Put all that oratory excellence aside. Forget about it. It isn’t what really matters.
How different are Obama and Hilary?
Hillary walks into a stadium filled with her base and gives a speech about how the Republicans are evil. That she, and she alone, is experienced and strong enough to defeat them. End of story.
Obama walks into the heart of the African American Religious community – Martin Luther King’s church – on Martin Luther King Jr Day, and talks about how African Americans need to work harder to live up to MLK’s legacy. He says if African Americans want justice, freedom and equality, then the homophobia, antisemitism, and anti-immigrant resentment that sometimes exists in their community must be acknowledged so they can rise up and become a model community:
For much of this country’s history we, in the African American community, have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man… and yet if we are honest with ourselves we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we are honest with ourselves we’ll acknowledged that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community. If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that there have been times when we have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them; the scourge of antisemitism has at times revealed itself in our community; for too long some of us have seen immigrants only as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.
Can anyone imagine Hilary Clinton speaking so honestly to her base? On the eve of a major primary?
Of course not, tragically she her image makes her look like her goal is power, and so the risk of offending anyone would simply appear too great.
And yet, Obama’s speech is the perfect example of the leadership I believe Americans crave: someone who is unafraid to push them, to tell them how they should, nay need, to be better, and that while a leader will do everything in their power to help them attain that goal it is ultimately up to each of them to achieve it.
And so the contrast could not be clearer.
Hilary appears to be about power – about gaining power to protect “us” from “them.” And like in some Greek tragedy the harder she clings to her power, the faster it slips through her fingers.
Obama, as everyone knows, is about change. But specifically he’s about enabling everyone – “us” and “them” – to rethink what is possible. This is why he earns the right to be compared to Kennedy and Reagan. It isn’t just about “hope.” It’s about broadening peoples minds in order to reshape an entire national culture. And so, the more he reminds Americans of their best ideals and how they, individually and collectively, can achieve them, the more empowered Americans feel and the more power they want to give him. The goal “when he was up and when he was down” remains change. Power is simply a bi-product.