeling the need to cite academic credentials on here.  A bit pathetic, Tom old boy.

by PositiveLiberty 2007-07-26 11:42AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

No one, especially not Obama, has said there wouldn't be any struggle. The difference is whether the focus is a pragmatic one of 'getting things done' or a confrontational strategy of 'beating the enemy.' If you focus on 'beating the enemy' you're not likely to get things done.

As for Bush's "I will sit them down to get them talking to each other." comment, it's too bad he never did that, because if he had he might have gotten something done.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 09:28AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

who determines whats pragmatic? with whom are you trying to be pragamatic? what do you think they will agree to that's going to create this pragmatici solutions. I look at what you say and I see a lot of undefined terms and people and situations. I then see you quickly gloss that over, and come up with a compromise without explaining exactly from where you are creating it. It's like announcing that one is going to charge 5 bucks for a card and when asked why by the customer, your response is that it's pragmatic. The chief problem with that assumption is that pragmatic, and what is  or isn't, is not a fixed term. It's shaped by history, context etc. Simply saying well he goes for less for example of healthcare because it's pragmatic isn't a response because its vague.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:36AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

What I see is that you are advocating an approach less like what Bush said in that debate, and more like what he actually did once in office. His "with us or against us," his refusal to talk to "enemy regimes" and his confrontation over diplomacy tactics are a big part of why we are in such a mess as we are in.

As for undefined terms--your diary indicates you know where dictionary.com is. I don't think I used any terms in an unusual way, so look it up if you don't know what a word means.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 09:47AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

and what of reagan, or fdr or multiple other examples that i can give that says your position is indeed the wrong one?

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:57AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

You gave no such examples. All you did was meander all over the place defining such terms as "secular" (for no apparent reason) and implying your point without ever making it. You never even mentioned Reagan that I can find, and you mentioned FDR once but gave no example.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 10:19AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

by the way- aer you saying you advocate bush's strategy of having lied to voters. how is that new politics?

by bruh21 2007-07-26 10:00AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

No. I'm saying the opposite. Bush's whole Presidency is a perfect example of the political philosophy you are promoting--not in the sense of his goals, but in the sense of his inability to listen to anyone who doesn't believe the same way he does, and his unwillingness to compromise. His lies leading up to the war were an outgrowth of his certainty he is right and anyone who disagrees is wrong and therefor 'enemy.'

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 10:22AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

go back and read what you wrote and then read what i wrote.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 10:25AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

I have.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

i asked a series of questions above of you- none of which you answer- just prattle own about my not listening. you may want to look in the mirror.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 10:26AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

I never said you didn't listen, although ironically, the fact that you think I did does seem to indicate you weren't listening.

Look, the fact is your diary makes no sense. You go on paragraph after paragraph making the obvious case that agreement on the meaning of terms is essential to communication. Duh. But what does that have to do with Barack Obama? Obama is one of the clearest communicators out there, and if you want to argue otherwise you have not done that. You claim his language is like a Rorschach's test, but offer nothing more than a baseless assertion to back it up. If he really "allowed room for others to define what he's saying" as you said, then why can't you find one example and prove it by defining it for him? But you can't because you're just spouting nonsense.

Then you try to link Obama's diplomacy with Bush administaration policy, as if GWB even knows the meaning of the word diplomacy. And you don't even see that the approach you are arguing in favor of is far far far closer to Bush's way of thinking than it is to Obama's.

Oh well.

by Mystylplx 2007-07-26 11:58AM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

the fact is other people who read did understand which means its you who has the problem not my diary.

by bruh21 2007-07-26 12:25PM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

i might add a few obama supporters. so trying to spin this as confused writing doesn't make it so. learn to think outside of yourself.,

by bruh21 2007-07-26 12:30PM | 0 recs
Re: Semantics

Right. His police interrogations bill is a perfect example of this. He should trumpet this formulation of the consensus motive more.

by Anonymous1 2007-07-26 09:09AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama as a Rorschach's Test and his use of lan

Hi bruh21,

I appreciate your work on this thoughtful diary.

Obama does have a problem in that there are vague claims made about him by supporters.  But as with any candidate there are a host of folks who are pulled by the appeal and don't understand too deeply about why the appeal is there.  For Obama, some people intuit an authenticity and sincerity about him having a different vision even if they can't put their finger on it.

This is part of the reason some people perceive him as using compromise as his chief strategy.  I think that is a complete misreading of Obama.  I agree with Mark Schmitt:

[Obama] alone seems to have a theory about the next era of politics, not the last. His appeal to unity is not as soft or aloof as it may seem. What's most interesting about it is that he's calling for an engagement with ideological conservatism itself, rather than with powerful interests. There's a real difference between calling for bipartisanship, as Senators Hillary Clinton and John McCain do, and calling for a mutual attempt to understand and respect the conservative worldview.

In other words he is not merely interested in trading chits with political opponents as an accomodation or preempting their power by delivering on some of their policy goals.  He is invested in understanding reasons for legitimate concerns they have and how they might be met.

The whole article from Schmitt is entitled, "Obama and the Rules".  Schmitt concludes the article with:

A call for unity and common ground can be a mark of naïvete about power or the grasping last bid of a failing candidate. But it can also be a profoundly smart political act, one very conscious of power, defining the scope of conflict in a way that defines us broadly and them narrowly. I'm willing to bet that an old Chicago community organizer has no naïvete about power and understands exactly why the rules have to change.

by Satya 2007-07-26 09:17AM | 0 recs
Re: Obama as a Rorschach's Test and his use of lan

That's possible. That consensus becomes a way for threading the needle by saying "see , I have consensus on universal healthcare" but in actuality that is just a buzzword for meaning- here's my policy that is really very progressive, but I am creating the image that it's already the consense.  If I felt that was his approach I would agree with it as an effective strategy.I wouldn't like it for branding, but I could at least understand it.  The problem is factually there is nothing to indicate right now that this is what Obama is doing. When he talks of healthcare, he talks of universal healthcare, but ends up giving us a plan that compromises before he has even begun the fight. It's a matter of where he chooses to compromise and how and with whom. None of this is easy stuff. I would never pretend it is. But if you have studied this stuff as I did you come to realize there are only so many approaches to leadership. None of it is really new. It's just coming from a new person each time. The question is whether his strategies are what you think they are? My feeling- and why I use the term Rorschach's test to describe him above is that my analysis more accurately reflects the dynamic

by bruh21 2007-07-26 09:31AM | 0 recs
Speaking of Obama ....

I couldn't help but notice his ears during the debate.   They are friggin as big as dinner plates.  They are sort of distracting when you try to look at him.

As for his language and "uuuuhmmmms" and "aaahhhs" are just annoying when he rambles on during interviews and the debates.

by dpANDREWS 2007-07-26 11:01AM | 0 recs
Re: Speaking of Obama ....

That is the substantive criticism that this site is known for.

by This Machine Kills Fascists 2007-07-26 11:13AM | 0 recs


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