Wednesday, October 15, 2008

What Obama Has to Do Tonight

In the words of E.M. Forster, only connect. He has spent two years inspiring and dazzling crowds with eloquence, maintaining his rational calm in debates, acting presidential under fire. For tonight's debate, Barack Obama needs a little less JFK, a bit more Oprah.

What may be missing for some undecided voters is a visceral connection to their lives, especially in today's distress, the absence of which has allowed Republicans to stereotype as elitist and detached the man who grew up with a mother on food stamps opposing a privileged son of the military upper crust.

His cerebral, scholarly attitude is central to Obama and, consciously or not, he may feel impelled to separate himself from the emotionalism of the civil rights era. But in his own style, he needs to project some of Bill Clinton's "I feel your pain" empathy to win over voters being besieged by attacks about how "different" he is.

In Joe Klein's "Primary Colors," there is a scene in which the Clinton character and his cronies indulge in a maudlin "mamathon" about the virtues of their mothers. As dogged by scandal in 1992 as Obama is now by attacks about class and race, Clinton managed to reach through the TV screen and touch voters in a time when they needed emotional connection much less than they do now.

Perhaps Obama could use a pep talk from his most vocal supporter, Oprah, on how to pass on to Americans a measure of the warmth and compassion that brought her from the depths of poverty to the pinnacle of wealth and power.

With everything else going his way in the final days of the campaign, that might be the last piece of the puzzle to give undecided voters a picture of him in the White House.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

My friends, why worry? Debates don't matter a single bit. They simply don't.

Let us look at 2004. John Kerry trounced George W in all three debates. ALL three. Kerry went on to win the election. Then the vote in Ohio was fixed, and King George was handed back the country to rectally violate it for another four years.

Debates don't make a difference. In November, the final tally will be a measure of the number of smart people in America vs. the number of idiot racists. If the latter prevails, welcome the Pale n' Old (Palin-McCain) disaster.

Dr Ted Baehr