Obama: A bit too much like Dellums for my taste…

18 Jan

On Monday night, I joined hundreds of Oakland residents to listen to Mayor Dellums’ state of the city address. I’m not going to get into the details too much here, mostly because V Smoothe already did a much more thorough job then I could ever hope to. Really, go read her analysis if you want to know the real facts behind what Dellums said on Monday.

But something clicked for me on Monday night. Watching the crowd hang on his every word, as Dellums threw out clever lines and attacked the evils of the media and crime, I finally realized why I’m worried about the possibility (maybe probability?) of Barack Obama being our president.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t dislike Obama. I think he’s overall been a good senator (much as Dellums was a great congressman), and I’d choose him over Hillary any day, but what scares me is how he speaks and how his supporters speak about him.

Just as Dellums campaigned on making Oakland a model city, Obama is heavy on the rhetoric of hope, change, and unity. But what does this really mean, if anything? Hope alone is not going to get us anywhere, as we’ve seen in Oakland. And unity with right wing Republicans and corporate lobbyists isn’t going to get us the change we’re looking for (at least not the change I’m looking for).

But his supporters (and the media) constantly fawn over his inspirational speeches. On the night of his win in Iowa, the pundits couldn’t stop praising him, saying it was the best speech of his they’ve ever heard (it sounded to me like the same speech he gave at the DNC convention in ’04). At a progressive event here in Oakland, one of his supporters kept going on and on about how if we would all just attend an event and hear him speak, we’d  put our support behind Obama.

You know what? I’m not interested in a president who’s inspirational without being specific. And I’m certainly not going to support a candidate whom you have to see in person to be convinced about his/her message.

And on Monday night, I saw such a similar phenomenon. Before Dellums spoke, a young African-American man (sorry, I didn’t catch his name and he never explained his affiliation) got the crowd pumped by talking about “getting down to town business” and how he “hella loves Oakland”. Dellums followed, talking about setting the record straight, and saying that Oakland is and can be a model city.

I looked around me, and really, people were eating this up. I’m not going to lie – for a bit there, I was reminded of my pride for this city and was falling into the trap of equating this city pride with support for our mayor.

But all of this inspirational speaking is ultimately just talk. And I’m worried that an Obama administration would look all too similar to a Dellums administration.

So on February 5th, I’m voting for John Edwards. I don’t care if people think he can’t win. The truth is that Edwards has been shut out of the race by the media, much more than Dellums has ever suffered from. And he talks about real issues – like health care, poverty, agriculture, and labor conflicts and I believe he brings real solutions to the table. And regardless of whether he wins or not, he’s done a great job of forcing both Clinton and Obama to at least talk about the issues I care about and to keep them from swinging even further to the middle of the political spectrum.

I’m guessing there are some Obama supporters reading this so go ahead and have at me – I’d be happy to be convinced I’m wrong, especially since I’ll eventually be voting for him if he’s the nominee.

11 Responses to “Obama: A bit too much like Dellums for my taste…”

  1. caramida January 22, 2008 at 5:43 pm #

    I was also at the State of the City, and your comparison between Dellums and Obama are kinda depressing in there coherence. You’ve made some valid points. I think I’ll seriously consider Edwards because of this. I found your journal through a Google search of the 1R and Telegraph. Funny how serendipity leads us to surprising places. Thanks.

  2. Becks January 22, 2008 at 6:39 pm #

    Glad you found me caramida! 1 vote does count so I’m glad I could help you see the light on Obama vs. Edwards.

  3. V Smoothe January 23, 2008 at 2:26 am #

    I have to admit that I’m torn on this. I am (and have been for many years) an Edwards girl, but I’ve been thinking seriously over the last couple weeks about voting for Obama on the 5th because I’m just that depressed by the idea of a Hillary candidacy.

  4. Dogtown Commoner January 23, 2008 at 10:44 pm #

    I’ll be voting for Obama. There’s definitely the danger that Obama would turn out to be like Dellums if he got in office, but when I hear or read him discussing policy, he does seem to have a command of the specifics that doesn’t show in his vague and inspiring rhetoric (incidentally, I went to his big Oakland rally in March, and wasn’t very impressed by his speech — it was just so-so.). The bottom line for me is that a vote for Edwards would amount to a vote for Clinton, and I prefer Obama to Clinton by a mile. I guess I’m also mostly persuaded that Obama’s notion of “unity” and “reaching out” doesn’t involve compromising his principles, but rather using public rhetoric and private persuasion to increase the likelihood of actually getting some decent stuff passed. If Clinton becomes President, I expect nothing but gridlock or spineless compromise. This Washington Post op-ed offers an example from Obama’s history of how he worked with opponents to get important things done without meeting those opponents half-way or selling out his goals or principles.

  5. Ebri January 24, 2008 at 12:29 pm #

    Weirdly, I found myself having an almost identical discussion last night. I don’t know that it’s really that important for a leader at the national level to have a grasp of details (the way it is for someone at the local level), provided they are firm in the desired result and the trade offs involved in getting there. However, I wouldn’t call myself an Obama supporter. I went to one of the first big Obama rallies in Oakland, and although my companion was instantly smitten, I was put off by the rhetoric of inspiration and didn’t feel like there was really anything there other than very generalized concepts–broad support for things like racial equality and reduction in greenhouse gases–even Republicans will give generalized support to these policies, it’s on the road to getting there that conflict arises. I have other problems with Obama too, like his (and Clinton’s) support for the Coal to Fuel Promotion Act. I haven’t really put my support behind Edwards, but I’m hoping he’s at least still around by February 5 as an option.

  6. Becks January 25, 2008 at 7:12 pm #

    Ebri – Edwards will certainly still be around by February 5th.

    I understand the conflict over wanting to support Edwards but being so afraid of a Clinton nomination/presidency that you feel you have to vote for Obama. And in the past, I’ve sometimes voted strategically out of fear like that.

    But I really believe in Edwards, and it’s been a long time since I could stand behind a presidential candidate that had somewhat of a chance. Though I would be surprised at this point if he won the nomination (though anything’s possible – who would have guessed that Huckabee would be leading Guliani in national polls right now?), I think it’s important that he stay in the race until the end for two reasons.

    #1: He keeps Obama and Clinton somewhat honest and prevents them from moving to the center. Most of their good policy ideas have been ripped off from Edwards.

    #2: If he can’t be president, I want to see Edwards as VP. He would be a phenomenal VP, and if it’s an Obama-Edwards administration, I think Obama would let Edwards run with many of his domestic social programs.

    So I’m still voting for Edwards, despite my grave concerns about the possibility of Obama losing to Clinton.

  7. Becks January 30, 2008 at 11:18 am #

    Looks like I was wrong. I’m beyond disappointed right now, but I guess this makes everyone’s choice easier. I’m still going to have a VERY hard time voting for Obama – it just doesn’t feel right.

  8. V Smoothe January 30, 2008 at 2:35 pm #

    Sob! On the plus side, this makes my decision next week about a million times easier, I guess. At least he didn’t withdraw while I was voting this time.

  9. Mike Hardy February 29, 2008 at 11:41 am #

    One major difference is that Obama actually has highly detailed things on his website – e.g. you can see what he’d do in detail regarding various issues.

    Can’t say that about Mr.Dellums…

  10. Becks February 29, 2008 at 12:04 pm #

    You know, since Edwards dropped out, I’ve come around a lot on Obama. I did a bunch of research and asked all of my Obama supporting friends to convince me. They did a great job and I feel like Obama would be an excellent president. I still think Edwards would have done better, but it’s hard to ignore the movement that has formed around Obama’s candidacy. I’m more than happy to support a candidate that can bring energy back into the Democratic party and can inspire young and new voters to engage in the political process.

  11. Colin January 28, 2009 at 3:25 pm #

    Funny to see this post linked to from your current write-up about Dellum’s state of the city address.

    I think the last year has done a lot to highlight differences between these two, as if they’re on completely opposite trajectories.

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