Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Obama's 50-State Strategy

Obama's 50-state strategy is a welcome relief from the previous strategy of the
Democratic party which concentrated on states with large urban populations and
generally ignored the south and rural constituencies. Will it work? yes and No.

It will not work if the focus in the southern states and the other blue states is
on the traditional democratic voters and the new young voters. The south in
particular and the rural populations in general have tilted the Presidential
Elections in the Republican's favor since the civil rights movement; so it is these
voters that need to be addressed.

Mr. Obama has the opprtunity, in fact the obligation, to transform the south and
the rural areas. The transformation needs to be both economic as well bringing a
change in long held attitudes. The south still carries its grudge from the civil
rights movement and has been left behind from the forward-looking world; so much so
that the otherwise rural and poor voters repeatedly vote against their economic
self interest. It is time to approach these populations and to even challenge their
tendency to resist change.

Addressing these voters through general economic programs at the national stage has
never sufficed. While Mr. Obama generally wins the arguments at the national stage
both regarding the war and the economy, the politics at local levels remains
untouched by that.

How to make the same impact at the local level? First is to pick someone from the
south as his VP. Jim Webb is ideal for that. He is a former republican who has
considerable administrative and military experience and has slowly transformed from
being conservative to progressive (which incidently is a very rare quality). He
completely supplements the experience Mr. obama needs and is in sync with Obama on
all major issues. It makes a compelling team for a tranformative figure like Mr.
Obama to team with one who has been transformed over the years. Jim Webb himself
becomes an argument for transformation. Additionally. Jim Webb is very aware of the
plight of the rural poor, particularly Appalachia, and has definitve and positive
views as to how to address their problems. In the past Democrats have looked at
Appalachia, decried its poverty, but have never come up with any specific programs
to help the 'poor whites'.

First a rural development program needs to be developed, and in a hurry. The
architects of these to include Jim Webb, John Edwards, Dick Lugar whos has often
expressed concerns about rural poverty which is endemic. What better way to
transform a society than to alter the economics of the region(s) so they
participate in the larger economy and then to challenge them to embrace change as,
otherwise, they would continue to be left behind. Mr. Obama should make the slogan
'if you are poor and white, you will NOT be out of sight' as part of his political

Armed with a specific rural development program,So Mr. Obama needs to take a tour
of the countryside with Jim Webb and local leaders in those states like Ed Rendell
in Penn, Strickland in Ohio, the governor and senators from West Virginia and
likewise in southern states. There should be no county left unvisited. The
surrogates should do a resume introduction of Mr. Obama at every townhall that he
holds. As a matter of strategy, a few townhall meetings should be followed by a
larger rally as Mr. Obama is at his best in those large settings but by then voters
would have had a chance to see him up close (and even have had asked questions),
and would be more inclined to listen to his larger message.

Given the unique nature of his candidacy, its admirable that Obama is taking on all
the states. Only he can pull it off if he does it right and deviates from the
standard Democratic party line of just offering healthcare etc. These voters have
repeatedly voted against their economic self inetrest and need to be addressed in a
multifaceted way; some ways have been described above; I will welcome comments and
suggestions so an effective strategy can evolve.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Joe Andrews, Former DNC Chair switches from Clinton to Obama

Given below is the letter Joe Andrews, who was appointed as Chairman of the Democratic National Committee by Bill Clinton, has sent to superdelegates explaining as to why he has switched his support from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama.

This is the most sincere, passionate and succint view of the current campaign that I have seen since the campaign started. A must read.

May 1, 2008

Dear Friends:

I have been inspired.

Today I am announcing my support for Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States of America. I am changing my support from Senator Clinton to Senator Obama, and calling for my fellow Democrats across my home State of Indiana, and my fellow super delegates across the nation, to heal the rift in our Party and unite behind Barack Obama.

The hardest decisions in life are not between good and bad or right and wrong, but between two goods or two rights. That is the decision Democrats face today. We have an embarrassment of riches, but as much as we may love our candidates and revel in the political process that has brought Presidential politics to places that have not seen it in a generation, we cannot let our family affair hurt America by helping John McCain.

Here is my message, explained in this lengthy letter that I hope is perceived as a thoughtful analysis of how to save America from four more years of the misguided polices of the past: you can be for someone without being against someone else. You can unite behind a candidate and a vision for America without rejecting another candidate and their vision, because in real life, opposed to party politics, we Democrats are on the same side. The battle should not be amongst ourselves. Rather, we should focus our efforts on those who are truly on the opposite side: those who want to continue the failed policies of the last eight years, rather than bring real change to Washington. Let us come together right now behind an inspiring leader who not only has the audacity to challenge the old divisive politics, but the audacity to make us all hope for a better America.

Unite the Party Now

I believe that Bill Clinton will be remembered as one of our nation's great Presidents, and Senator Clinton as one of our nation's great public servants. But as much as I respect and admire them both, it is clear that a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists John McCain.

I ask Hoosiers to come together and vote for Barack Obama to be our next President. In an accident of timing, Indiana has been given the opportunity to truly make a difference. Hoosiers should grab that power and do what in their heart they know is right. They should reject the old negative politics and vote for true change. Don't settle for the tried and true and the simplistic slogans, but listen to your heart and dare to be inspired. Only a cynic would be critical of Barack Obama inspiring millions. Only the uninformed could forget that the candidate that wins in November is always the candidate that inspires millions.

I ask the leaders of our Party to come together after this Tuesday's primary to heal wounds and unite us around a single nominee. While I was hopeful that a long, contested primary season would invigorate our Party, the polls show that the tone and temperature of the race is now hurting us. John McCain, without doing much of anything, is now competitive against both of our remaining candidates. We are doing his work for him and distracting Americans from the issues that really affect all of our lives.

We need to be talking about fixing the economy, not whose acquaintances once said what to whom. We need to be talking about stopping the attacks in Iraq, not stopping the attacks in Indiana. We need to be talking about policy, not politics.

Barack Obama is the Right Candidate for Right Now

While I am a longtime critic of our Party's rules that created so-called super delegates, we have the rules we have and we must live with them. I am humbled and honored to be a super delegate, and I understand the seriousness of the duty it entails. I recognize that this is a difficult decision for super delegates like me, who owe so much to President Bill Clinton. It is right to be loyal, to be grateful and to be consistent. But it is also right to acknowledge the inevitability of change, right to dare to dream for a better world, and right to know what in your heart is the right thing for the future even if your friends and family disagree. Good things, just like good people, can disagree. But as Democrats, we must disagree with dignity, debate with admiration of each other, and in the end, go forward with mutual respect.

President Clinton and Vice President Gore gave me the opportunity to serve as the Chair of the Democratic Party. I pledged my loyalty to them, and I will never forget Al Gore putting ego aside, gently demurring, and simply asking me to put our country ahead of politics. It is a lesson I will remember forever, and it is what guides me now in this decision. What is best for our Party and our country is not blind loyalty, but passionate support for the candidate who can best correct the misguided policies of the last eight years.

We need a candidate who will re-invigorate the economy and keep good jobs here in America. We need a candidate who will end the war in Iraq. We need a candidate who will provide health coverage for our 45 million uninsured neighbors. We need a candidate who will end our addiction to high-priced foreign oil by investing in renewable energy here at home.

That candidate is Barack Obama.

What was best for America sixteen years ago was electing Bill Clinton. What would have been best for America eight years ago was not only electing Al Gore, which we did, but allowing him to serve as President of the United States. Imagine how the world would be different if Al Gore and not George Bush, would have been President of the United States. Let's seize the opportunity and vote for someone who like Al Gore, was against the war from the beginning, and who brings a new energy, a new excitement, and a new politics to our country.

Let’s put things right.

Time to Act

Many will ask, why now? Why, with several primaries still remaining, with Senator Clinton just winning Pennsylvania, with my friend Evan Bayh working hard to make sure Senator Clinton wins Indiana, why switch now? Why call for super delegates to come together now to constructively pick a president?

The simple answer is that while the timing is hard for me personally, it is best for America. We simply cannot wait any longer, nor can we let this race fall any lower and still hope to win in November. June or July may be too late. The time to act is now.

I write this letter from my mom's dining room table in Indianapolis, Indiana. Four generations of my family have argued and laughed around this table. But what I humbly believe today is that we, as Democrats and as Americans, face what Dr. King characterized and what Senator Obama reminds us is the fierce urgency of now. As a nation, we are at a critical moment and we need leaders with the character and vision to see us through the challenges at hand and those to come. I can't guess what will happen tomorrow, so I can't tell you what kind of experience our next President will need to have to deal with those challenges. But I can tell you what kind of character and vision they will need to have -- and that is what inspires me about Barack Obama.

As Democrats, however, we risk letting this moment slip through our fingers. We risk ceding the field to the Republicans and allowing the morally bankrupt Bush Agenda to continue unabated if we do not unite behind a single candidate. Should this race continue after Indiana and North Carolina, it will inevitably become more negative. The polls already show the supporters for both candidates becoming more strident in their positions and more locked into their support. Continuing on this path would be a catastrophe, as we would inadvertently end up doing Republicans work for them. Already, instead of the audacity of hope, we suffer the audacity of one Democrat comparing John McCain favorably to another Democrat. When that happens, you know it is time for all of us to stop, take a deep breath and unite to change America.

We must act and we must act now.

The Problems of the Process: 2000 and 2008

When Al Gore got a half million more votes than George Bush in 2000, yet the Electoral College elected George Bush President, we saw the absurdity of any system that does not elect the person who gets the most votes. That is why the Democratic Party's nomination process is flawed. I will continue to fight for a 2012 process where there are only primaries, and which ever Democrat gets the most votes becomes our nominee. Delegates should decide the party platform -- voters should decide who our nominee is.

But we are struck with this absurd system for 2008, and, flawed though it may be, we must work within it without betraying the voice of the people. No amount of spin or sleight of hand can deny the fact that where there has been competition, Senator Obama has won more votes, more States and more delegates than any other candidate. Only the super delegates can award the nomination to Senator Clinton, but to do so risks doing to our Party in 2008 what Republicans did to our country in 2000. Let us be intellectually consistent and unite behind Barack Obama.

A New Era of Politics

My endorsement of Senator Obama will not be welcome news to my friends and family at the Clinton campaign. If the campaign's surrogates called Governor Bill Richardson, a respected former member of President Clinton's cabinet, a "Judas" for endorsing Senator Obama, we can all imagine how they will treat somebody like me. They are the best practitioners of the old politics, so they will no doubt call me a traitor, an opportunist and a hypocrite. I will be branded as disloyal, power-hungry, but most importantly, they will use the exact words that Republicans used to attack me when I was defending President Clinton.

When they use the same attacks made on me when I was defending them, they prove the callow hypocrisy of the old politics first perfected by Republicans. I am an expert on this because these were the exact tools that I mastered as a campaign volunteer, a campaign manager, a State Party Chair and the National Chair of our Party. I learned the lessons of the tough, right-wing Republicans all too well. I can speak with authority on how to spar with everyone from Lee Atwater to Karl Rove. I understand that, while wrong and pernicious, shallow victory can be achieved through division by semantics and obfuscation. Like many, I succumbed to the addiction of old politics because they are so easy.

Innuendo is easy. The truth is hard.

Sound bites are easy. Solutions are hard.

Spin is simple and easy. Struggling with facts is complicated and hard.

I have learned the hard way that you can love the candidate and hate the campaign. My stomach churns when I think how my old friends in the Clinton campaign will just pick up the old silly Republican play book and call in the same old artificial attacks and bombardments we have all heard before.

Yet, despite the simple and overwhelming pressure to do anything and everything to win, Barack Obama has risen above it all and demanded a new brand of politics. People flock to Senator Obama because they are rejecting the hyperbole of the old politics. The past eight years of George Bush have witnessed a retreat from substance, science, and reason in favor spin, cronyism and ideology. Barack Obama has dared not only to criticize it, as all Democrats do, but to actually reject playing the same old game. And in doing so, he has shown us a new path to victory.

Uniting for Victory

The simple fact is that Democrats need to be united in November to win, and Clinton supporters, in particular, will be vital to victory. We will not convince Clinton supporters to join the Obama campaign, however, by personally criticizing them. We must welcome everyone and avoid doing Republican work for them. It is therefore incumbent on all of us who once supported Senator Clinton to welcome the thousands who should now switch their support to Senator Obama. Similarly, a necessary part of the healing process for our Party is for those who supported Senator Obama early to have the grace and good sense to broaden the tent and welcome newcomers into the fold.

The old players of the old political game will claim that I am betraying my old friend Senator Evan Bayh by switching my support to Senator Obama. I believe that Evan Bayh would be a great President, and therefore a great Vice President. I will continue to argue that he would be a great choice to be on the ticket with Barack Obama. Evan Bayh is uniquely positioned as a successful governor with executive experience who is now a U.S. Senator with foreign policy experience and who is young enough to not undercut the message of vitality and hard work that Barack Obama represents. Part of healing the Party may be to have a Clinton supporter on the ticket, let alone someone who would help with Indiana, Ohio and the moderate Midwest in the general election.

Being for Evan Bayh, however, does not mean that you have to be for Hillary Clinton. The important message to Hoosiers, and to super delegates, is that being for someone does not mean that you agree 100 percent of the time. Regardless of whether Evan Bayh and I support different candidates, I will support Evan Bayh.

We must reject the notion that we have to beat the Republicans at their own game -- or even that the game has to be played at all. It is so easy for all of us involved -- candidates, campaigns and the media -- to focus on the process and the horse race that we forget why we got into it in the first place. Barack Obama has had the courage to talk about real issues, real problems and real people. Let's pause for a second in the midst of the cacophony of the campaign circus and listen.

In 1992, I was inspired by Bill Clinton because he promised, and delivered, a framework for addressing America's problems. President Clinton ended a long-running left-right debate in our Party, and inspired millions. He drew giant crowds and spoke passionately for a generation of Americans who often disenfranchised and rarely participated in governing. Today, Barack Obama does the same thing. Winners redefine the game. Winners connect with the American people and not only feel their pain, but inspire them to take action to heal the underlying cause. Barack Obama is that kind of candidate and that kind of leader, which is why he will win in November.

Welcoming Everyone into the Party

We face significant challenges as a nation and as a Party, but time and again, Americans have shown the resilience and determination necessary to overcome even the highest obstacle. We have a difficult road ahead, but I have complete confidence that Barack Obama is the candidate who can lead our Party to victory and the President who can guide us to even greater heights.

Many Democrats know me for one short speech I gave over and over again in the 2000 Presidential campaign. That speech was about welcoming people into our Party and welcoming undecided voters to our campaign to elect Al Gore. Today, we need to welcome Clinton supporters, undecided voters, and all Americans to join Barack Obama's cause to fight for a better America. My speech ended with these words, which are even more relevant today:

The difference between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party is that you are always welcome in the Democratic Party.

Because Democrats don’t care if you are black or white or brown or a nice shade of green, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.

We don’t care if you pray in a church or a synagogue or a temple or a mosque, or just before math tests, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.

We don’t care if you are young or old, or just don’t want to tell your age, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.

We don’t care what gender you are, or what gender you want to hold hands with; as long as you want to hold hands, you are welcome in the Democratic Party.

We don’t care about the size of your bank account, just the size of your heart; and we don’t care where you are today, just where you dream you want to be tomorrow.

That is your Democratic Party.

That is Barack Obama's Democratic Party.

That is the Party that will win in November.


Joe Andrew

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama's Campaign Strategy

While Barak Obama’s performance to date has been impressive, two consistent weaknesses have persisted since the Iowa caucuses. With such quick success in creating a movement, perhaps it is natural to get caught up in one’s own rhetoric and not make a dispassionate evaluation of the weaknesses. Secondly, the campaign now needs to shift gears from being a movement only to a campaign to win which in essence requires Mr. Obama to dismantle the Clinton myth of experience and performance.

As Maureen Dowd has so well articulated in her column in the New York Times, to win the campaign, there is a need to ‘slay the dragon’; i.e. attack the Clintons’ lack of performance in specific areas such as Social Security, Healthcare, loss of Congress by the Democrats under Clinton’s watch. It must be remembered that movements alone do not win elections; the status quo needs to be brought down at the same time as one gives a message of hope and a new beginning.

The campaign has shown a surprising inability to see and address the weak spots which may well have resulted in the losses in large states like California, New Jersey and Massachusetts. If not addressed going forward, this will turn out to be Obama’s Achilee’s heel. While we harp on the message of change, we should be able to change our strategy and tactics in view of what has emerged since people started going to the polls in January. Contrarily, our opponent, Hillary Clinton, has been adept at changing her strategy and tactics whenever circumstances have warranted. It may help us to take a page from her book. Sometimes, recognizing the opponent’s strength and learning from it may be the best thing to do.

Here are a few thoughts to identify the weak points and the necessary, albeit slight, modification required in campaign strategy to address it.

A recognition of the failings would help. Firstly, two parts of the electorate are not responding to Obama as well as one would hope and require; these are working class folks (amongst whites and hispanics) and senior citizens. There is no need to surrender either of these groups to Clinton. Inroads need to be made within the Hispanic community, white working class women, teachers and senior citizens. We touch on this point later.

Last but not least the campaign must take to the airwaves and point out these flaws; a particular tactical advantage given Obama’s financial strength going forward. The much maligned negative campaigning always works if done right. The states of Ohio, Texas, Maryland and Pennsylvania offer great opportunity to dismantle the myth of Hillary’s supposed experience. Three cogent points can be made: 1) during the Clinton presidency, Hillary was given one major task; i.e. to come up with a health care plan. She bungled it and made no progress despite Democrats having control of Congress, lost governorships and many state legislatures and local governments, a loss from which iot took 12 years to recover 2) it is during the Clinton presidency that the Democrats became a minority party; a specter likely to repeat itself if Hillary wins; 3) no progress was made on Social security. Even now all Hillary offers is a bipartisan commission; a perfect hedge.

As mentioned earlier, Obama has been unable motivate men and women from the working class, particularly in white and Hispanic areas. Other than blacks, he has consistently lost in areas heavily populated by the working class. This became evident in Iowa (despite an otherwise impressive win) and New Hampshire, yet the campaign seems to have stayed oblivious to this weak spot and did not alter its campaigning style. He is never seen visiting a factory, a shopping mall, a Walmart, a diner, a coffee shop or a school. Although Obama has specific economic plans, he does not address the economic concerns of this class in any meaningful way during his speeches. Two states on super Tuesday , New Jersey and Massachusetts, could have been won if he had campaigned in areas like Camden and Edison (NJ) and Vooster (Mass). Hillary, on the other hand has proved to be very nimble: she immediately adopted the ‘change’ message after losing Iowa which along with her support in the working class women led to her narrow victory in New Hampshire. When the Culinary Workers Union endorsed Obama, she went straight to the culinary workers and campaigned amongst the workers making the union leadership’s endorsement ineffective. Obama needs to do the same if not more.

There is no need to surrender the older generation or the white women to Hillary. The issue of Social Security needs to be hammered in.

Dayle and Shafqat
P.S: This article is a bit incomplete, but we wanted to get our thoughts out there and will complete it as time goes by.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Confessions of former Clinton Supporters

During the 1990's the Republicans came to control both Houses of Congress. Their overly partisan behavior and single-minded pursuit of ways to discredit Bill Clinton made us rally behind the Clintons. Our Clinton defense intensified in response to the zealous and widely discredited actions of the special prosecutor, Kenneth Starr. During the last few years of the Clinton presidency, we Democrats spent more time and energy fighting for him rather than him fighting for us.

The support of the Clintons, in my family, translated into unquestioned votes—twice for Bill Clinton and twice for Hillary Clinton. We, husband and wife, are neither political operatives nor do we work in the political trade; we are ordinary citizens who consider ourselves politically aware solid Democrats. We have become, stunningly disappointed former Clinton supporters who have witnessed their perversion of, what we thought was, a lifetime of progressive activism.

The recent behavior of Hillary Clinton, her husband and her campaign tactics in general have made us look at other candidates. It has become clear that the Clinton’s will do anything to win. Not in our wildest dreams could we imagine that they would stoop so low as to pit one ethnic group against another; that challenges the very core of the Democratic party. Their cynical use of diverse groups within the party, their shifting position on the Iraq war and their propensity to misstate facts in typical Clinton doublespeak has led us to the conclusion that Anyone But Hillary would be a better choice for Democrats. We come to this conclusion with a dispassionate review of the Clinton presidency, Hillary’s wrong judgment on the seminal issue of our time, the Iraq war: in her own words ‘she voted for the war with conviction’ and now her tortuous explanations that the yes vote did not mean yes is too reminiscent of the “depends on what the meaning of the word ‘is’ is”. We also believe that ‘character’ matters for a Presidential candidate and unfortunately they do not exhibit many signs of that. Instead, their recent behavior shows a narcissistic power grab irrespective of the long term damage they can inflict on the party. In a recent televised debate, Mrs. Clinton herself suggested that a person’s past behavior and performance is a precursor as to how one would behave and perform in the future. Unfortunately, their recent and past behavior does not augur well for the party nor the country.

Now benefiting from a clear-eyed view of the Clintons, we are able to perform a more matter of fact assessment of President Clinton's performance which was not quite possible during his period in office. During the 1990s and beyond, our energy stayed focused on defending Bill Clinton against the Republicans and Ken Starr. Like the Republicans, we too developed a partisan zeal and none of us stepped back to scrutinize the performance of the Clinton presidency. Perhaps, we should have followed the advice of a historian from the Roman times who stated that ‘truth helps a story along’. We are now attempting to face the truth, as painful as it may be.

With the benefit of hindsight and by virtue of enough time having passed, it is now not only possible, but necessary to examine Mr. Clinton’s presidency (and Mrs. Clinton’s role during that period) in an analytical framework. Sadly, on close examination, the view of Mr. and Mrs. Clinton that emerges is not very flattering to either. In fact, the more we look at the period from 1992 onwards, the more it becomes evident that we, as Democrats, lulled ourselves into constructing, believing , lauding and propagating what can more aptly be described as a fairy tale, particularly with regard to the large issues confronting our society. Moreover, during the 8 years that Mr. Clinton was in power, the party spent more time and energy being apologists for the Clintons.

When Bill Clinton was inaugurated, the Democratic Party had held a majority in the House of Representatives since the New Deal. Given the then dominant election themes,
it can be stated that he was elected with a mandate from the Democrats to: 1) fix the
healthcare system as at the time 25 million Americans were without any health insurance, 2) fix the looming shortfall in Social Security, 3) see emerging global economic trends and prepare the work force against its adverse effects and 4) lead and govern in a way to enable Democrats to win control of the Senate so that meaningful and progressive reforms could be undertaken. It is with sadness we note that in three of the above four there was total failure. There were more Americans lacking health insurance when Bill Clinton left office than there were when he was inaugurated; the looming cris in Social Security remain unfixed and the Democrats lost control of Congress under his watch and the country paid a very heavy price for that loss. There was some partial success in recognizing emerging global trade trends, even though the administration failed to prepare or retrain the work force subjecting the work force to the vicisstiudes of globalization.

When all is said and done, in historical terms, Mr. Clinton did fight a good rearguard action against the Reaganite and Newt Gingrich onslaught. For this he should be lauded. However, this was too meager an achievement compared to the price that we paid in lost opportunities to address our major issues. Since then they had a chance to lead during the anti-war movement ; instead, both husband and wife chose to go with Mr. Bush as part of a political calculus. Now their political calculus requires race baiting, cynical use of ethnic minorities and gender. Their calculating style has certainly lost our votes.

Dayle and Shafqat