Friday, September 18, 2009

Synopsis: Campaign Journal 2008

In this distinctive and personal narrative of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign for the American presidency, Carlos J. Rangel chronicles the underlying currents of social change that led to this successful campaign. The results were a president with a clear majority of the votes cast; elected by a commanding majority of electoral votes; and who won states on both coasts, in the South, the Rust Belt, and the West. There were no recount battles, or intervention by the courts.

Rangel notes that the effective professional politician gathers coalitions around positions on the issues and uses these coalitions to formulate policies that bring these positions to fruition. The Obama Campaign coalesced expectations that he would be able to rapidly transform the way the country is led and lead Americans to a better future. These expectations were multiplied by an effective, well-run campaign. Certainly, Obama's capacity to inspire during the campaign led many to believe he could do the same as president.

Management of high expectations became one of President Obama's greatest challenges in the immediate period after the election. In transforming ideals of hope and change into reality, he faced political resistance from multiple fronts, an economy with structural flaws, and an internationally isolated United States. Rangel's unique background in Latin America enables him to make sharp observations about policies and campaign statements that may have influence in that region, including trade deals, drug wars and the populist rhetoric, and actions emanating from the region. This book is a solid start at analysis of the years ahead, as well as the year that was.

Selected Passages

March 26

"To say that these actions were necessary to save American lives is not enough. It is also necessary to be candid about the fact that these actions killed innocent non-Americans, and that our sentiments and sympathies do go beyond a “collateral damage” rationalization, while suggesting the existence of second or third-class world citizens that can be bought off with a fist full of dollars."

April 23

"The answer may lie in the different rules of the numbers game: old politics rules vs. new politics rules. The numbers she garnered at the start do show that she is the strongest candidate in the old politics game… But, is this still the real political moment we are living in? Or is this perhaps the last dying gasp of an out-of-touch/distant way of doing politics, a message managing style that was effective before the existence of 24 hour cable news cycles, YouTube, Google, texting, and the blogosphere?"

April 30
"In an economy based on low-costing there is hardly any job value created and the productivity gains are more indicative of this than of better standards of living. Market inefficiencies run galore, losing educational and training investment, and the real winners are the credit card companies that finance many failed family enterprises—as well as the bankruptcy lawyers—while credit card protection reform languishes in Congress, awaiting the next great financial crisis."
May 3
"The economic incentives within (the Health Care) market take us to the logical conclusion that less people at a higher price will receive lesser quality care in the future. The industry’s structure, as it stands, leads to insurance companies going out of business if they do not recognize that they have to cater to the healthier and wealthier. This is the way our health care industry works. It is not that evil or shadowy individuals do not care about sick people. It is the structure of the market that leads to this inevitable outcome, and this needs to change."
 May 22
"There is now a wave starting to roll similar to the one originated by Vietnam but this time, instead of being driven by that combination of libertarian and conservative values, it seems to be driven by a new combination of libertarian and humanitarian values. Baby boomers lived this history already, and some can see it. Senator Obama has a family history adrift in these baby boomer currents. Let us hope Senator Obama has learned this history and can ride the wave."
June 1
"Winning for America is not a situation in which everything our society is about is destroyed in order to create a false sense of security with repressive measures. Winning for America is not a situation in which more terrorists are created than eliminated. Winning for America is not a situation that creates more international isolation from our allies, more distance from our friends, and that dismisses as weak the view that seeks to regain our moral standing, the view which in the end will be the only true way to combat terrorism from its roots—and win."

June 2
"It is a moral imperative that we learn how to treat and control the use and abuse of psychotropic drugs and drug addiction… Our drug problem affects our international policies and relations. Right now we are not even close to an adequate response."

June 3
"The primaries had come to an end and, by the end of the night Senator Obama had been declared the presumptive nominee of the Democratic Party for the 2008 elections by all major news outlets. The great question in everybody’s mind now is: what will Senator Clinton do? The buzz in the media is the “dream ticket” of Obama-Clinton. Why would she want that? Why would he want that?"

September 4
"Governor Palin is in fact the epitome of what pro-choice is all about: she was able to choose to have her son, and she is to be commended for that."

September 24
"It is the elected representative’s duty to seek out and identify the social and infrastructure needs that will improve the welfare of his or her community and to seek funds to satisfy these needs. It is when abuse, mismanagement and unauthorized diversion of requests and appropriated funds enter the picture that we must cry “foul.” But the Mayor, Governor or Congressman trying to look out for the interest of his or her constituents is part and parcel of what representative government is all about. And when populist demagogues make the eradication of earmarks an electoral issue, it should be transparent that they are making promises that they not just can’t keep but that they shouldn’t keep."

September 30
"It is not out of the question at this time to believe that Venezuela may allow Russia to establish military outposts or bases in its Caribbean territories, including, for example a refueling station or similar token presence in Isla de Aves (just a few hundred miles from Puerto Rico), as part of an expanded Russian military infrastructure. After all, this years’ Russian military budget is a historical record of approximately $40 billion (the US’ will be approximately $90 billion), and it is expected to rise to approx $58 billion in 2011. Russia will be putting that new hardware somewhere."

October 7 to October 21
"The true aftermath of this debate—where no one stumbled or gaffed—is that Sarah Palin is now loose and on the prowl, lipstick off and gloves on."

October 19
"This (Powell’s) endorsement is a reaffirmation of the transformational nature of Senator Obama as “Obama Republicans” trump “Reagan Democrats” in this moment of our history."

October 21
"The chilling message thread trend that the Republican campaign is using at this time is based on the divisive questions: “Are you one of us?” “Is he one of us?” They call themselves “Great Americans” in a way that suggests a membership into some sort of exclusive club or elitist clan into which only a few are allowed."

October 22
"…but the actions by Fujimori’s government, contravening universal human rights and basic legal rights within Peru in order to defeat Shining Path, have come back to haunt Mr. Fujimori and his close associates, now standing or having stood trial for these violations. Just as Abimael Guzmán (founder and leader of Shining Path) should be and is in jail for his heinous crimes against humanity, the fact that Peru recognizes that even against such terror presidents should act within the law is a civics lesson for the world."

October 30
"In evaluating the consequences of unfettered trade with China, it can be argued at this time that Wal-Mart could be singled out as the largest destroyer of small manufacturing jobs in America, because most of its supplier base shifted to China as a consequence of Wal-Mart’s corporate policies, as MFN took hold. Now this company, the largest in the US, has become structurally vulnerable to the currency pressures on the Chinese Yuan."

November 22
"With Senator Obama taking independents, moderates and centrists away from the Republicans, moderate Republican candidates lost their seats, leaving the ones with more partisan and radical agendas in place… the House is in danger of becoming a battlefield of ideological divisiveness, with a Democratic majority tempted into bullying an increasingly bitter Republican minority into submission.

This is where Senator McCain will find his role and true test, as it is not yet his time to fade away."

November 25
"We will be talking about "Obama Republicans" for some time to come, as these policies offer in the mid and long term more fiscal responsibility than the debt neutrality and natural business cycle principles that characterized Reaganomics (i.e. “unmanageable” market forces)."

December 6
"(If) protecting obsolescing products and technologies were policy, we would still be using typewriters and continue using instamatic and Polaroid cameras forever.

This brings us back to the example at hand: should we let the auto industry sink? Maybe, but surely we must not let it crash."

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