Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Obama owes much to these five people

As with anyone who achieves anything big, Barack Obama owes his success to many. Surely, from Frederick Douglas to Martin Luther King to his own farflung family, historical figures matter. But there are a few of Obama's contemporaries without whom his move to the White House could not have happened. I'll name five: George W. Bush, Jesse Jackson, Oprah Winfrey, Colin Powell, and David Axelrod.

Let us realize that Obama might never have won this election without its coming on the heels of a stridently divisive and exceptionally destructive administration, and so, with deep irony, Obama owes his victory to the slovenly administration of the Bush league most of all.

Jesse Jackson twice ran an articulate, profound and very popular campaign for president with a compelling slogan and inspiring rallies nationwide. Jackson showed that, from a political candidate, the cadences of gospel churches could resonate with millions of Americans of every region and ethnic orientation. And Jackson showed what not to do as well: not to be too much of a preacher -- or to be too closely aligned with one.

Oprah Winfrey, the most influential and admired woman in the United States, has made more gains for the mainstreaming of blacks than anyone else, as she morphed from entertainer, from specialist to generalist, and onward, upward to become the female soul of the nation. Oprah is the soul at the center of America. And her early endorsement of Obama was a big thing and helped him loom larger than Hillary in the primaries.

Colin Powell is the male version of Oprah, an abiding American soul but with a uniform and a cabinet post, military intelligence and the masculine calmness in calamity we want from a leader. Powell's elegance transcended partisanship, showed it could be done, that a black man could look great at the top.

Every politician depends on a sidekick who compliments and constructs the drive behind his quest. For Clinton, that was James Carville. For Bush, that was Karl Rove. And for Obama, that is David Axelrod. As each says, they find their association compelling as they share a kindred world view. Axelrod is and will continue to be Obama's right hand champion. From Obama's early days on the south side of Chicago, we all owe a lot to David Axelrod, architect of the ambitious arc of the next president of the United States.


At 11/08/2008 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Deaniacs will mention that Barack won because of the Democratic Party transformation by Howard Dean. He pioneered the 50 state campaign, but more he transformed the Party into a demography inclusive advocacy for the country.

At 11/08/2008 12:10 PM, Blogger Lawrence said...

You know what? I meant to include Dean. He was in my original list of 4-5 but slipped my mind when I composed the post. I am still rather much a Deaniac myself and do give him a lot of credit. I hope that if Dean would like to be a part of Team Obama there might be a place in the Obama cabinet for Dean, most appropriately Human Health and Services.


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