Obama shows cross-party appeal

by Beacon Staff • November 28, 2007

Throughout the past year, his campaign has gained considerable traction amongst Democrats, while principal rival Sen.,Sen. Barack Obama may not be dominating the polls in his White House bid, but his emotive, brain-powered populism has met noteworthy success in 2007. His "politics of hope" is what America needs to get back on track.

Throughout the past year, his campaign has gained considerable traction amongst Democrats, while principal rival Sen. Hillary Clinton saw her numbers peak, stagnate, and hint at a decline.

Obama's rise has been spectacular, even disorienting. Compared to Clinton-a tested Washington pugilist-he appears as little more than an upstart.

Nonetheless, the Illinois junior senator is besting the odds. Obama has managed to outpace a host of liberal bigwigs, dispatching veteran insider John Edwards along the way. Presently, he is nipping at Clinton's heals, particularly in crucial Iowa.

Most telling is the conservative reaction. While the right has roundly rejected Edwards and Clinton, Obama has gotten a pass.

Indeed, Obama's candidacy is arousing genuine excitement within parts of the GOP, namely libertarians and Yankee moderates who reject neoconservative rubbish.

This summer, a study found that seven percent of Iowa Republicans support Obama's presidential bid-John McCain fared worse, and Rudy Giuliani garnered a mere 10 percent.

Influential conservatives Peggy Noonan and Andrew Sullivan have both expressed fondness for the senator. Sullivan just wrote a cover piece for The Atlantic titled "Goodbye to All That: Why Obama Matters."

Other dissenters from the Republican party include prolific donor Tom Bernstein and Bush campaign guru Matthew Dowd.

This specific rank-breaking cannot be blamed on frustration with the GOP at large.

Recent Gallup numbers reveal that while 40 percent of Republicans would consider Obama for president, only 16 percent might vote for the icy Clinton. Some three-quarters of all Republicans view the former first lady unfavorably. For many, the distaste is visceral, a hangover from the heady '90s.

So why the enthusiasm for a man barely known prior to 2004? What is behind Obama's unique red state appeal?

Certainly, his Midwestern cool has something to do with it. Ditto his unassailable eloquence. The rapport he builds with an audience is truly singular.

He presents himself without qualification or equivocation. There is a bravery in his presentation that betrays underlying moral and intellectual clarity. These qualities are rare in any person, let alone a professional politician. They are appreciated by Republicans as well as Democrats.

The divisive, blush-inducing reigns of Bill Clinton, the duplicitous womanizer, and Bush II, the smiley but incompetent fraud, have only enhanced Obama's allure.

To wit, the place has not been an appropriate representation of America's finest.

Observing Obama, people do not detect the threat of a third embarrassment. One senses in Obama a desire to learn with passion-to lead with courage. He comes off first and foremost as a patriot, rather than a partisan. Like John and Robert Kennedy-who in a way prefigured him-Obama understands leadership as civic service, not self-advancement.

Obama wants a nation based on law, not men-an idea dear to the right until the advent of neoconservatism. Unlike the current crooks, he sees the state as a sacred trust between the rulers and the ruled.

His America is a place of stable jobs, amiable foreign relations and a respected constitution. His America is not paralyzed by baby boomer culture wars. His America knows torture and internal surveillance as sheer gangsterism.

A country of common, rather than special interests: this notion animates Obama and his supporters.Like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and the late Kennedy brothers, he has the perfect storm of youthful wisdom combined with piss-and-vinegar. If Barack Obama wins the presidency, here's betting he earns a roomy spot in that old boys' club, with liberals and conservatives alike happy at the addition.