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November 4, 2009

America's Love Affair with Obama; Showing Signs of Fraying

By Rob Kall

The bloom is off the rose, though, with some audacious gardening, it could return.


Arianna Huffington's review of David Plouffe's new book on the Obama campaign, The Audacity to Win: The Inside Story and Lessons of Barack Obama's Historic Victory, reiterates again and again how the campaign team would ask themselves if they were retaining the vision and values the campaign determined it wanted to maintain. If they determined they were not hewing to them, they'd re-evaluate, refresh and get back to those values of not doing things the same old way. They went back to seeking real change and not getting sucked into the DC undertow of same old.

Yesterday's election shows that they have failed to keep to that policy.

Maybe Obama appointed too many people with White house experience.

Maybe Obama has been distracted with a plethora of genuine crises and challenges, so he's put the "Vision thing" of change lower down on the priority list.

But the people of America-- the mass of independents and young people-- who elected Obama fell in love.

They fell in love with a man who had the courage to stand up for change.

They fell in love with a man who spoke to them with words so powerful and moving Shakespeare would have approved.

They fell in love with the idea that a strong, principled leader could go to Washington, and if given the power, really make changes happen.

The off season election has shown us that the glow on the romance is fading, at best.

Something was lost when Obama moved to the Whitehouse, something Plouffe describes in his book which existed during the campaign,

It's easy to get distracted by crises and the demands of a house, where a thousand demands are thrust upon you daily, where your trusted, closest advisers each bring their pet issues and values to you.

And you never know, when you have someone, or a nation, or a world of people tired of George Bush fall in love with you, what it was that caused them to fall in love with you.

Arianna Huffington writes, in her extraordinary review of Plouffe's book, titled,Obama One Year Later: The Audacity of Winning vs. The Timidity of Governing

...key takeaway from the book: the fact that everything in the campaign flowed, as Plouffe puts it, from Obama's conviction that "the country needed deep, fundamental change; Washington wasn't thinking long-term... the special interests and lobbyists had too much power, and the American people needed to once again trust and engage in their democracy."

Axelrod -- or "Ax" as Plouffe refers to him throughout the book -- summed up at the beginning of the campaign the core elements of the message that would guide them: "change versus a broken status quo; people versus the special interests; a politics that would lift people and the country up; and a president who would not forget the middle class."

Running a different kind of campaign became "shorthand" for the campaign. Whenever they found themselves drifting towards standard political behavior, they'd ask themselves: "If we do this, how is that running a different kind of campaign?"

As Plouffe told me: "We made sure that everyone we hired internalized our core message and defaulted to those touch points when making decisions. For our break-the-rules strategy to work, we all had to remain faithful to its principles all the time."

Arianna quotes Plouffe, "D.C. is a swamp of conventional wisdom and insiders that can suck
a campaign down, and we needed to think differently." then observes,

"Maybe the answer to the last nine months is to move the White House to Chicago.

Indeed, reading the book, I often found myself wondering what Candidate Obama would think of President Obama. Would he look at what the White House is doing and say, "that's what I and my supporters worked so hard for?"

How did the candidate who got into the race because he'd decided that "the core leadership had turned rotten" and that "the people were getting hosed" become the president who has decided that the American people can only have as much change as Olympia Snowe will allow?

How did the candidate who told a stadium of supporters in Denver that "the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result" become the president who has surrounded himself with the same old players trying the same old politics, expecting a different result?

How could a president whose North Star as a candidate was that he "would not forget the middle class" choose as his chief economic advisor a man who recently argued against extending unemployment
benefits in the middle of the worst economic times since the Great Depression?

David Plouffe writes in response to Arriana Huffington, an article titled, No Difference Between President Obama and Candidate Obama. He argues that

"During the campaign, the president offered three core promises to the
American people.

First, he promised to wake up every day thinking about how to improve the lives of the middle class...

...President Obama's second core campaign promise was to make government more transparent and accountable, to rebuild a sacred trust that had been seriously eroded.

The third core pillar the president offered America was the chance to rebuild and strengthen our relationship with the rest of the world. Doing so would to allow us to solve shared problems and maximize shared opportunities, and to more effectively confront the terrorism and foreign policy challenges faced by the entire world.

Plouffe walks us through how Obama has delivered on these "core promises," in a response to Arianna's review.

The problem is, love doesn't work that way. People fell in love with their expectation of what Obama AND the Democrats who were elected, to a large extent on his coattails, would do.

The DEMOCRATS, who the American people gave extraordinary power, are frittering it away. Even if Plouffe is right technically, that does not matter when it comes to Obama's love affair. He must deliver on what they expect from him-- leadership of the Democratic party-- leadership that gets things done and that stands up to the minority Republicans the election created.

One thing Obama may have campaigned for, which people did not vote for was the passage of bi-partisan bills. They gave Obama such a strong congressional lead that he doesn't need to do bi-partisan.

When you entrust great power AND love to someone, it is their responsibility to use the power and give back at least some of the love-- to show the lover that the love is two way. There's a lot of trust in giving love and even more trust in giving love AND power.

Obama started cutting into that trust by appointing wolves in the henhouse-- Geithner and Summers, to name a few. and Greg Craig, who, as Whitehouse counsel, is advising Obama regarding FISA wiretaps, Guantanamo, Torture, impeachment, investigations of Bush and Cheney, keeping Bush appointed, Rove trained Justice Department attorneys in place... These are the things that are making that love affair with Obama harder and harder to keep alive.

This fall's off season election sends a message to Obama. I'm reading my own tea leave version from here in Bucks County PA, one of the two bell weather counties that usually decide PA elections. Here in Bucks county, where Obama was VERY successful, where Bob Casey obliterated Rick Santorum, Republicans swept the line offices countywide by a 15-20 point margin. The independents gave them the win. The glow is gone for them.

Things do not look promising for next year's gubernatorial election or congressional elections-- for house or senate.

It's not too late. Obama could either straighten out Pelosi and Reid, and get them moving. Today, the news headline, reported by the Wall Street Journal print edition, is "democrats say early health-care vote isn't likely"

It's hard to understand how the Democrats can think that they can just put this on a side burner. Extending the love analogy, this is like going through a lot of heavy foreplay and then telling your lover you feel like playing poker or going shopping. This can only further hurt the Democratic party and its chances for the 2010 elections. Americans gave incredible power to the Democrats and their leader, Obama, and even if Plouffe is right, and he is following through on his long term, big picture commitment and vision, there is a lot more at stake here.

The American people were abused for eight years-- brutally lied to, defrauded, subjected to incredible corruption, left economically raped and traumatized. They want things made right, not kept "as usual." That's not change. The changes Plouffe describes are all well and good, but they don't get to the core of the needs Americans have now. We gave power. We want it used. That means going to the congress with the majority votes given and passing a shitload of serious, solid legislation. That means taking the bluedogs Rahm Emanuel had a major role in putting in place and getting them in line, on board with the program. That means passing health care reform legislation even more robust than Obama talked about, since he never expected to have the house and the senate. It means cleaning up Guantanamo, reversing the Patriot act. It means throwing out every Goldman Sachs insider in government, just like the people of New Jersey did.

Love is blind for a while. It can even tolerate unfaithful dalliances-- like Obama's cheating on the American people by appointing Geithner, Summers and other wolves in the hen house.

But un-requited love turns to pain and bitterness and anger. That's what's happening in America. Obama needs to give back some of the love and show that his cheating on the American people is over. That means he needs to replace some of the people who have shown they put Wall Street over main street. And he needs to be a man and take charge of the congress, because they can't do it without him.

Some on the far left and far right will say that there are not many differences between the Democrats and Republicans. During the election, those people voted for Nader, McKinney and Barr. There are a whole lot more of those people now. The latest polls show that there are more independents than Democrats and less than 20% who identify themselves as Republicans. Obama cold win a lot of those people back.

Huffington finishes her review, reporting and observing,

I asked Plouffe if the president had read the book. "He read a couple of sections in it," he replied, "and even discovered a couple of things he didn't know."

Well, if the president wants to make sure he doesn't let down the millions who believed he really would change the rotten system, he should read the The Audacity to Win from beginning to end -- and rediscover a whole host of things he knows, but seems to have forgotten.

Then he can complete the journey from The Audacity of Hope and The Audacity To Win to The Audacity to Govern.

I agree. The Democrats in congress have long shown major problems losing their keys and their spines-- they've lost the keys to getting things done and they've rarely found the courage to take tough stands and take on those nasty, tough Republicans. Obam needs to become an audacious LEADER. Consensus is good. Bottom up participation is good. But even the most bottom up operations and organizations must have a leader.

Seneca, the Roman Stoic philosopher, wrote, ""It is not because things are difficult that we do not dare, it is because we do not dare that they are difficult." Obama needs to take that idea and lead the Democrats with daring, and he will find that America's love for him will grow greater than before. But if he fails to audaciously lead and govern, his fulfilling the promises Plouffe lists will not do the job and the Democrats will fail disastrously, come November 2010.

Submitters Bio:

Rob Kall is an award winning journalist, inventor, software architect,
connector and visionary. His work and his writing have been featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN, ABC, the HuffingtonPost, Success, Discover and other media. 

Check out his platform at

He is the author of The Bottom-up Revolution; Mastering the Emerging World of Connectivity  

He's given talks and workshops to Fortune
500 execs and national medical and psychological organizations, and pioneered
first-of-their-kind conferences in Positive Psychology, Brain Science and
Story. He hosts some of the world's smartest, most interesting and powerful
people on his Bottom Up Radio Show,
and founded and publishes one of the top Google- ranked progressive news and
opinion sites,

more detailed bio: 

Rob Kall has spent his adult life as an awakener and empowerer-- first in the field of biofeedback, inventing products, developing software and a music recording label, MuPsych, within the company he founded in 1978-- Futurehealth, and founding, organizing and running 3 conferences: Winter Brain, on Neurofeedback and consciousness, Optimal Functioning and Positive Psychology (a pioneer in the field of Positive Psychology, first presenting workshops on it in 1985) and Storycon Summit Meeting on the Art Science and Application of Story-- each the first of their kind.  Then, when he found the process of raising people's consciousness and empowering them to take more control of their lives  one person at a time was too slow, he founded which has been the top search result on Google for the terms liberal news and progressive opinion for several years. Rob began his Bottom-up Radio show, broadcast on WNJC 1360 AM to Metro Philly, also available on iTunes, covering the transition of our culture, business and world from predominantly Top-down (hierarchical, centralized, authoritarian, patriarchal, big)  to bottom-up (egalitarian, local, interdependent, grassroots, archetypal feminine and small.) Recent long-term projects include a book, Bottom-up-- The Connection Revolution, debillionairizing the planet and the Psychopathy Defense and Optimization Project. 

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To learn more about Rob and, check out A Voice For Truth - ROB KALL | OM Times Magazine and this article. 

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