Obama won…

The Empty Suit Young people. And jack else. (Except for Providence, I mean. And Fox Point in particular. Woot, woot!)

When I went to the SEIU convention back in September, I was impressed by the fact that, for the first time as far as I’d seen, Obama seemed angry. He was finessing a really fine line between impassioned and entitled, assured and cocky. Right on that divide.

In particular, he went off on a catty riff: “Oh — SEIU. You guys wear purple or something? I heard about you…” to highlight the fact that he’d actually walked the picket lines, for years and years, while Edwards was new to them even though he’d become the “labor candidate.”

For the first time, I thought he actually had a shot. Tonight I’m a little bit hopeful, in that he hit that note again.

The notion that it’s somehow “transformative” to play it cool is a whole lotta hooey. It’s a bad thing to be a cynical politician, but it’s not a bad thing to call cynical politicians out on their lies.

Don’t make up stuff about your opponent; and it’s often best to not hit first. But if you’re under attack, playing nice simply doesn’t work — if Obama’s going to get hit on Rezko, he needs to hit back — on Hsu, White Water, Ricky Ray Rector, or whatever. Or, god forbid, on an issue of immediate relevance to the voters.

There’s nothing transformative about daintiness or pretending you’re above the fray. Being conciliatory isn’t an end in it’s own right — it’s important only to the extent to which it enables one to get things done. But there’s nothing wrong with passionate people having impassioned arguments about what’s best for our society. “Debates” in which Obama — the supposed agent of change — consistently agrees with Clinton — the candidate of the status quo — do not, and should not, inspire.

My support for Obama follows from various signals that he’s a bit left of where he’s playing (and the more decentralized way in which his campaign has been funded). But if his principles are where I believe them to be, it’s well past time to demonstrate as much. His campaign’s strategy has been to play it safe, relative to the war, health care, enviro — and basically everything else. That’s made it easy for Clinton to collapse the difference between the two, and even best him on many domestic issues, as far as the policy papers she’s presented.

Clinton’s moved to where she is from the right — on NAFTA, the war, and so much else. If Obama’s more than the empty suit many increasingly worry that he is, now’s the time for him to stand up and make that clear.

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