I've been waiting over the past months for your campaign to take off and I can't help noticing it's not.
This is upsetting to those of us who fear a Clinton vs. Obama race for the Democratic nomination. Personally I don't think this country can take another day of a Clinton presidency, let alone four more years. I've held my nose and voted for every Democratic Presidential candidate since I was 18 and a Democratic Ward committeeman in my hometown of Philadelphia, but I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton, even in a general election. I know the stakes are high in this election but Hillary's candidacy just smells too damn bad.
Meanwhile Obama reminds one of Bill Clinton, with his claims of being beyond partisanship and his winks and nods to the base of the party, implying that once in office he'll do the right thing. Bill Clinton also campaigned on every side of every issue but got elected anyway because he was obviously the smartest and most capable guy in the field.
In my view at least, Clinton was also a terrible President, picking all the wrong battles, and losing the ones he picked; a man with a big stomach for politics but no heart for the good fight. Clinton talked like a populist but chose not to address the rise of greed as the engine of American prosperity; rather he subtly encouraged it.
Obama handlers are right to cast him as the charismatic conciliator because frankly, that's the only way a black man's going to get elected President this side of the Jordan. But in the miraculous event that Obama actually got elected, the malefactors of great wealth and their smooth operators would do such a number on him, Obama would end up making Bill Clinton look like Eugene Debs by comparison.
We live in a time of incipient financial collapse, class stratification unseen since before the rise of the modern labor movement and impending ecological catastrophe. We need change, and a candidate of change. By all rights, you should be that candidate.
Personally, I don't think there's anything wrong with your message. I think that many Democrats, especially those that vote in primaries, like your message. There is the sense though of a certain dissonance between the message and the messenger, plus the feeling that you're just trying too hard to connect.
I don't think you're going to be able to ignore this disconnect and still win in Iowa, but like Bob Marley once sang, "when one door is closed, another is open."
In one of the Democratic debates, a questioner asked if you believed in a personal God that intervenes in human affairs, or something to that effect. You answered that no, with all that's happened to you and your loved ones in this life, you just couldn't believe in that.
I think the nature of your belief is the key for you in this campaign. If one doesn't believe in a personal God who intervenes in human affairs, what does a person have to believe in? The answer quite simply, is hope itself. Hope is the face of God in this world.
You know this of course. You campaigned on it in 2004. In fact let me quote from the end of your Vice Presidential acceptance speech at the Democratic Convention of that year.
Like all of us, I have learned a lot of lessons in my life. Two of the most important are that first, there will always be heartache and struggle-you can't make it go away. But the other lesson is that people of good and strong will can make a difference . . .
. . . We choose hope over despair, possibilities over problems, optimism over cynicism. We choose to do what's right even when those around us say "You can't do that." We choose to be inspired because we know that we can do better-because this is America where everything is still possible.
Every great populist campaign has had as its' underpinning the implicit religious belief that in serving justice and the cause of the common people, we are doing the work of God in this world.
If I were you, I would take those two paragraphs from late in your 2004 nomination speech and make both a thirty second spot and a sixty second spot out of them. The thirty-second spot would essentially just record that moment in time.
The Sixty-second spot would begin with you on the podium at the convention in front of the cheering delegates. In a voice over, behind the visuals, we would hear a short-compatible- snippet of your current message, that "our society is being undermined by the growing gulf between the elites and the rest of us. Goldman-Sachs and the permanent government have Henry Paulsons and Robert Rubins to fight for them but who will fight for "everyday people" against a corrupt system rigged on behalf of the rich and the powerful?"
Then we would see and hear that same excerpt from the speech in 2004.
(Forgive me if I got a little specific here, but I've been making documentaries for the past twenty or so years and got carried away)
Beyond the two spots, I would-if I were you- sit down and write another stump speech. It would encompass the transcendental themes of the 2004 excerpt, the more pointed themes of today and make the connection between the two.
The speech would say something like, that when confronted with the almost impossible odds against social justice and social equity, hope is God's way of getting us up each day to fight for a world worth living in. This fight is not just for the sake of the poor and the oppressed, but for the sake of humanity itself.
The stakes have never been higher. More than ever, here on spaceship earth, we're all in this together. . . Something like that.
It is a bit late in the primary day, Senator Edwards, but like some prophet or other must have said once, where there's life, there's hope.
I would seriously consider using that before David Axelrod steals it for Obama.
As they say down in New Orleans, bon chance, bon courage. Hope is on the way.
Larry Abrams website can be found at www.birdthatsings.com.