Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Obama opts in

By Michael J.W. Stickings

Probably.

Here's WaPo: "Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D), one of the Democratic Party's brightest young stars, jumped into the 2008 race for the White House today, establishing a presidential exploratory committee that is expected to lead immediately into a full-blown campaign for president."

A bright young star indeed.

I like Obama, don't get me wrong. He may very well be the future of the Democratic Party. And perhaps that future will come sooner than expected. But expectations are awfully high. It's one thing to be a bright young star, quite another to be a party's saviour. Perhaps saviour is too strong a word, but it would be a mistake, I think, for Democrats to pin their hopes on Obama so prematurely. There is a lot of time left before '08. And, hopefully, a lot of time left in Obama's political career.

And he has a lot to prove. The expectations demand it. That '04 convention speech was stirring, and Obama shows signs of the sort of bully-pulpit qualities the presidency requires, but saying the right things at the right times isn't enough. Nor are hollow soundbites, no matter how quotable, no matter how inspiring. I do not doubt that he is a man of substance and profundity, but the junior senator from Illinois, still so raw, must add solidity to his vision. His lack of experience means the lack of a disturbing track record, of the sort that plagues senators more than governors, but he must prove to be more than an Oprah-oriented talk-show celebrity. It's one thing to talk about race, sex, and religion, quite another actually to do something about America's ills. He is running for commander-in-chief, after all, not therapist-in-chief.

And yet he immediately jumps to the front of the pack, ahead of Edwards and Clinton, Clark and Richardson, Kerry and the rest. Which is to be expected. He is an exciting candidate and there are good reasons to be excited, whatever my reservations.

But the hype will pass. It's time to see what Obama is really all about.

(For more, see Shakespeare's Sister, The Impolitic, Taylor Marsh, The Democratic Daily, and The Moderate Voice.)

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