Thursday, September 04, 2008

Barack Obama Campaign on Community Organizers

In watching the convention speeches last night I was struck by the ridicule that was given to Obama's experience as a community organizer. I think the attack was seriously misguided. This is from a response by David Plouffe of the Obama campaign.

Both Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin specifically mocked Barack's experience as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago more than two decades ago, where he worked with people who had lost jobs and been left behind when the local steel plants closed.

Let's clarify something for them right now.

Community organizing is how ordinary people respond to out-of-touch politicians and their failed policies. And it's no surprise that, after eight years of George Bush, millions of people have found that by coming together in their local communities they can change the course of history. That promise is what our campaign has been about from the beginning.

Throughout our history, ordinary people have made good on America's promise by organizing for change from the bottom up. Community organizing is the foundation of the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, labor rights, and the 40-hour workweek. And it's happening today in church basements and community centers and living rooms across America.

13 comments:

Layman said...

Were you also struck by the ridicule the Obama Campaign heaped on small town mayors in their first reaction to McCain's choice of Gov. Palin?

This was a reaction to that scorn but many seem to think it was somehow an out of the blue cheap shot. I happen to think being a small town mayor is more relevant experience for elected office than being a vaguely described community organizer.

Anonymous said...

"I happen to think being a small town mayor is more relevant experience for elected office than being a vaguely described community organizer."

And if Obama had been mayor of a small town like Palin had been, you don't think the Repbulicans would be laughing at that kind of experience?

Anonymous said...

Let's not forget that it was McCain who made such a big deal about experience. After months of attacking Obama over his lack of exeperience he goes and selects someone like Palin.
How cynical a choice is that?

Eric said...

I think we sometimes take these purely political arguments far too seriously; in other words, we make the mistake of judging them to be *real* arguments! Let me make my case.

Palin is being criticized for only having been a governor for two years of her first term, but George W. was a two term governor.

Palin is being criticized for being governor of an admittedly large but lowly populated state. George W. was a two term governor of a very large, highly populated state.

Palin is being criticized for lacking foreign policy experience. George W. was a two term governor of a large, highly populated state, and he had foreign policy experience in dealing with Mexico.

Now, George W. had everything Palin is said to lack, yet what was the consisntent charge made against George W. in his first run for the presidency: It was that he lacked 'gravitas.' The 'g' word is noticeably absent from media coverage of Obama, who is patently less qualified than George W. was when he ran for the presidency. Yet, media interest in 'experience' is suddenly on the rise with the nomination of Palin as McCain's VP.

Clearly, we cannot make any sense of these facts unless we conclude that these arguments are not meant as arguments, but as propaganda (of course, there's always the possibility that these people are just incredibly stupid, but that's rather unlikely, isn't it?).

Anonymous said...

Well, Eric, McCain was the one who's been harping on experience. Are you saying he's the stupid one here? That he was not making a real argument, merely spouting propaganda?

Eric said...

Anon, first, let's be accurate: it wasn't McCain who made a big issue of Obama's lack of experience, but people like Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.

Second, answer your own question: Is it really Obama's lack of experience that has caused McCain to oppose him, or is it rather that he wants the same job McCain does? I'm not saying that there aren't any fundamental disagreements on important issues; of course there are. But what I am saying is that it's not *simply* these differences that motivate political arguments. If Obama were more experienced than McCain, Obama's supporters would be making *exactly* the same arguments against McCain that McCain supporters are making against Obama. Just look at how people on both sides of the political spectrum are treating the presidential and vice presidential candidates: those who support Obama largely ignore his lack of experience and boast of Biden's experience, while downplaying McCain's experience and attacking Palin's lack of experience; those who support McCain boast of his experience and ignore Palin's lack of experience, while attacking Obama's lack of experience and downplaying Biden's experience.


Of course, there's discussion about much more than 'experience' going on here. I'm just using the experience arguments both sides present to show how obvious it is that these people aren't simply presenting serious arguments for our consideration, but are, rather like a lawyer, presenting the best case for their client.

Anonymous said...

"I'm just using the experience arguments both sides present to show how obvious it is that these people aren't simply presenting serious arguments for our consideration, but are, rather like a lawyer, presenting the best case for their client."

Agreed.

Interestingly the Obama campaign has not pushed the experience card. They are focusing in on Palin's cultural conservatism.

Tragic Clown Dog said...

I only saw Palin's speech, but I understood her to be mocking the claim that her experience as a small-town mayor has no relevance to being the Vice-President, but Obama's experience as community organizer does have relevance to being the President. In other words, she wasn't mocking community organizing in general, but the claim that it qualifies one to be President while being a mayor does not qualify one to be Vice-President.

Eric said...

Tragic Clown, I agree. Though she did suggest that being a mayor was in a sense better than being a community organizer, since mayors have, as she said, responsibilities.

Victor Reppert said...

Palin was mayor of Wasilla 2 years ago, Obama was a community organizer much longer ago. So I think she is much less along in her career than he is. Of course, you could then make the argument that she's only going for VP, not the Presidency.

My concern with Palin is that her paper trail is perhaps harder to get at than anyone else's in this campaign, so we really don't know what we will be in for when we find out more about her.

Anonymous said...

"My concern with Palin is that her paper trail is perhaps harder to get at than anyone else's in this campaign, so we really don't know what we will be in for when we find out more about her."

It doesn't look like we are going to be finding out more about her anytime soon. She is apparently being shielded from the press.
Strange. A candidate who portrays herself as a pit bull with lipstick should not be afraid to answer a few questions from the press. Yet the McCain campaign has made clear that she is not going to be doing much talking with the press:
"She may take some questions from local news entities in Alaska, but until she's ready -- and until she's comfortable -- which might not be for a long while -- the media will have to wait."

Clayton said...

Were you also struck by the ridicule the Obama Campaign heaped on small town mayors in their first reaction to McCain's choice of Gov. Palin?

You don't distinguish heaping scorn on someone for being a small town mayor and heaping scorn on someone for taking someone who is little more than a small town mayor to be fit for commander in chief?

That's too bad, neither does McCain. The difference is pretty obvious, however. Being a small town mayor is not a disqualification. No one in Obama's camp has said otherwise. It's not much of a qualification either, so if you don't have much else on the old resume you probably aren't qualified and the person who picks you to be VP clearly isn't qualified for an executive position.

As for the more general experience issue, who was right on Iraq? Was it the inexperienced Obama who had enough experience to know better than to go into Iraq or the far more experienced McCain who in spite of his experience doesn't seem to know better?

La Coka Nostra said...

Anon,
use your head.
Barack is running for P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T.
Palin would be a V-I-C-E P-R-E-S-I-D-E-N-T.

Do you really want to worry yourself about their respective qualifications?