Sunday, July 13, 2008

“How Chicago Shaped Obama” or "Whatever It Takes to Win"

Barack Obama received the title of presumptive nominee of the Democratic party over a month ago, and the latest LATimes/Bloomberg poll shows President Bush’s approval rating is at 23%. Given the circumstances, you could legitimately expect Obama to have a solid lead over his Republican opponent John McCain, especially since Obama has repeatedly charged that McCain’s election would essentially mean a third Bush term. Instead the RCP average shows the national race in a dead heat with Obama barely maintaining a 3.8 lead.

Over at Newsweek, Jonathan Darman suggests that Obama’s falling poll numbers might result from his vigorous efforts to reposition himself after his left-wing base - with a mighty boost from the DNC and the liberal (except for women’s rights) media - propelled him to victory in the primary.

Hang tight, Obama supporters; your candidate knows what he’s doing. Ryan Lizza’s well-researched, 13-page article in the New Yorker, Making It, How Chicago Shaped Obama, could just have easily have been titled, The Obama Saga: Whatever It Takes to Win.

Here’s how the story begins:

“One day in 1995, Barack Obama went to see his alderman, an influential politician named Toni Preckwinkle, on Chicago’s South Side, where politics had been upended by scandal. Mel Reynolds, a local congressman, was facing charges of sexual assault of a sixteen-year-old campaign volunteer. (He eventually resigned his seat.) The looming vacancy set off a fury of ambition and hustle; several politicians, including a state senator named Alice Palmer, an education expert of modest political skills, prepared to enter the congressional race. Palmer represented Hyde Park—Obama’s neighborhood, a racially integrated, liberal sanctuary—and, if she ran for Congress, she would need a replacement in Springfield, the state capital. Obama at the time was a thirty-three-year-old lawyer, university lecturer, and aspiring office-seeker, and the Palmer seat was what he had in mind when he visited Alderman Preckwinkle.”

Palmer lost the congressional race and decided to run again for her former seat in the state senate. Lizza describes below how Obama used Chicago-style operators to win the race:

‘“… Publicly, Obama was conciliatory about the awkward political situation, telling the Hyde Park Herald that he understood that some people were upset about the “conflict between old loyalties and new enthusiasms.” Privately, however, he unleashed his operators. With the help of the Dobrys, he was able to remove not just Palmer’s name from the ballot but the name of every other opponent as well. ‘He ran unopposed, which is a good way to win,’ Mikva said, laughing at the recollection. And Palmer said last week, ‘Anyone who enters Chicago politics and can’t take the rough and tumble shouldn’t be there. Losing the seat was just that—not the end of the world.’”

Here’s the eye-opening message to Obama’s left-wing base in the Democratic party who earnestly believed that Obama represented the answer to all their prayers. As Oprah put it: “He’s the one we’ve been waiting for.”

Lizza explains:

'“Perhaps the greatest misconception about Barack Obama is that he is some sort of anti-establishment revolutionary. Rather, every stage of his political career has been marked by an eagerness to accommodate himself to existing institutions rather than tear them down or replace them. When he was a community organizer, he channelled his work through Chicago’s churches, because they were the main bases of power on the South Side. He was an agnostic when he started, and the work led him to become a practicing Christian. At Harvard, he won the presidency of the Law Review by appealing to the conservatives on the selection panel. In Springfield, rather than challenge the Old Guard Democratic leaders, Obama built a mutually beneficial relationship with them. 'You have the power to make a United States senator,' he told Emil Jones in 2003. In his downtime, he played poker with lobbyists and Republican lawmakers. In Washington, he has been a cautious senator and, when he arrived, made a point of not defining himself as an opponent of the Iraq war.”'

Lizza points out:

“Like many politicians, Obama is paradoxical. He is by nature an incrementalist, yet he has laid out an ambitious first-term agenda (energy independence, universal health care, withdrawal from Iraq). He campaigns on reforming a broken political process, yet he has always played politics by the rules as they exist, not as he would like them to exist. He runs as an outsider, but he has succeeded by mastering the inside game. He is ideologically a man of the left, but at times he has been genuinely deferential to core philosophical insights of the right.”

After reading Lizza’s article in its entirety, no Obama supporter should suffer any further pangs of disillusionment as the remainder of the general election campaign unfolds. The would-be-inheritor of the legend of Camelot (as promoted by Ted and Caroline Kennedy) has already been revealed as just another calculating, poll-driven, old-style Chicago politician.


  1. Funny thing you should mention the polls, Virginia. How much mention have you seen of those numbers on HuffPo or any other Obama mouthpiece blog? None. Why? Because what is happening now is exactly what I predicted would happen. My father, a staunch Republican, was very open about what he, and his fellow Repbulicans in Minnesota and surrounding states (and I'm sure elsewhere)did. They caucused for Obama. They did so because they knew that he was beyond a shadow of a doubt, beatable. My father openly admitted that Republicans would have a difficult, if not impossible time, winning the White House if they were up against Senator Clinton. So, they came up with a smart, workable, easy strategy that anyone with half a brain could have seen through. The only question one had to ask was why Hillary beat Obama in what I refer to as "true primary" states and Obama beat her in caucus states? It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that out, but naive Obama supporters, even in the face of drastically falling poll numbers, refuse to see the light.

    All that said, my prediction very early on in this process was that Republicans would caucus for Obama to push him over the top and that if he were the Democratic nominee, we would have 4 years of McCain. Actually, my exact words were "He's gonna get his @$$ handed to him."

    By the way Virginia, my family lives in Stillwater and I used to travel to St. Paul quite a bit on business. I love seeing your pictures! Put up more so I'm not so homesick... :~)

  2. Hi Crazy Dreamer,

    It's always great to hear from you, and I'll see if I can come up with more St. Paul pictures!

    And thanks for your input. That theory of Republican sabotage of the Democratic primary makes a lot of sense to me.

    Hope you're checking out the Denver Group and Heidi Li Feldman's blog, Heidi Li's Potpourri. Heidi is a law professor at Georgetown University in DC who has been working hard to make sure Hillary's name is on the ballot in Denver and also placed in nomination (it's a twofold process). That way, the superdelegates can vote for her if they so choose. Wouldn't it be something if the tide suddenly turned, and she got the nomination after all?

  3. Hi Crazy Dreamer,

    It's always great to hear from you. I'll see what I can do about more St. Paul pictures!

    That Republican strategy of supporting Obama in the caucus states makes a lot of sense to me.

    Be sure to check in at Heidi Li's Potpourri and at the Denver Group (links at Katalusis). Heidi Li is a law professor at Georgetown in DC, and she's working to keep Clinton's name on the ballot in Denver. Wouldn't it be something if she won the nomination at the convention?

  4. Thanks Virginia. I'll certainly check out Heidi's site. Oh, and I would LOVE it if Senator Clinton won the nomination. The Republicans woudn't know what to do with themselves!