IN LATE OCTOBER 1987, Barack Obama and Jerry Kellman took a weekend off from their jobs as community organizers in Chicago and traveled to a conference on social justice and the black church at Harvard. During an evening break in the schedule, they strolled around campus in their shirtsleeves, enjoying the unseasonably warm weather. Two-and-a-half years earlier, Kellman had hired Obama to organize residents of Chicago's South Side. Now, Obama had something to tell his friend and mentor. It had to do, in part, with his father.
Political conventions have a public and a private face. The respective parties and their nominees carefully control how each looks. John McCain’s campaign is trying to keep some of his and Sarah Palin’s positions on policy out of the public eye--meaning out of prime time speeches, and in some cases even out of the public forums that take place during the day and are open to the media. These omissions are as important to what the convention means as the speeches themselves. They show what candidate wants to hide from the public--until after he is elected. 1.
Randy Orr is a truck driver and a member of the Teamsters Union. He is also a Republican delegate from Houston. This is his first convention, and he is delighted with it. "I never finished my degree in college. I remember the one class I took that I enjoyed was political science. It was a Democrat that taught it, and he talked about being a delegate. Now I'm one." He decided to become active in Republican politics because of his faith. "I grew up in the church, and after about four or five years, I realized that anything that affects you or me, God is interested in it," he says.
I. The Barack Obama campaign has been floundering. If he had a lead in the polls in late June--and the summer polls are notoriously fickly--he clearly lost it by the convention’s beginning. And so far, the convention--dominated, ironically, by the Clintons--has not particularly helped. Bill Clinton and Joe Biden performed quite well last night, but if Obama fails to deliver a spellbinding oration tonight, the Democrats could be in for a long and disappointing fall. Why is Obama in trouble?
John McCain likes to compare himself to Theodore Roosevelt, Barry Goldwater, and Ronald Reagan. But, if he were to become president, could he more closely resemble Richard Nixon? Not Nixon the Watergate dirty trickster, but Nixon the statesman.
Dear Editor: It is unfortunate to see John Judis recycling discredited allegations by the controversial government "watchdog," the Independent Review Board (IRB). The IRB was installed to root out mob influence in the Teamsters, but with the mobsters now out of the picture, this lavishly paid unit uses its unchecked authority to take sides in internal politics, curtail free speech and ride rough shod over due process against any union official they target.
Now that he has clinched the Democratic nomination, pundits will mostly gauge Barack Obama’s prospects in the general election by looking at states he can win or constituencies he can carry. But there is another dimension to his candidacy: He represents a social group that was once on the margins of American politics, but now aspires to put one of its own in the highest office. This has happened once before in U.S. politics: when American Catholics saw one of their own nominated to be president.
The issue of race is the longest-lasting cleavage in American politics. It is also perhaps the least understood. The open exploitation of racist sentiment by vote-hungry politicians was for centuries a durable American tradition.
I am not going to get into the game of saying whom Barack Obama should choose to be his vice-presidential nominee. I am chastened from having argued for John Kerry to pick John Edwards in 2004. And I am not going to say whom he shouldn't choose either. But I want to suggest that there are pitfalls to his endorsing the "dream ticket" of himself and Hillary Clinton, which prominent Clinton supporters like Diane Feinstein are promoting. There are two arguments for Obama choosing Clinton: one is plausible; the other is bogus.
Tuesday's results replicated much of the Democratic race during the last two months. Hillary Clinton once more showed her strength and Barack Obama's weakness among white working class voters in Midwestern swing states, while Obama proved his hold on young and college-educated voters in states where a new post-industrial economy has developed, and where college-educated voters make up about half of the Democratic electorate. For Obama, the question will be how to capture enough of these white working class voters in November to defeat Republican John McCain.