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Sunday, February 24, 2008

How Obama Can Effect Change

I am watching Meet the Press and heard presidential historian Doris Kearns Goodwin (bar none the most authoritative voice I've heard on presidential history) make an excellent point in response to a statement by New York Times commentator David Brooks to the effect of "You really have to wonder how Obama can bring about this 'change' and 'unity' with these 70-year-old committee chairmen on the Hill."

Her response was highly elucidating:

"What history argues -- and I think that this is what [Obama] is arguing -- is that the only time we've seen progressive change in this country is when the country is mobilized to push the people in Congress to action.

That's what happened in the progressive movement at the turn of the century; that's what happened in the New Deal; that's what happened in the 60s.

I think that's what he's arguing -- I can't just get it done by myself; I need to have that movement out there that will push us in Washington (me and them included) [to make that change happen]."

This really is a gem of a formulation and a strong argument in favor of Obama's message. Whichever candidate gets elected is going to face some huge hurdles to change, in the form of the entrenched interests that are beholden to the system as it currently exists. The changes that both Democratic candidates are proposing to the health care system in particular will require an overwhelming and consistent push by the average voter on their Representatives and Senators.

As any dispassionate observer of this election would agree (bearing in mind that I don't consider myself to be in that category), the groundswell of the Obama phenomenon is a unique once-in-a-generation thing.

Now, look at the dates connected to the events that Doris Kearns-Goodwin cites and you'll note that, roughly speaking, enormous enthusiasm for progressive change seems to peak every 30-40 years.

We are overdue for change. We suffered too long with the passing era's expediency, plotting, fighting, failed wars, failed healthcare intiatives and fear-mongering to let this moment pass us by.

As Obama has said, this is ultimately less him and more about us.

This is our unique moment in history. We must do everything we can to ensure that this moment does not pass us by.

Update: Here is the video. Her comments start at around 9:33.


Monitor said...

Here's a comment I left on another site about this article:

Essentially, what I think Doris Kearns Goodwin (an unflappable nonpartisan expert on this particular topic) was making the point that really, at its root, his movement is more about the people and their desire at this moment (especially after 8 years of Bush) for significant progressive change and, ultimately, he has been chosen by this movement as their standard bearer. The change movement is tied to him as a figure but exists as well as an independent force that has him as the catalyst for their coming together. As a result, it doesn't really matter whether the movement preceded a president's candidacy (like with Kennedy) or happened while the President was already in office (like LBJ to some extent). Very interesting stuff, I'm glad she was able to put it into historical context.

Anonymous said...

On the most basic of levels, Hillary accussed Barack of plagiarism. Then moments later
committed plagiarism herself... something she had planned to do when she made the accusation of Obama. This is indeed a petty matter. What matters is that Hillary seems to think she has a different set of rules to follow.
Since this seems to be the attack mode she favors, she has used it endlessly, even when she commits
the exact error minutes later. Lets not forget her attacks are
most always in error and and beneath a US Senator. Shame on you
Ms. Clinton. We see right through you.

Baldwin Park Democrat said...

And this is why we need to elect Obama type Democrats to the House and Senate in November. We need to give him the people that will help him move this change forward.

Vickie said...

Wow, this is a great article. We need to dig this up!

I'll add a link on my blog.

Obama 08!

Monitor said...

Thanks Vickie! Here's the Digg link: http://www.digg.com/political_opinion/How_Obama_Can_Effect_Change