Monday, September 22, 2008

Four Soundbites (& Venues) For Obama

Barack Obama’s convention speech was the last time he had the undivided attention of the American people to make a sustained argument for his candidacy. The debates will be critical as everyone agrees. But, in the meantime, he can frame the race by delivering four soundbites that hit on key issues and, just as important, flesh out what he means by change and the promise it holds for the voters who will decide the election. Those voters are white, ethnic Catholics with no college education, who make less than fifty thousand dollars a year, living in Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan and Latinos who will prove decisive in Nevada, Colorado and New Mexico.

1) “If we could convert our factories in a few months after Pearl Harbor from making cars to making tanks and planes, we can convert our factories today from making gas guzzlers to hybrids. Don’t tell me we can’t do that – We haven’t tried!”
Setting: In front of a factory in Michigan, ideally one that was built before World War II but that is less important than the can-do message. In the event, he is not only sketching a very specific kind of change that would improve the environment and bring much-needed jobs to hard-hit Michigan, he is linking that promise to a specific history that is a source of national pride. As an added benefit, it touches his personal biography: Obama’s grandmother went to work in a factory during WWII.

2) “You shouldn’t need a college degree to fulfill your dreams.” Setting: In a speech to students at a vocational school in Ohio. Obama often refers to the difficulty in affording college as an example of the economic tough times. But, many people are not going to college and non-college, blue collar voters has been a particularly difficult demographic for him to crack. This is a line that should have been in his acceptance speech but it speaks directly to those voters whom Hillary Clinton called the forgotten and the invisible. Obama needs to stop forgetting them.

3) “Do we really want government agents separating parents from their children? Pope Benedict was right: We need family-friendly immigration reform.” Setting: The St. Bridget’s Church in Pottsville, Iowa, the town that witnessed a large immigration raid last May. The church became a place of sanctuary after the raid as the town struggled to find homes for the children whose parents were arrested. This is the message Latinos care about but it also resonates with traditional ethnic Catholics in the East. This family-first approach also resonates with evangelicals. Not least, the issue makes McCain squirm because he had to backtrack on his previous support for humane immigration reform in order to secure the GOP nomination.

4) “You all helped John F. Kennedy win his battle against anti-Catholic bigotry. I need you to help us win another battle against bigotry today.” Setting: The monument to the “Fighting Irish Brigade” at Gettysburg, a brigade that consisted of Irish Catholic regiments from Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and New York and fought a crucial part of the battle on Day 2 at Gettysburg. Obama is reluctant to face the race issue head-on, understandably. But, circumstances might require it, as they did last spring, and for the same reason: Pastor Jeremiah Wright. In retrospect, this monument might have been a better backdrop for the speech about race Obama gave at the Constitution Museum in Philadelphia, a speech that played soaringly to his vision of America but did not necessarily connect with the white, ethnic Catholics whose votes he needs. But, if Wright or some other cause requires Obama to address the race issue, he should tie his struggle to the fight against bigotry that Kennedy faced. As Governor Barry Schweitzer said in his speech to the Democratic National Convention, he grew up in a home which, like virtually every Catholic home, had a crucifix and a picture of JFK.

Obama needs to keep the focus off of the cultural template in which he is an elitist and McCain (the guy with nine houses) is the average Joe. That means directing the message. He needs to talk to swing voters about their memories and their dreams, and connect them to his vision for America’s future. Pictures are worth a thousand words and, at this stage of the campaign, you don’t get a thousand words. But, a few well-placed soundbites, with the right backdrop, could help Obama connect with the voters who will decide his political fate in November.

Michael Sean Winters


Anonymous said...

This blog piece was very well written and hits on many points that would be very important for Barack Obama. In today’s day and age, gas prices are high and costly for the American people. Obama would be wise to work on regulating gas prices for the American people, which is a primary concern for most adults today who must transport kids back and forth to school and other social events. Another very important issue that Obama should tackle should be scholarships and financial aid for the less fortunate who have the smarts, but not the resources to attend the colleges of their ability. A way should be found to help these students find a way to a college of their ability regardless of how much money or connections they have. It would not seem like a stretch to say Obama will receive many African American votes, so he should focus on helping the less fortunate with little resources in areas that are not the best, to receive the best education that they can.
On speaking about children of immigration, my opinion differ on that. Depending on the circumstance if an illegal immigrant is arrested, and their child who is also illegal, they too should be arrested. Children in America rely on their parents to take care of them, so why not the same for immigrants? If a child is legal, but the parents are illegal, this makes the situation very difficult seeing how the child has the right to be in this country, but the parents do not. One way to handle this would be to have the illegal parents put on a system that is like criminal probation to keep the family together. If the illegal immigrant fails to comply to this, then the appropriate action should be taken where they are forced to leave the country. The children can be placed into a foster home.
Lastly, Obama will have to face the race issue eventually. This is clearly evident. Obama may be only half-African American, but this is what most people consider him when speaking about him. Obama needs to speak out against the racism that is clearly evident throughout this country today. Again, this blog piece was very well written that conveyed its point to the upmost degree.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I am Joshua Ramos

Anonymous said...

This piece is well written and definitely offers some good advice that Barack Obama should definitely take into consideration. I do agree that these sound bites and ads would certainly aid Obama in his campaign. Though this may be true, is this what we really want? These sound bites are essentially taking appealing images and ideas that follow what Obama says about change, but don’t show how, or offer an explanation. These sound bites don't show the candidate as they really are and what they really stand for. To really get a sense of what Barack Obama is about and what he intends to do, voters would be much better off reading his book "The Audacity of Hope" or listening to his full speeches. Unfortunately, most voters would rather not take the time to read a book and listen to politicians ramble, and perhaps with good reason. These sound bites are "selling" the candidates, just as you would beer or cigarettes. They don't address the real things we need to focus on. For example, in the case of the fourth sound bite offered, if any voter saw that, who would say yes to bigotry? In the case of the third one offered, what American would want children separated from their parents by the authorities? These sound bites focus on the product, not the positions. Obama needs to show how this change will come about. Take the first scenario for example. If Obama is going to tell the major car companies such as Ford Motors that most of, if not all, their cars need to be hybrid then these businessmen would essentially laugh in his face. The assembly lines at these factories are made to produce these "gas-guzzling" cars, and then the factory would need new machinery. The businessmen in this situation would most likely ask the government for a tax break to pay off the new machinery. Then, where does the government make up this tax break to Ford? They would need to raise our taxes to compensate. Essentially, what I am offering is that we don’t want to make the wrong decision based on a thirty second sound bite that seems like what we want. IF we voted this way, it would not only affect at least the next four years, but perhaps the rest of our lifetime. Obama has influence on the members of the Supreme Court, who are members for life. I do not disagree with the fact that these sound bites would greatly aid Obama, I merely believe that as voters, we don’t want to vote based on thirty seconds of what we want to hear. I support Obama and I think the issues brought up in the sound bites definitely need to be addressed, except they should be addressed fully, including how it is going to be done.

Sean Doyle

Christopher Pedro said...

I think Winters wrote an excelent review of what shoud be done by Barrack Obama.
I think that the first point brought up by Winters will definitely get attention from the voters. He has been very big in giving speeches to the car manufacturers in Michigan and this will only strengthen his support here. Theis Venue also has the added benefit that it would also appeal to the voters who are looking for alternate power sources.
Point number 2 I agree will pick up the "forgotten and invisible" however if Barack needs to expect a response from republicans. Many republicans are painting Obama as an elitist so this speech may attract some undecided voters however mrepublicans will deter many by saying that these are simply words.
I think that point number 3 is a perfect speach to make to attract to attract the Latino voters. This speech was also expected to happen by many voters.
Finally speech 4 I think has to absolutely happen. This is because the race issue has floated around since Obama entered the election and has been avoided. If Obama can tlak about this without it seeming like he is pitying himself his chances in this election will improve greatly.

yonkers123 said...

The post is well written and offers very good advice for Obama and his campaign. The use of the soundbites in the Obama advertisements would greatly improve Obama’s outreach to voters and help him to persuade undecided voters possibly onto the Democratic side. Aiming these ads at specific cultural groups based on location would be justifiably the best way to reach out to these groups. Through the highly effective ad campaigns Obama can highlight issues that pertain to the public. Focusing on energy efficiency and new energies is a great way for Obama to spread his message of change throughout the country. The energy of Obama helps to fuel his own political message and with the apparent effects of global warming most Americans understand the growing need to fund and develop new alternative fuels. Obama has yet to face the race issue head-on because he does not want to turn this presidential competition into a racial confrontation. People need to focus on and understand the issues rather than on racial prejudices. Barack Obama can use soundbites in his campaign ads, the question is whether he will use them to his benefit.

michael Nevin