There are those people who believe that women and people of color are not capable of leading this country. (They have been proven wrong many times as exampled by leaders of other nations). But these are the same people who think that the earth is flat and the world was created in seven days. It seems a bit shortsighted, even silly, but there are those people.
A few days ago I was on a TV show with a Republican analyst named Bruce Blakeman. (Not one of those seven day 'poof', people and I’d like to fix him up with my cousin). He has been involved in lots of NY politics, but I didn’t know who he was until the producer said his ex wife is dating Paul McCartney. Bruce is smart and handsome and wants to be the Mayor of NY. (Which could happen because he knows the world is round.) What was most interesting was that he talks directly from the Republican script. 'John McCain is bi-partisan, John McCain is courageous, Barack is the most liberal Senator in the universe.' Liberal, is not a dirty word to me, so the argument was moot or mute, but you can see exactly what they are going to do and say in the fall. They are starting to position McCain as the only logical choice. Like a comfortable shoe (when my shoes get comfortable it’s because they are falling apart). I mentioned that despite his support of bipartisan legislation, McCain was not a moderate. He was very Conservative. When you try to make an argument where you disagree, they talk right over you or say your name repeatedly, like “well Iris…” So you just have to say things like “that’s not true” or “you are so wrong”. There is no comeback for a declarative statement. (I didn’t take him on about the economy because we only had five minutes and that’s a two week discussion). My point is that people like Bruce are not easily dismissed because they are likeable and appear to be reasonable. (Wait, I have to hit save again).
Speaking of reasonable, (I know we weren’t but it’s a nice transition), yesterday I had a conversation with some African American friends. One told me that she was riding in a cab the other day and her Black cab driver, (without actually asking him) offered some thoughts about the election. “That Obama, he ain’t got any Negro blood. His momma was white and his father was an African. He ain’t got any Negro blood-like me. I’ll vote for him, but he ain’t me." My other friend, who immigrated from Trinidad said something along the same line. “I wanted Hillary. She knows about my problems. She’s a woman and she knows about how hard we have to work. Obama doesn’t understand what we go through every day. He’s black, but he’s not me.”
This morning I listened to the talking heads talking about the campaign and still wondering what happened in the meeting between Clinton and Obama. All I could think was, does it matter what they said exactly? We know they talked about the campaign debt and her role at Convention. I doubt they talked about the VP’s job because he has to make the decision based on what will give him the biggest boost for the election, and anyway, I don’t think it’s a job she wants. I could be wrong but Hillary is an activist and the Vice President’s role is certainly not that. They also talked about why she lost the primaries. These people get paid a lot of money to say nothing - I wish it were me. It’s not brain surgery. The Clinton’s ran a foolish, arrogant campaign. You cannot be in a Presidential contest assuming you are the likely choice, or in this case, the anointed nominee. You actually have to plan to be in the race until the primaries are over-which happens in June not February. Additionally, you cannot write off the caucus states. For someone who claimed to want every vote counted, this was not the Clinton attitude until they were loosing. Here’s the irony, the campaign was bad when it counted, but she found a great many people (Democrats and Republicans) who thought “Hillary is me”. Barack ran a great campaign when it counted, but working people (across color lines — the people Obama needs to win in the General) are now thinking “he’s not me”. So, what can he do?
The answer is not to put Hillary on the ticket. The answer is… not to underestimate the amount of work he has to do. And the first step is to think about the kind of person, not just candidate he needs to be. He’s not Bobby Kennedy. Bobby touched people-physically as well as emotionally. Obama is only halfway there. He’s not Ronald Reagan, who connected with what middle class people were feeling. He certainly doesn’t want to be Michael Dukakis, John Kerry or the now beloved Al Gore. All fine politicians who, it was obvious, never understood what working class people were suffering. (Bush unfortunately fooled people into believing he did). Obama has to get comfortable connecting with blue collar working folks and the women who supported Hillary. In order to win in November he needs to get to the place where people will actually think, “he is me”.