Thinking About Obama

Some of my friends who were big Obama supporters in the primaries are fretting that he’s lost his way. They’ve taken to sending around Arianna Huffington posts urging Obama not to remake himself for the fall race.

I don’t take much stock in what Arianna says. She has remade herself too. And very nicely I might add.

Every presidential candidate retools their message for the fall race. McCain is doing it too.

And there are some things that are changing, like the situation in Iraq, that demand new rhetoric, maybe even new policy. I know that many Iraq haters just want our troops out of there and don’t really care how it happens. They have seen Obama as their best hope and so when he recognizes that the dynamics are changing, they freak out. I for one, want a President who sees the truth and deals with it. The truth is that Obama will get our troops out of Iraq more quickly than McCain, but there’s also an opportunity in Iraq for an even better outcome that didn’t seem possible a year ago when Obama put together his plan for the primaries.

I think Obama’s greatest political asset is his ability to be "what people want to see in him". I liked this quote so much from a recent Salon piece that I reblogged it on my tumblog:

By refusing to define Red Bull, advertisers
allowed each slice of its overall market to interpret the beverage for
itself. Likewise, the “vagueness” that many flinty political junkies
complain of in Obama permits all sorts of disparate people —
progressives, independents, intellectuals, young people, minority
advocates, renegade Republicans — to see the reflection of their own
desires in the self-described “skinny kid with a funny name.

Arianna is complaining that Obama is "staking out newly nuanced positions on FISA, gun control laws, expansion of the death penalty, and NAFTA." Well maybe what he’s trying to do is show some of those "disparate people" that he’s a lot more like them than they knew.

The guy needs to get >50% of the votes of all americans to win the Presidency. I don’t see how pandering to the liberal base of the democratic party gets that job done.

And while we are discussing "moving to the center", one area where I’d suggest Obama seriously retool his thinking is on free trade. He did terribly in Ohio and not a lot better in Pennsylvania. His message for the ravaged former industrial sections of the country like upstate NY, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, etc is not a strong one right now. Hillary took the traditional democratic positions in those regions and played her hand well. But it’s a losing hand once you get the opportunity to govern.

The truth is the manufacturing jobs aren’t coming back and to pretend that they are, or that by amending some bad trade agreements will fix the situation, is ignoring the truth. And Obama is smart enough to know the truth, which is that in the global economy that we are in today, those manufacturing jobs are gone.

But the rapid decline of the dollar, the rise of technology that allows for remote workforces, and the reality that our higher education system still turns out well educated kids gives us an opportunity that we must seize. Kids who come out of Ohio State or Penn State or University of Michigan can live and work in their home states for very competitive wages worldwide. We need to look at what Ireland did twenty years ago and do some of those things in the regions of our country where we’ve lost manufacturing jobs. We need a turnaround plan for those parts of the country, not pandering and lies to make people feel like the good times are coming back.

I suspect that the blue collar workers who have seen their line of work disappear in the past 20 years know that its not coming back. They are resigned to that fact. But what they worry about most is what their kids will do for a living.

That’s the opportunity for Obama. Talk about what’s possible in the new world we live in. Talk the truth. It won’t win him any union points, but I don’t think the path to the Presidency flows through the unions anymore.

I don’t call that "moving to the center". I call that smart policy and smart politics. And that’s what it’s going to take for Obama to win this fall.


Comments (Archived):

  1. CarnivalofPolitics

    The guys needs to get>50% of the votes CAST. Rounding errors aside, he’s got to get about 25% of America to agree with him. The majority of the minority choose our next leader. Obama’s popularity may makeit more like 30% but I would be shocked if he gets anything close to 50% of “all americans”

    1. fredwilson

      great point. and maybe that is a factor in all of this.

  2. vruz

    I think they’re overreacting. He’s being super-smart and the results of this strategy will only become apparent later.The left should focus more on beating McCain, that’s the real danger, the world can’t absorb another 4 years of neocon crap.

    1. Lumberg

      I’m sorry, but McCain is anything but a neocon. I didn’t know that John Kerry had once seriously cosidered neocon McCain as his running mate. If McCain is the neocon you say, Kerry never would have seriously considred him.The neocons do not like McCain as he has been very critical of how they executed the war.McCain has been a centrist and for the past 20 years has been called a “Maverick.” because he would go against his own party.In order to label McCain as the next Bush, we need to forget 20 years of his past history.

      1. m

        I’m afraid the good Senator from AZ has already done this for us: He has clung to Bush policy and demonstrated exactly zero that would be manifestly different in his own policies. He has been unrepentant on Iraq, and voices every intention of an undefined “winning” coupled with never-ending occupation. He is brazenly anti-diplomacy. And he admittedly knows precious little about the economy, as his latest presser clearly demonstrates. (More on that here: http://obsidianwings.blogs….All this, not to mention his c-word temperament and his uncanny ability to reverse himself several times in very short time spans and apparently not remember, indeed makes him a “maverick” (depending on what that euphemism actually represents).I have historically admired John McCain. But his ‘independent’ creds, at least in recent years, is just not standing up to the (very little) scrutiny that’s being applied to him.

  3. gregorylent

    no real energy yet in america for true transformation, the concentration is not nearly great enough, not by a long ways. we need a lot more intensity. this can only build in reaction to chaos, and we need doesn’t matter who is elected in 2008, america is not ready2012 is a much more important election

    1. gregorylent

      and STILL no substantive talk about the REAL problems of education, infrastructure, health care, competition … it is as if the politicians also know, america is simply not ready to deal with truth

        1. gregorylent

          yes, nice, and sadly makes my point, no one in the maistream wants to deal with reality

        2. Lumberg

          I met Ralph Nader – It was 10 years ago when I worked for Price Waterhouse. I was on a flight from DC to Chicago and Nader was in line with me. He fle wcoach like everyone else and was just an average Joe.It made me think twice about him.

          1. fredwilson

            Mike bloomberg rides the subways but that doesn’t make him a regualr joe

    2. Sebastian

      Oh boy, you seem to have missed the energy in Obama’s campaign and his support. I suggest you watch the news from time to time.

      1. gregorylent

        hi sebastin … i think most of the energy of the cheers in those crowds was from people cheering for themselves for being so cool to be there, in opposition to something … but this is a far cry from having the personal energy to make transformation, to make sacrifice … the grass roots organizers have a higher understanding, they at least are into doing something …my opinion is only that this is not enough … yet … the tipping point hasn’t happened yet that the country as a whole wakes up and shifts gears … in fact, it is being forced upon them, unwillingly, via oil prices, dollar weakness, stupidity in foreign affairs, and they want all that to go away, don’t want to change, actually ….write back in a year or two and let me know if you agree

  4. Kenosha_Kid

    So… does it matter at all what Obama actually believes and stands for, or is it only a matter of what most voters believe and stand for and offering these voters a product to buy? If the latter, why Obama? Why anyone? Why not just a daily Internet vote and a press secretary to create content?

    1. fredwilson

      I think you can get a very good sense of the man by reading his two books

      1. Kenosha_Kid

        Books are easy, Fred, anyone can write a book or two and say whatever… Richard Nixon wrote books too, so what? I want to know how your man would act under executive pressure, and the direction in which he would take us. Your blog suggests this sort of thing doesn’t really matter, as long as he gets the votes he needs to win. It worries me that Obama probably agrees.

        1. fredwilson

          I wasn’t saying that writing books makes you a good president.I am saying that if you read both his books, you can get a sense of the manfred

        2. Lumberg

          I stand corrected. Many of these books, he has authored the Foreward or Afterward. He is not a co-author on all these books.

          1. fredwilson

            Phew. 13 books was a lot

      2. S.t

        This passage from Obama’s Audacity of Hope (the title lifted from a Rev. Wright sermon) says a lot:”I serve as a BLANK SCREEN,” Obama writes, “on which people of vastly different political stripes project their own views.” He notifies readers that “my treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete.”

        1. fredwilson

          Read the whole book not just one passageThat’s the oldest trick in the book st

      3. Lumberg

        I just looked up John McCain on Amazon. He has authored, and co-authored over 13 books. Here is the link.…Can probably get a good feel for him as well.

        1. fredwilson

          I’ll start reading. But its gonna take a while

    2. S.t

      Kenosha KidThey have no idea what Obama is, but they are strangely attracted…

  5. S.t

    Fred — you can call it ‘smart poilcy and smart politics’, but Obama has recently done complete 180’s on the following:FISAGITMOGun rights/DC gun banPublic financingillegal immigrationlegalization of potAbortion IraqThe Mortgage MessReligion – (cling to guns // expand President Bush’s faith programs)Flag Pin // PatriotismRev. WrightNAFTAwelfare reformgay marriageThe Cuba Embargosingle-pay healthcareJerusalemmeeting with Foreign LeadersPalestinian electionsThe ‘threat’ of IranThe Patriot ActCoalThe SurgeOffshore drillingWiretappingThe list is longer than his list of accomplishments.& his fips to the right on some issues are starting to make Bush look like a pillar of strength & wisdom.( & don’t think I’m a McCain support — I’m not. But McCain was right all along with the ‘need more troops in Iraq’.)

    1. fredwilson

      What was the complete 180 on legalization of pot?I hope he agrees its a good idea to legalize itfred

      1. S.t

        ‘legalization of pot’ — that’s the first Obama flip issue that you want fact-checked?u r 2 funny

        1. fredwilson

          No I just am curious what his current position on it isI am a big fan of legalizing, taxing, and regulating “vices” like pot, alcohol, tabacco, and prostitutionFred

    2. Sebastian

      It’s not always bad to change ones mind on a topic.It’s good that he acknowledges that the surge worked, for example. I don’t see him flipping on many of these issues, though.Would be good if you provided sources for these “flips”. (For all of them, not for the well-publicized ones.)

  6. Leonard Boord

    At the end of the day I want to understand who Obama is. He is confusing me. Is he the liberal agent of change that won the primaries or the centrist who is running for president. With such a short track record and some very concerning relationships; he needs to be trustworthy and believable.

    1. Sebastian

      Look at his work in Chicago. He could have become a rich lawyer, but he became a politician in one of the most difficult cities in the US, he worked on the streets with people. He could definitely have got a much more comfortable life.

      1. Lumberg

        He is a rich lawyer. His wife is rich too. She got a $100,000+ a year raise as a community relations director at University of Chicago Hospitals. She was making almost triple the nationwide average of someone in that position. She went from $100,000 a year to almost $300,000 per year. It happened to coincide when her husband took the office.They also got some great sweet heart real estate deals.But they are rich.To be fair, a lot of his wealth has come from book royalties as well. But a Senator makes a good salary too.

        1. Sebastian

          He’s rich now, but he wasn’t then. He millions after 2004 (after his speech at the Democratic convention) with his books. Before that, he was upper class, but not nearly as far as he could have been.Yes, his wife is a well-earning person. He could earn that much, too. He wasn’t always Senator – he was a community worker before that.Btw: National averages aren’t a good way to measure if a person is worth the money they earn. I don’t know what exactly she does or how competent she is or the reason she got a huge raise. But I know several people who earn “more than the nationwide average of someone in their position” – they are worth it.

    2. fredwilson

      Read his two books written a decade apart. The common themes in them are where his rock is

  7. bijan

    i think you bring up a lots of good points.Here’s my overall concern which i couuld have written better in my original post. And it’s more to do with our 2 party system than Obama per se.After a nominee wins their party, they can (& do) evolve/shift/flip flop/migrate/nauance without too much difficulty because the other party isn’t an option.As a simple example, when Bill Clinton ditched the issue of gays in the military there wasn’t an option for voters that felt differently and who voted for Bill because he promised this as a candidate.And when Obama gets my vote by pandering to the liberal base during the primaries but then wanders away from me during the general election, I get the same uneasy feelingHaving said all of that, Fred Seibert was the first one to comment on my blog post on this topic and he encouraged me to stay positive. He’s right.

    1. sull

      this is campaign strategy 101, unfortunately. that is to say…1) secure your base and win your party by appealing to the primary voters on core issues.2) assume that your base will understand as you now focus on appealing to a wider base that will actually help you get elected… which means being linguistically clever to sound more like the opposing candidate(s) on core issues while not blatantly making any strong stance… keeping as much vague as possible and deeming that “smart and rational”.3) make the corporate cosmos happy by being their puppet, or they will spit you out. typically, you wont win your party’s primary without being in bed with the corporations that run this country.Politics.And what is this, then? It’s a game of chameleon. It’s a disrespect to the People as they are manipulated and brainwashed and left vulnerable and confused. It’s a tongue in cheek campaign where nothing said on any given day needs to stick a month later. Its raising your wet fingertip to the political breeze to conjure of the next week’s strategic tactics for appealing to the Media and the People. It’s a high art of articulation to keep you away from trouble “most of the time” to control bad press etc. It’s trusting in someone who will end up losing their own self… their own core values… to the game. It’s knowing that what is campaigned on is rarely a factor after the election is over. That was then and this is now. And the people set back in their lives and watch tv and calm back down and and put their energies elsewhere because the time where change by the people for the people has concluded until next time. the circle of politics.of course their are some that do not play this game. and refuse to be part of the two broken and corrupt major political parties. of course these Americans, since they don’t play the game… are not allowed in. specifically, the debates, which are a huge part of exposure and momentum building in our elections… and the standard debates are corporate controlled and who is allowed in is a very exclusionary decision. today we have more debates, one in particular being offered by Google which has a more fair process. It is much easier to participate in the Google debate as long as a candidate can show a decent level of support in some polls. ~10%.anyway, i personally dont like being played. i personally dont like to have to vote for the “lesser evil” of the 2 major parties because thats all part of it too. good cop bad cop. both get about 50% time in the white house. my vote needs to stand for more. even if those who i support are extreme underdogs… my vote will be a vote of confidence not a vote of popular demand for popular puppets. and for me, Nader/Gonzales appeal to my core values and I know that they will bring on the massive reform needed in our government. Until such reform begins, nothing else changes.

      1. gregorylent

        we are still in neanderthal times

  8. Leonard Boord

    Thought this was a good line: People will vote for a Hawk or a Dove, but not a Chameleon.

  9. m

    One of the smartest quotes I’ve read about this ‘tacking to center’ flap is pretty on par with yours, Fred: Obama is trying to win a general election. Per usual, read Sully (…”And there’s a point to the successive shifts: Obama is slowly undermining every conceivable reason to vote for Republican candidate John McCain.”

  10. dan

    “We need to look at what Ireland did twenty years ago and do some of those things in the regions of our country where we’ve lost manufacturing jobs.”Ireland now has the lowest corporate tax rate in the world! America has the second highest corporate tax rate in the developing world. http://www.taxfoundation.or… If America lowered their corporate tax rates to McCains proposed around 20%, that would actually have a better chance in keeping America’s manufacturing companies more competitive. As a Conservative, I see this as Obama’s biggest problem in his early campaign as he was talking about raising corporate taxes and limiting free trade. He has backpedaled on the raising corporate tax of late. I like Obama as a guy, but when I listen to him talk about the eoonomy, I feel like I am listening to an uneducated 6th grader.

    1. dan

      Here is the Friedman article on how low taxes has helped fuel Ireland’s boom…

      1. mikedibenedetto

        Not sure if we can push down our corporate taxes so low with such enormous expenditures on health care and the military. Also, the Ireland analogy can only go so far. Part of Ireland’s speedy rise was it’s extremely well-educated populace. College has been free for some time now. It also is extremely fortunate in being right between the US and Europe. It was ripe for growth with those factors. And as you say, its low corporate taxes were a big part. But for us to compete with that, we’d need someone to pick up the bill or to grossly lower our spending. Since McCain seems convinced we’re going to stay in Iraq for a long long time, I don’t see how that can happen. Also, it’s noteworthy that Ireland has a public health system.

        1. Lumberg

          “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed.” – John McCainBut I guess when Obama takes office, he will remove American troops from Germany and Japan.But more importantly, the lower the taxes the more revenue that Gov’y can acutally get. The gov’t gets a lot more volume of taxpayers. Right now, Cook County Illinois has the highest sales tax rate in the nation (10.25%). Wisconsin counties have a rate of 5%. If you were living in Cook County, you would spend your money in Wisconsin. Now Cook County has driven even more business away.If Cook County lowered the tax rate, they would be flooded with business and make up for it. It would attract business

          1. mikedibenedetto

            hey, thanks for responding. this disqus thing works nicely when you want to continue the conversation… not sure how the taxes thing works out. it makes sense how the sales tax thing would work to push business to neighboring states…however, not sure the analogy holds when you’re dealing with corporations and corporate taxes. it may….i’m just not sure. but it is a good point…one that i hadn’t considered. and on the iraq thing…that is also not a fair comparison. american forces are seen by many iraqis as a destabilizing force. there is no fierce resentment and violence against americans in japan and germany. there never was. the resentment that many iraqis have for the american forces plays a big part in the treatment american forces are getting now. also, the american presence in iraq is a rallying cry for extremists across the region. leaving immediately would also send the wrong message. not going to disagree there. but staying against the wishes of the iraqi people and allegedly sovereign iraqi government also sends the wrong message. but my belief is that there is a middle ground. not sure exactly how that pans out…but neither extreme is sustainable. and i believe obama is more interested in exploring this third option.

          2. fredwilson

            I don’t totally buy the supply side tax revenue argumentBut I do agree that lower corporate tax rates in struggling areas like the hard hit manufacturing areas are something we need to think aboutFred

          3. Lumberg

            Chicago and Cook County is getting killed in taxes Our sales taxes are the highest in the nation. Our gas taxes are close to the highest as well. If you are in Chicago, you have to pay Federal tax, State tax, County tax, and City tax for each gallon of gas. Almost $1 a gallon in taxes. The County tax is a %, so the higher the price of a gallon, the higher the tax.Meanwhile, Illinois, Cook County and the City of Chicago have the most FBI agents here investigating corruption. More FBI agents here assigned to corruption investigations than any other State right now.Obama is a product of this environment. I am not saying he is corrupt, but I do see why Hillary carpetbagged it to New York instead of running in her home State of Illinois.We have a Governor in jail for bribes, a Mayor’s Office being probed and a Country President being investigated. Meanwhile we are being gouged with more taxes, driving customers and businesses away.Obama has come out with the idea of another tax rebate – Which I agree with – Chicago will become another Detroit and Illinois another Michigan if they don’t turn this around.

    2. Lumberg

      Economics should be a requirement for every candidate. But they don’t teach economics in law school. Both Obama and McCain are a little short when it comes to the laws of economics.Here are some questions each candidate should be asked to see what they know about economics:1. Is oil Elastic or Inelastic?2. Are you for or against Diminishing Returns3. Do you prefer Price Floors, Price Ceilings, or none of the above and whyI think econmics should be taught in law school. Most of our Senators are lawyers and do not understand the laws of economics.

  11. kidmercury

    obama is a puppet of the military industrial complex. his foreign policy advisor is zbigniew brezezinski, the guy who engineered teh 1979 afghan war in which radical muslims were used to wage war with russia over afghanistan. while obama is better than mccain — the computer illiterate candidate endorsed by techcrunch (lol….seriously) — he is still not really “change,” in spite of how often he uses the word.war with iran is pretty much a done deal, according to congressman ron paul. the question congress is asking among themselves according to paul is whether or not to attack before or after the what happens to the economy if there is war with iran. it’s not going to be pretty.and so, the only way to save the economy is to end the war. ending the war doesn’t begin with obama, mccain, or elections rigged by diebold. it begins with 9/11 truth.

  12. Morgan Warstler

    Fred, I completely agree with you. I come at this as a libertarian who generally has supported pro-growth / anti-religious politics. For the longest time, Obama has annoyed the bejesus out of me, but I’ve waited it out, because you have to wait until a general election to get any indication of what a candidate really thinks. Now, he’s finally making some sense, and Arianna is off her rocker. Who you are when you represent the South Side, is not who you are when you run the country. The man changes, not just the positions.

    1. sull

      accepting this strategy is what is sad. manipulating the vulnerable voter. playing the game. so agree all you want…. but then look deeper at what this truly is. a farce. that is our process here. that is our government. the People need to matter more. we are looked at as a nuisance to get past.

    2. tetsuotrees

      I’m not entirely certain you’re getting a better picture of what the guy really thinks – in fact, the rhetoric coming from both Obama and McCain is dramatically at odds with their respective actions (which last time I checked, do speak louder than words). Look at Barack’s history and it’s extremely difficult to reconcile with the things you’re hearing come out of his mouth. Are we really to believe that Hillary Clinton’s withdrawal from the race changed Barack so much?When the Opinion pages of the Wall Street Journal have enough ammo to write a piece about you (Obama) that draws on the similarities between your post-primary policy recommendations and those currently in place in the Bush administration, you may have given yourself a credibility problem…(You can read the piece here:

  13. andyswan

    The surge is working amazingly and Obama is reacting to that on Iraq. I applaud him for that…well that and the fact he didn’t wave the white flag like sell-at-the-bottom Reid.Obama knows very well that if people knew his true beliefs (which don’t so easily change), he’d have zero chance. Liberals have to pretend to be republicans to have a chance, and they know it….right purple-heart, duck hunting Kerry?The truth is that Obama has a Marxist core but an understanding that he must be a blank slate of populism to gain his throne. I’m 50/50 on whether or not he will succeed, but since the GOP punted this year after negative yards under Bush… I guess I’d have to lean towards him winning.

    1. Lumberg

      My theory is that John McCain is really a centrist Democrat, and Obama leans towards socialism. McCain has crossed the aisle dozens of times. Obama has not voted against his own party at all. Obama has always voted along party lines which makes me suspect that he can bring people together.McCain brokered a deal for Federal Judges (Gang of 14). I cannot name anything Obama has done. Not that I’m against Obama, or for McCain actually. It is just that I am having a hard time finding what Obama stands for.If everyone projects onto Obama what they think he is, then we are going to have a lot of disappointed Americans when he takes office and does things everyone did not expect or project onto him.

      1. m

        I thought this post by Hilzoy was a particularly illuminating piece on where Obama sits in the spectrum, etc:http://obsidianwings.blogs….Also, it’s worth noting this piece … from FOX Noise, no less:…I don’t think there’s any doubt that he’s a progressive. But I fail to see how any ‘liberalism’ on his part would even begin to exceed what the ‘compassionate conservative’ has done in the last eight years.

      2. tetsuotrees

        Obama doesn’t lean toward socialism – he’s a socialist. And trying to dissect the man’s voting record is almost as much a joke as the record itself. Any mention of the fact that he votes exclusively with his party should be accompanied with the disclaimer “when he votes at all.” I don’t think anyone in the Senate has voted “Present” as much as he has.That kind of voting is a change alright. It just isn’t the kind of change I can believe in.

    2. S.t

      andy — applauding Obama for anything about Iraq is ridiculousWe should all be applauding McCain on Iraq

      1. andyswan

        I prefer the power of AND over the comfort of OR.

    3. fredwilson

      AndyI have a marxist core too

      1. andyswan

        OK….but irrelevant. You aren’t going for votes like Obama is. Obamaknows that most Americans soundly reject marxism, so he cannot tell them histrue beliefs and win. He has to fool them now by acting like a republicanthrough the general. I’m sure McCain will continue acting like a Democrat,since he basically is one.I’m happy to debate marxism (my take: why do we want everyone equallypoor?)….but when it comes down to grabbing votes in a national election,it’s quite clear that liberals are incapable of winning unless they aresuccessful at hiding their core convictions (this is often referred to inthe national media as a “nuanced”, “thoughtful” and “eloquent” speakingstyle).

      2. tetsuotrees

        How one reconciles a “Marxist core” with long-standing gainful employment as a venture capitalist is simply beyond me…

        1. fredwilson

          I make money and then I give it away, basically

          1. Ranjit Mathoda

            My understanding of Marxist ideology is that you wouldn’t have the right to make money personally, or choose where to give it away. Instead “the state” would make those decisions for you. Sounds to me like you’re a compassionate capitalist: make the money, give it to others based on their need. The real question is when others make money, how happy are you to take that money from them and give it to third parties?

          2. tetsuotrees

            I don’t think you could have described anything LESS Marxist, Fred. The fact that you CHOOSE to give your capital away is the ultimate expression of capitalism.And just why “being Marxist” is such a fashionable thing confuses me to no end.Anyway, Fred Wilson, hyper-capitalist (who knew?)…

    4. BillSeitz

      I’m not so sure the surge is “working” in the sense of demonstrating sustainable progress/success.

  14. V2starlight

    The situation at the Supreme Court alone makes the 2008 election important. At least two, if not three, of the justices will retire soon. If McCain is elected, we’ll have a solid right wing court, which, among other things, will be against a woman’s right to control her own body. Whatismore, in America, we don’t generaly have huge shifts right or left. Pople are never “ready”. We inch in each direction. Except during the past 8 years when we slide backwards to the right. At a minimum, we have to start inching forward to the future and a progressive demonacracy.

    1. fredwilson

      I totally agree with this. The court got too liberal in the 60s and 70s but now it is too conservativeIts a delicate balance we as a country need to protect

      1. Lumberg

        I completely disagree with this. Look at the facts. McCain was part of the Gang of 13 that helped bridge the gap on Judges to the Federal bench.McCain is a centrist and has been one for over 20 years.

    2. tetsuotrees

      You have to remember here that the Democrats are virtually guaranteed to build on their majorities in both houses. It’s highly unlikely that the court moves to the right during the next Presidency, even if someone MORE conservative than McCain were to win.Also, I think if you look at the trend objectively you’ll see that the past 8 years have been among the least “right leaning” of the past twenty-five. More conservative legislation was passed during the Clinton Administration than during the last four years of the Bush Administration, while GWB’s first four years were littered with a mix of both very conservative and very liberal legislation. Given the length of the relatively “conservative” trend and it’s debasing by the current administration, it’s hardly surprising that the country seems to be moving left. But just how far left remains to be seen…

  15. Nipul

    McCain is trying to give Obama a little competition for coolest looking president… (see the obama image that fred posted with the his final “Post American World” blogging). I think McCain is even trying to copy his gait.http://www.washingtonpost.c

  16. oren

    You might be interested in reading Larry Lessig’s blog post on the same at:…He’s a big Obama supporter, but taking a contrary view on the recent policy updates from the campaign.I would also like to comment that “Kids who come out of Ohio State or Penn State or University of Michigan… very competitive wages worldwide. ” is a bit of a naive statement when looking at the US education/employment situation: * The US education system is in a complete crisis, the problem is not with the “kids who come out” but with the public education system that does not adequately prepare people to “go into” higher-education… * And at the same time, the country needs a plan for those that do not go into higher-education. There will always be a blue-collar working class in the US and the state of the global market presents a real policy challenge in catering for them.

    1. m

      yikes. like so many other pundits, lessig proves that he may well understand policy but knows zero about may not be pretty — and i’m peeved about FISA, too! — but it’s increasingly being christened as a shrewd manoever … and by many on the right. here’s a snippet from the Weekly Standard:”Barack Obama’s tack to the center is quite clever for three reasons (and maybe more, but three is all I could think of). One, it may cause moderate and centrist voters to feel more comfortable about voting for him. That’s the big one. Two, he’s better off being attacked by John McCain as a flip-flopper than as an unrepentant liberal. And three, he gave up practically nothing in the process. The tack to the middle has been mostly a fuzzy feint that didn’t lock him into any new positions.”

      1. oren

        I don’t necessarily disagree re lessig. Even he posted the opposite view acouple of weeks ago (….But I guess everyone has her/his own line that should not be crossed in thebalance between core-policies and mainstream political messaging…What I am starting to worry about a little bit is that Obama has yet todefine his “core”. I know what he stands for in principle but would like tosee him articulate those issue he will not compromise on. I think that is asimportant in building his mainstream appeal as creating messages that arepaletable to the biggest base possible.I’m concerned his campaign will fall too deeply into the hands of pollstersotherwise.

        1. m

          agreed. but i suspect — to use the senator’s own words — this is the difference between strategy and tactics. he’s trying to win, period. full stop.while i can understand (and share) the worry, i just don’t see a monumental shift away from core beliefs much less flips or flops. he’s left, yes, but very pragmatic.

        2. fredwilson

          At the risk of sounding like a broken record on this, I feel like I know hiscore after reading his two booksBut that should not be required reading for every voterHe should communicate them to the voters and I think he can do it uniquelywell

      2. fredwilson

        The characterization of him as a mashup of Mr Rogers and Ari/Entourage is myfavorite

  17. bill

    Best case Obama is naive, and his opinion changes are due to assimilating new information. While that is a valid skill, I have no confidence that with his inexperience, his changed opinion will be any better than his original opinion, I doubt he has any either. Is the presidency really the place for on-the-job training?Worst case is he is nothing more than a shrewd “typical” politician. Again, if that’s all he is, what does he have planned for us that we don’t see coming?McCain should make campaign posters with his head with devil’s horns graffitied into his head and title it, “McCain, the devil you KNOW”. That sums up election 2008.

  18. rob

    my thoughts exactly. i was a huge obama fan until i saw this quote in the WSJ:”Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers,” [Obama] said, and a strong government hand is needed to assure that wealth is distributed more equitably.”As a tech startup founder/ceo, I simply can’t support that. The background on how Clinton ended up attacking the deficient is interesting. Surprises me that Obama wouldn’t gun for that angle out of the gates…it seemed to work pretty well.

    1. fredwilson

      He needs to retool that wordingIt’s bad

      1. andyswan

        Tough to “retool” his thinking though. He sees government as a mechanism for the redistribution of wealth, and he said so. I’m sure he’ll “reword” that in the future.

  19. kenberger

    Fascinating and cogent comparison to Ireland’s turnaround. I think few US people would even realize it and it would be good to publicize it more.Side-note, re Summize: I vaguely remembered your mentioning having a conversation about IRL w/ a politician, was able to quickly find it re

    1. fredwilson

      That was a b’fast w/ Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown where I laid this wholething out to him

      1. bill

        I was in B-school in Dublin during the mid 90’s while my spouse was working for Intel Ireland. She was on the site-architectural team, so I got an open door to some of Intel’s greenfield-development strategy. Where in some parts of the world it was chaotic (Some California development would be full-off to full-on and back again every 48 hours), Ireland seemed pretty easy to commit to. It was an amazing capitulation on Ireland’s part – basically letting Intel buy the land, sell it back to the govt under “1st right to Intel” rules, and letting them lease it back at next-to-nothing rates, all deductable. I assume there were similar deals for the other US high tech companies. Rather than feel exploited, the Irish (ever the pragmatists and still remembering the 70’s) were elated, because this time rather than being assembly workers, they owned and managed intellectual property – that was part of the deal.Ireland is known to have one of the highest-educated per capita workforces, and in trade for cheap rent, they got the best and the brightest from around the world to invest in Ireland and allow their people to make stuff, not just build it.Someone was really looking down the road, not just down the tip of their nose when they came up with the corporate tax incentives, although maybe it took the dark 70’s-80’s for them to figure that out. I hope we don’t wait that long!

  20. Bob Struble

    Bravo on your intelligent (and courageous for the Dems) position on free trade. Sherrrod Brown will be angry with you. It is very encouraging to see BO shift on this given the overwhelming evidence to the benefits of free trade, not only to americans but to the rest of the world as well.

  21. BenParis

    I must say that I like Lumberg comment on Obama’s ability to get a better grasp on economy before November, even though he will have an economic committee populated with PhDs to help him out, so…With regards to Obama’s change in rhetoric to accommodate a wider audience among future voters, I think his real challenge will be to remain as convincing as he had been so far. I want to see an Obama talking about key subjects like corporate taxes and how to finance growing public deficits, a sharp US economic slowdown, healthcare and other major topics.What Obama is doing right now is not better or worse than McCain’s tactic…it’s just his tactic to win the presidential election. Had McCain already crossed to the Dems, while Obama never, well it was a different story when he was a senator.Let see how their political character develops in the coming weeks, and if they can convince voters

  22. Peter

    i agree completely. we have to keep the troops in no matter what – it’s a matter of national pride. and besides, it’s complicated. you can’t just pull the troops out because that would be bad. or something.

  23. AndrewShotland

    Obama is going to do whatever he needs to do to get elected. What interests me is what he does after he’s elected. I think this is where he could potentially blow everybody’s minds (in either a good way or a bad way). I like the Obama as Red Bull analogy. He could give you wings or he could make you crash from the sugar/caffeine overload. I am hoping for the flying part of course.

  24. Antman

    I have this discussion far too many times, with far too many friends on both sides of the aisle. We have had years of an inflexiable President who refuses to readdress his positions, regardless of new information. We need, in our next President, the commitment to show flexibility. We cant afford another rigid, idealistic leader with an agenda.I concur with you on your desire to have Obama change his position on trade. It is a global economy. Also, I am not a fan of his tax policy and definition of “rich”. Although people making 250k to 500k are doing very well, I would not consider them rich. Especially the younger generation, who have just achieved this earning level Also, increasing capital gains, to me is as aburd as Bush privatizing social security.

  25. Ranjit Mathoda

    Interesting post. I did a thorough book review of The Audacity of Hope by Obama which can be found here:…. Here’s an excerpt of my book review on the topic of trade: Mr. Obama notes that the Central American Free Trade Agreement, a law allowing more open trade and investment with poor countries like Honduras and the Dominican Republic, was “overall … probably a net plus for the US economy,” but that any effect it did have would be minimal since the countries effected by the trade agreement in combination don’t have an economy the size of Connecticut. Yet he voted against it because labor unions hate it. As Mr. Obama wisely notes, unions argue for (a) stronger labor protections in countries that trade with the US, (b) rights for foreign workers to unionize, (c) bans on child labor, (d) improved environmental standards, (e) an end to unfair government subsidies, (f) stronger protection for US intellectual property, and (g) an end to artificially devalued foreign currencies, but Mr. Obama observes none of the measures requested by labor unions change the “underlying realities of globalization.” As he states, “work in a dirty factory or overheated sweatshop is often considered a step up on the economic ladder”, “… when all is said and done, China will still have more surplus labor in its countryside than half the entire population of the United States.”, and “the basic debate surrounding free trade has hardly changed since the early 1980s, with labor and its allies generally losing the fight.” As Mr. Obama states, it is “hard to even imagine, much less enforce, an effective regime of protectionism.” Despite all these observations, he voted against a law that would benefit society. Yet Mr. Obama is correct that those political realities are hardly unimportant. As he states, “Unless … a strong signal [is sent] to American workers that the federal government was on their side, protectionist sentiment would only grow.” The issue he faces is that no credible policy has been put forward to address people’s fears, by himself or others.

  26. lilly

    I dont think obama should win,because if he does he will shut down war and send back our troops if he would do that then the muslims would come and bomb our country..have you ever thought about this??