Monday, February 04, 2008

The Obama Opportunity

In today’s Wall Street Journal, three prominent female red-State Democrats - Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill - speak to the “Obama Opportunity.” A couple excerpts:
Once in a generation, an opportunity comes along - not just for the Democratic Party, but for the United States of America - to build a new majority for change. Barack Obama's candidacy offers us that opportunity. As Democrats, and as Americans, we must seize it.

This moment in history is marked by the magnitude of our challenges. Our nation is fighting a war in Iraq that has made us less safe. Our planet is imperiled by a global climate crisis that we have done little to combat. Our economy is sliding toward a recession. Wages aren't keeping pace, as the cost of everything from health care to college is rising. Whether it's a world-class education, a secure mortgage or a dignified retirement, too many Americans are seeing their dreams slip out of reach…

Mr. Obama has lit a spark that has not been seen in American politics in a long time… In his campaign, Mr. Obama has built a movement for change from the bottom up. He draws enormous crowds. He has shattered fundraising records, with some 650,000 contributors and a seemingly limitless ability to tap small donors. He has inspired a flood of new voters, particularly young Americans. He's reached independents and Republicans who have voted for him by large margins. He's won with a diverse coalition, scoring decisive wins in the demographically different states of Iowa and South Carolina. And as the campaign goes national, polls show that the more voters see of Mr. Obama, the more they support him.

No matter how Democrats vote in this election, they will make history. The choice is not between race and gender. It is between the past and the future. We know the Republicans will try to unite their party by fighting the old partisan battles. If we choose Mr. Obama as our nominee, the Republicans won't be able to make this election about the past because we will have already chosen the future - a nominee who can bring all of us together, push back against the special interests, and offer leadership that is honest, open and inspiring.

For the sake of our party and our country, we cannot let this opportunity pass. Now is the time to build a coalition of Democrats, independents and Republicans that finally stretches across Red States and Blue States. Now is the time for us to have the courage to choose to change. Now is the time for Barack Obama.
Meanwhile, in the Washington Post, Peter Wehner speaks to Obama’s appeal amongst Republicans, despite his liberal ideology.

What is at the core of Obama's appeal? Part of it is the eloquence and uplift of his speeches, combined with his personal grace and dignity. By all accounts, Obama is a well-grounded, decent, thoughtful man. He comes across, in his person and manner, as nonpartisan. He has an unsurpassed ability to (seemingly) transcend politics. Even when he disagrees with people, he doesn't seem disagreeable. "You know what charm is," Albert Camus wrote in "The Fall," "a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question." Obama has such charm, and its appeal is not restricted to Democrats.

A second reason Republicans appreciate Obama is that he is pitted against a couple, the Clintons, whom many Republicans hold in contempt… A third reason for Obama's GOP appeal is that unlike Clinton and especially John Edwards, Obama has a message that, at its core, is about unity and hope rather than division and resentment. He stresses that "out of many we are one." And to his credit, Barack Obama is running a color-blind campaign… Obama, more than any figure in America, can help bind up the racial wounds of America. In addition, for the past eight years, one of the most prominent qualities of the American left has been anger, which has served it and the country very poorly. An Obama primary win would be a move away from the politics of rage…

Barack Obama is among the most impressive political talents of our lifetime. If he defeats Hillary Clinton, the question for the general election is not whether he can transcend his race but whether he can reach beyond his ideology.

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