Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Obama dilemmas

By Carol Gee

Today, Senator Barack Obama faces a very tough time, as does Senator Hillary Clinton. But their tough days spring from very different causes. They are very distinct people with dissimilar personalities and values. They are not the only ones facing a dilemma today. All of us "political junkies" do, too. We face anxiety, distorted thinking, difficulty maintaining focus, and a hard time thinking wisely. These are subjects upon which I have concentrated in a few of my recent posts at South by Southwest. Today's post collects from that writing in three posts.

Today has voters in Indiana and North Carolina as anxiously casting their ballots as those of us who have already voted. It is basic to voting to want it to make a difference. Sometimes getting back to basics helps me deal with anxiety, as in this post, "Obama's Speech on Race -- Good Reminders" (S/Sw -- 4/2/08):

In this fast moving Democratic political race it sometimes helps to get back to the basics. Here are some of my "bottom lines." Standing back like this helps me maintain my optimism during tough times for my candidate.

  • I have already cast my vote -- for Barack Obama. And I would not do it over because of what happened on 3/18/08, his speech on race. It can be reviewed again from the NYT: "Obama on Race."

  • I will still support whomever is the Democratic nominee in the general election in November. And I hope it is Senator Obama. Neither candidate is perfect. Both have baggage. Each is strong enough to carry it. From Memeorandum -- Glenn Greenwald posted on the Obama speech: Obama's faith in the reasoning abilities of the American public is powerful stuff.

Will the way we think about the Democratic opponents and the overall political situation help us or hurt us? Recently at my other blog, 4/20/08 @ S/Sw, I asked myself the question, "Is there any way to know?" To quote my earlier thoughts on how distorted political or media thinking can cause dilemmas:

With these statements [see colored listing below], is it possible to pick out cognitive distortions that keep some in the political process more upset than is necessary? Can perfectly sane members of the body politic of an entire nation be thinking irrationally, have symptoms of emotional instability?

. . . The body politic does not need a formal diagnosis, in my opinion. We just need help with our perfectly normal adjustment needs. We might need to have an argument with the following thinking distortions:

Not this -- When listening to others I get the impression that some do not have a lot of faith that our nation can right itself ever again. But this -- There is no logical reason that our nation is not capable of making a normal adjustment.

Not this -- People I know think that the Democrats stand a good chance of losing the general election due to their own disunity. But this -- It is OK to believe both candidates' stated commitments to party unity. They will be able to lead their own followers.

Not this -- Her supporters think Hillary Clinton has gotten a raw deal from the press, that she is a victim of gender bias, sexism, etc. But this -- Obama has also experienced racial bias, class bias, etc. That's politics and normal media bias.

Not this -- Occasionally disgruntled people openly say, "We'll never recover. So much damage has been done that it is like the fall of Rome." But this -- Our nation has a good history of resilience and recovery. History shows it may be the end of a conservative cycle.

What has changed? Not long after the very big Pennsylvania primary, I posted "Reflections on the Standoff," 4/23/08 @ S/Sw. I want to quote just a bit of it that pertains to the upcoming dilemma of maintaining focus after the results come in from Indiana and North Carolina:

Obama has shifted his focus to Senator McCain at this point. There are several more things it would be helpful for him to do. Obama should also focus on a positive, tough and smart campaign. There is no good reason in the world that this fine candidate should not come out of the convention with the nomination and with the support of almost all Democrats. Everyone needs to remember the REAL DEAL -- The Republicans need to go down to defeat in November. The rest of it is mere details.

The Best Advice -- Thinking wisely sometimes gets lost in the distractions and the flurry of this hard fought campaign. To close today's post I drew again from "Obama's Speech on Race -- Good Reminders" S/Sw --4/2/08. I called on the wisdom of our elder statesman, former Governor Mario Cuomo of New York. To quote:

. . . In conclusion I include this -- From DMI Blog: Mario Cuomo blogs, came a set of the wise ex New York Governor's blog posts about governance, composed in September of last year. From Cuomo's initial piece I quote:

There is still plenty of time to have a more substantively effective campaign. We can have real debates with ample time for consideration of the questions and presentation of answers; more in depth interviews conducted by thorough and objective interviewers; more published specific statements by the candidates answering the hard questions like “How will you pay for that program?”

All of these intelligent attempts at illuminating the issues and proposed solutions should replace the make believe debates that give a candidate a minute or so to deal with complex issues, distortive 28-second commercials, fierce personal diatribes and the coyness and the simplistic statements we have seen so often in the past.

Having a campaign that reveals all that voters should know – or at least most of it – would be novel, but we have never needed that kind of campaign more and voters should demand it loudly and insistently.

Some years ago I said in a speech that politicians “Campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose.” In fact, if our candidates campaign in poetry instead of good hard specifics, and win, they may wind up governing… in vain.

Mario Cuomo is my favorite politician. I wish he had been president. Now Barack Obama is my new favorite politician. I still wish he will be president.

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