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Barack Obama: Revolutionizing the Game

July 26, 2008

Presidential politics in the United States of America have been changed forever. The lingering questions in the minds of many traditionalists are: Why did we not see this coming? And: How do we analyze and respond to this?

In retrospect I now understand that like in business, science and technology and even sports, things are sometimes significantly refined or improved upon and the impacts often leave us unexpectedly shocked. This may be the mark of progress or simply driven by the need to enhance or alter a system that is no longer sufficiently effective. And often such daring leaps when successful, command a compelling response. A “wow factor” that leaves us amazed, sometimes puzzled and ultimately impressed .

What we are being shown by Senator Obama and his campaign staff is a completely new and effective political model that is fueled in part by a sharply shifting ideological paradigm in this country. And as I have been compelled to do many times in my life, I am left (as are many in this nation and around the world) with only the ability to observe in awe. Then almost involuntarily, I find myself saying, “wow”.

In the sports world it has happened many times in the past and in recent years. I can remember many events that “revolutionized” the game and the excitement of the moment followed by the realization that something had forever changed. I can remember when the Dallas Cowboys signed the “world’s fastest human” and started throwing “the bomb” connecting on fifty yard passes. I can remember when Kenyans began to train at high altitude and shattered long distance running records. When the Baltimore Bullets perfected the fast break in the NBA and when Dick Fosbury first did the “Fosbury Flop” in the track and field. And I can remember when Venus Williams hit that first 125 mph serve. All of these events created a new standard and forever “forever” changed these sports.

We have never seen anything like the Obama Campaign before and there is no time for the opposition to adequately respond and effectively compete. Even our national media which has only history and traditional political models to draw from has found itself groping for answers to yet unanswerable questions as they seek to analyze and predict this political season’s impacts and outcomes. We had never seen a campaign utilize the internet to raise tens of millions of dollars in contributions per month (per month!) in small increments. We have never seen crack advance teams descend on target cities and states mobilizing volunteers with strict efficiency and targeting the voting bases with laser precision. We have never seen speeches and visual images so masterfully delivered and choreographed with such frequency and with such stirring results. We have never seen a campaign so deftly access and continue to monitor the pulse of the voting public in crafting its message. We have never seen political intellectualism so unwaveringly postured above the antiquated tactic of negative rhetoric. All of this has been masterfully executed over a grueling period and by all indications the campaign continues to gain strength. So in sports vernacular it could only be said that: “They came to play”.

Granted Senator Obama is a particularly special centerpiece to this puzzle. He is proven and qualified, he is extremely intelligent, he is tall and handsome and he possesses an even tempered confidence that showcases a clear image of strength. The American public is anything but stupid, and through their demonstrated support of Senator Obama at this point it is clear that things have changed appreciably in this great nation. Something that is so significant and which is not getting the media coverage that it seemingly deserves given the socially historic significance. I continue to observe those on the right and the McCain campaign sticking to the traditional “play book” of negative comments and ads and relying on the support of shrinking demographic bases that are elderly, wealthy, protectionists or socially myopic. The McCain Campaign and to a great extent our national media are “institutionalized, conditioned professionals” that are doing it the only way they know how. They are conjuring up the same old messages of separatism (left vs. right) at a time when America has in many ways substantially homogenized both socially and ideologically. They are stalled in a rhetoric rut as if telling the public a billion times about the “surge” (as an example) or other superficial and tangential topics will distract them from core issues. Telling “John Wayne” type war stories and repeatedly criticizing all who oppose or question their “Big Duke” diplomacy as un-American or even anti-American. But that’s traditional old school politics and it works best on a public that is poorly informed and significantly detached. But it’s the information age and it’s a whole new America and a whole new game and team McCain is looking pretty lost.

It is a long time until November, and remember, a lot of hard working Americans are still not plugged in to the process to the point where they have made their voting decision. I believe that the outcome of this campaign is already obvious. Regardless of the supposed competitiveness that remains according to the polls the media continues to provide. And if the McCain campaign does not completely implode before November, they may well be presented with the most resounding defeat ever, if not simply in modern presidential campaign history. This is my prediction. Why? Because the Obama Team is only just hitting their stride and the aged Senator and his team are ill equipped to “energize” a voting block and escape the boring and droll albatross of traditional beltway political rhetoric that dangles from their necks. They have yet to fully understand that American Presidential politics have been revolutionized. Modernize and energize. That’s the only winning equation in an informed America of today.

So we will continue to let it play out and let’s face it (in spite of my prediction) anything could happen. That’s why we do this, and as we say in sport “that’s why they play the game”. So using that logic (man I’m really stretching here) on that special day, should the stars align, I might be able to take a set off of Roger Federer.

But I guarantee you; I ain’t gonna get it done with a wooden racquet.

L. A. Walker, © Leon A. Walker

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