Serious political people don’t like to think of politicians as products. But who cares what they think? In the real world that is precisely how the customers aka voters treat them. They are laundry detergent, automobiles and footwear. If the Barack Obama had to be compared to a shoe product right now, it would have to be Crocs. These are the foam and vinyl casual shoes with the great big crococodile like holes in them that everybody seemed to want six months ago. Today, it’s hard to find very many people still willing to wear them. They are so last year. On the stock market, share prices of the shoe company have been getting hoofed by investors. Six months ago you would have had to be pay 75 dollars a share. Today they are priced at under ten dollars. Back in November of last year, Barack Obama was considered by many to be a shoe in not only to win the Democratic nomination but also the presidency of the United States. But after taking a kicking in the Pennsylvania primary, where Hillary Clinton beat him by 215 thousand votes, Barack Obama is starting to look so last year. His good fortune is that most of the delegates have already been chosen. They were elected during his halcyon days when his stock was riding high. His problem is that that the election is taking place in November of 2008, not 2007.
How did the Obama product turn into a croc? There are several sophisticated explanations offered by academics, journalists, pundits and political pros. But you don’t have to have a PHD in political science to figure this one out. You only have to look at the faces of Pennsylvania voters. In county after county, dominated by white faces, Barack Obama suffered devastating losses. The sophisticates talk about how Obama just couldn’t close the sale with the working class whites, or senior citizens, or middle aged women. But that kind of analysis is all designed to mask in a politically correct way, the obvious. In the fall of 2007 and the early days of 2008, Barack Obama, a public speaking wizard, swept people off their feet. They came from all demographics looking for a product that looked and sounded and felt different. Barack’s blackness was seen as a net plus because he wasn’t the stereotypical angry black guy. His calling card wasn’t rage or guilt. It was hope and optimism and an appeal to put race into the rear view mirror of American politics.
But something happened in March of this year that turned the Obama product into a shoe that many Americans stopped buying. Videos of speeches began to surface of the man who Obama in his own book called a mentor and father figure, his pastor, JeremiahWright. On You Tube and every T.V. network voters became unsuspecting witnesses to the rants of the Reverend Wright. The words G-d Damn America stood out as the phrase Wright used to make the point that America was not a blessed land that was beacon of hope and freedom to the world. He painted a picture of a rather dark, hopeless, racist, and even evil society. He told his congregation that the U.S. invited the 9/11 attacks because of the policies that had been pursued in the middle east. It was an echo not of the kind of hopeful sermons being delivered by Obama, but rather the violent ideology of Osama and other merchants of radical Islam. The Chicago pastor of Trinity United Church also chose to rant about conspiracies in which the United States government played the role of Dr Frankenstein creating H.I.V. in order to committ genocide against black people around the planet. Wright had also been a fan of another Chicago area firebrand, Louis Farrakhan, the leader of the Nation of Islam. Once it became clear that Obama had a pastor problem, he chose a path that pundits called brilliant. He made a speech about race in which he chose to justify and rationalize the racist message of his pastor, while at the same time trying to distance himself from the message. Christians could in a fit of generosity could say that he loved the sinner while hating the sin. But voters don’t feel generous these days, and most couldn’t figure out why the Obamas would have their little daughters sitting in the chruch pews being exposed to hateful harangues. Senator Obama who looked larger life transcending race in the fall of 2007 was quickly becoming just another shrunken pol playing the race card. Nevertheless the pundits, many of whom were still feeling the love for Obama gave his race speech very high marks. One of them, Chris Matthews even called it Lincolnesque, comparing Obama to the Great Emancipator, whose best know speech was the Gettysburg address, delivered at a civil war burial ground where many white men had died to make black men free. Gettysburg, Pennsylvania this week may have turned out to be the burial ground for Barack Obama’s presidential opportunity. Americans in that burg and most other Pennsylvania towns and cities were swimming against the Barack Obama tide, giving Hillary Clinton a landslide victory, which she bookmarked by telling her supporters, "The Tide has turned."
In the post Jeremiah Wright era, the "Wizard of O" just doesn’t seem to have the product power he once did. What’s behind the curtain now is just a ordinary well spoken man with a Harvard pedigree who has his supporters talking about what used to be. In the final days of the unbearably lengthy Pennsylvania Primary campaign a piece of audio tape surfaced in which Obama was heard talking about his Pennsylvania problem to some wealthy liberal donors in San Francisco. He talked about how many people in the state were bitter about their economic circumstances and that this bitterness made them cling to their guns and bibles and beliefs that their problems were the result of too many people in country who didn’t look like them. In a debate in the days before the Pennslvania vote, Obama tried to unchain himself from these remarks. But his message fell flat. And on Tuesday April 22nd, 2008, the so called Obama movement fell off the cliff.
Can Obama still capture the nomination of his party? The math continues to favour him. He picked up bushels of delegates in his halcyon days. So he is technically the frontrunner, despite what now appears to be a demographic meltdown in the states that a Democrat needs to win in order to capture the White House. Barack Obama is still the prohibitive favorite to take the Democratic Party nomination for President. But unless he finds a way to deprive white men, middle aged women, senior citizens, gun owners and bible believers of their civil right to vote, it would appear that this product will go down in history as just one more croc.
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