From One Bara(c)k to Another
by Barak Epstein
Barack Obama has gotten off his game lately. His understandable compulsion to respond to the Clinton attacks is jeopardizing his popular image. How can Obama defuse the Clinton claim to sage leadership without playing into the ‘drama of personalities’ that Hillary and Bill have set up for him?
Fundamental economic and geopolitical realities play into Obama’s potential to be a transformative president. Globalization and the emergence of the information age increase the value of collaboration, understanding of global cultures, openness, and authenticity. Obama rode these trends into the national limelight. Now he needs to demonstrate that his political mastery of the Age of Globalization marches hand in hand with his cultural mastery of that same Age.
The pending energy revolution significantly links cultural and political trends of globalization. No other issue offers the opportunity to tap so deeply and simultaneously into the cultural thirst for a sustainable global economy and the economic needs (1) to begin to free us from oil and (2) to retrain Americans for an era in which cheap labor abounds in the rest of the world. Specifically, Obama should spread the gospel of a national science project that can help retrain America’s workers and provide ‘green collar’ jobs while addressing the challenge of climate change.
Amazingly, Obama can also ride the issue of globalization to a more confident and more coherent foreign policy stance. Thus far, Obama’s general expression of openness with regard to foreign policy scarily mirrors John Kerry’s 2004 fuzzy talk about ‘multilateralism’. Of course, an energy revolution would serve the goal of drying up some of the funds authoritarian regimes that impede the continuing spread of democracy and/or promote terrorism. Obama should take all of this a step further to emphasize the new opportunities for cooperation that globalization brings. Specifically, he should express the need to create a League of Democracies that works across continental boundaries to establish a world order that reflects America’s highest ideals as well as its national interests. This concept is symbolic of a foreign policy that is collaborative, as so many Democrats desire, but that is also proactive and truly American. The logic of such a policy has the potential to revolutionize the foreign policy of the Democratic Party.
For Obama to be as transformative as Reagan, his ideas will have to come across as clearly as his good character does. The key to articulating these ideas lies in the very cultural and economic trends that make Obama’s style so inherently appealing. Obama’s style is not entirely convincing as long as he plays the game of ideas according to rules that the Clintons set in the 90’s. Obama is playing a new game but has not announced the new rules yet.
Wednesday, January 23, 2008
I recently wrote the article below and am planning to submit it to the Obama HQ in NYC and to my new blog on the Obama website. If Obama embraces the perspective outlined in the article below (not necessarily through my doing, of course), I will embrace his candidacy.