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Of Hype and Hope

Daniel Edwards is the embodiment of the fabled youth vote and the archetype of the Barack Obama supporter. Young, educated, and politically informed, Edwards holds the hope for the New Hope of the Democratic party, but a recent Obama rally in Iowa (yes the one where Obama mentioned the "wasted" lives in Iraq) has left this ISU senior wondering if there's more than hot air propelling the Obama campaign. After all, it takes more than just the audacity of hope to win the Presidency and Edwards would like a few things answered before he gets in line behind Barack Obama.

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Of Hype and Hope
By Daniel Edwards

I have very little doubt that Barack Obama could be the next great American President if elected. But the key words in that statement are "if elected." His hype-fueled caravan slipped through Ames, IA recently with enough buzz in tow to half-pack an arena with over 6,000 bodies. Granted, I haven't been in the game all that long, but I've never seen anything like it in the political realm. Still though, with so much distance between today and primary season, I have to ask myself a couple important questions.

The first of these is about sustainability. People older than I may have some historical context to relate back to, but I have nothing in my head aside from the dramatic fall of Howard Dean three years ago. Overnight, the guy was downgraded from leader of the pack to screaming lunatic. If that much can happen in 24 hours, what's in store for Team Obama during the next year? As the New Hope of Democrats, you can bet there's a massive bull's eye on the guy and nobody can withstand two years of that kind of scrutiny. It's not a question of If, but Where, When, and How will Barack's bubble of hype implode and can he survive as a candidate without it?

It's not hurting right now, but the hysteria surrounding Obama won't win him the election in 2008. It won't even win him the Democratic nomination. Drawing thousands of people to an arena on a Sunday afternoon is good publicity, but in the long run, politically, it's meaningless. Obama's speech was about as mundane as a speech could be and stands only as a testament to the fact that whipping hordes of like-minded people into a sign waving frenzy of applause is easier than microwaving a bag of popcorn.

The speech covered a handful of the liberal bases: energy independence, environmental sustainability, an end to the Iraq "conflict," universal health care. He even threw out a few bi-partisan standards: an end to political cynicism, uniting the two parties, etc. Okay. That got the kids jumping around, got the signs high in the air, but if I'm not mistaken, he didn't tell us how he's going to accomplish any of it. Frankly, after the last six years, I'm a little sick of politicians with no plan. So, you know, Barack, if you've got one, you might want to start telling people about it.

And that leads into my next question. After the last six years, can I risk casting a vote for Obama? There are no guarantees in politics, I know this, but considering the state of our nation and of the world, I'm going to find it very hard to do anything aside from throwing my support behind the leading Democratic candidate and crossing my fingers. And I think a lot of the country feels the same way, which leads me to believe that we're going to need a safer candidate if we want to stand a chance at getting our country back. The idea of "voting your conscious" for long-shot candidates (hello Ralph Nader!) was a luxury in 2000, it's an irresponsible joke now. I fear the euphoria surrounding Barack Obama may have people forgetting that, which is exactly what John McCain and other neo-Bushies are counting on.

Don't think that I don't hope that I'm wrong. I hope the uninspiring Ames event was an anomaly and that Barack Obama is more than a perfectly tailored, finely made, but ultimately Empty Suit. The Ames rally left me feeling that Obama is, at least currently, mainly concerned with propelling his own hype, saying what needs to be said and riding the wave until the new year. That's all well and good, but what he needs to be doing is using that hype while he has it. He needs to be proving to every single person in that crowd that he is worth taking a chance on, that our nation needs us to take a chance on him. He needs to be proving that the buzz has bones, and he didn't prove that to me on a cold Iowa Sunday. He didn't even come close. And if he keeps squandering these appearances, the inevitable hype-balloon implosion is going to take his campaign right along with it.

Comments

Great article. I'm not sure what he could do to help it, either; the problem is, his reputation in Washington is not so hot. He's always out pushing himself and rarely in for the nitty gritty. For example, how will he be able to demonstrate foreign policy know-how?

George W. Bush wasn't exactly well-studied on the topic, but the times (2000) didn't call for it, and there was always having a dad/crew who did know foreign policy to fall back on.

"...and there was always having a dad/crew who did know foreign policy to fall back on."

Too bad he didn't. I'm not a huge fan of James Baker by any means, but he, Scowcroft, et al. would have been hella better than W's crew.

No question. Here's McCain yesterday: "I think Don Rumsfeld will go down as one of the worst defense secretaries of defense in history."

Foreign policy is going to be an enormous issue for the next election. How do we continue is a way that is morally and strategically correct? Not just in Iraq. If Bush had faced McCain under such conditions in 2000 you have to wonder whether McCain would have been the nominee, despite the obvious pre-annointing of Bush by the party leadership.

excuse the typo

Nice work. I tried to see the Obama stop here in Cedar Rapids and tickets were sold out as soon as he hopped on the bus from Springfield.
Unbelievable.
Edwards does a good job and, as a Democrat, it's a great feeling to have such intelligent young people joining the ranks and raising some very legitimate questions.
Like:
"After the last six years, can I risk casting a vote for Obama? There are no guarantees in politics, I know this, but considering the state of our nation and of the world, Iím going to find it very hard to do anything aside from throwing my support behind the leading Democratic candidate and crossing my fingers."
Dude, try over twenty years of this shit! The first election I ever participated in saw me casting a vote for Walter Mondale. MONDALE!
The college daze got me caught up in the entire Jessie Jackson vibe and even as late as '96, I was throwing protest votes out for Nader. It was safe. I'm sorry.
But here's what I've learned since then:
1.) Nader is a wack-job and 3rd party candidates will never amount to any credibility on the national level.
2.) The Iowa caucus, as flawed as it may seem to others, is a wonderful grassroots effort. To the point that, if you've got the hustle, you can make a real difference on the local level. Example: the last caucus in my old address (heavy labor and blue collar) was supposed to be Gephardt's to lose. Some strong organization put Edwards well ahead of him (some labor thugs actually walked out of the caucus instead of joining a viable candidate) as well as Kerry and Dean (who were very organized and shell-shocked that their candidate placed third). Edwards came in 1st in my ward and 2nd in the state. Point is: if you believe in a candidate, and if electibility is the concern, there's a good chance that you can organize your cronies and make a difference on the local level.
3.) Hope wins elections. Roosevelt, Kennedy, Clinton, etc. all won the election on the pretense of hope. Obama's got this going for him and his initial forays into the arena are merely laying the groundwork for this message.
There's a long way between now and 11/08. Obama's focus has got to be building the warchest and he's doing an admirable job of it. I think he understands itís going to be a long expensive road to the White House and that road is going to be filled with a few second and third place primaries. The "meat" of his message will come later. This was after all his "announcement tour" and not a real issues event.
Personally, I think he'll be able to use his lack of practical experience as leverage, including foreign policy matters where the "old guard" has completely fucked us anyway.
So let him use the hype to raise money. If he fails to deliver the message you want to hear, make your feelings heard to the state organizers of his campaign. See if the threat of diminishing support (particularly from archetypical voters) grabs his attention.
For the record, I haven't committed towards any candidate yet, but the hype machine is working somewhat and Obama is making me feel good. Considering the current state of politics, can you fault me for wanting to feel good again?

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