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Is Obama truly world-wide?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008 by Dave Winer.

Part of the appeal of Obama, at least to this voter, is what our choice said to the rest of the world about us. But there was more to it, and now it's time to talk about that. Permalink to this paragraph

Ryan Lizza wrote a fantastic piece in the New Yorker, like all of his campaign pieces for the 2008 election. The closing paragraph sums up something really important about Obama.  Permalink to this paragraph

After one of the Clinton debates he said: "'I am not a great candidate now, but I am going to figure out how to be a great candidate.' One of Obama's achievements as a politician is that he somehow managed to emerge intact, after navigating two years of a modern and occasionally absurd Presidential race, while also becoming a great candidate. On Election Night, as he once again invoked the words of Lincoln, he seemed to be saying that he was going to figure out how to be a great President." Permalink to this paragraph

Lizza was also on FreshAir yesterday. Highly recommended. Permalink to this paragraph

So now the question is of course how does Obama become a great President. Permalink to this paragraph

The two crises he has to deal with are: 1. The huge financial bubble that just burst and 2. Overpopulation, energy, global warming (all of which are really a single problem).  Permalink to this paragraph

Neither of these problems have an American solution. Even if he were absolute dictator of the United States, he wouldn't be able to solve them. He could prop up American institutions and home owners, nationalize all the industries, we'd work on infrastructure, education and health care, but he'd still have to make deals with other countries to buy our debt to finance those efforts.  Permalink to this paragraph

He can and absolutely should take steps to cut our use of oil, of course it makes no difference whether the oil comes from Alaska or Venezuela, that was an outright lie by the Republicans during the election. But, again, it's a world wide thing, in order for our planet to continue to sustain life, we must cut carbon emissions, and ultimately to do that, we must get population under control.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named fonda.jpgSo how can President Obama be a great President, given this scenario? It's pretty obvious that he's going to have to keep campaigning, on a world wide level, and doing it the same way he did it in the US, with everyone, in their own way, pulling together toward a common goal. Sell the people of the world on the idea of a sustainable planet and a fair, distributed economy that serves the people, and then show them how they can play a role in solving the problem.  Permalink to this paragraph

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That last phrase is the most important part. In the last century people may or may not have wanted to be couch potatoes and eyeballs, I don't care to debate that -- but it's not true in this century. Its fascinating to watch so many pundits flail around trying to understand what just happened, when it's obvious. Government became active and inclusive, at least for the moment. Permalink to this paragraph

Now the challenge for Obama, that will determine whether or not he's great, is two-fold: 1. Will he get absorbed by the internal momentum of Washington and lose his connection with the people; and 2. Will he extend the momentum of the campaign to the world that's reachable through the Internet, and organize it in the same way he organized the US electorate toward a shared purpose of making life on the planet sustainable. If he can do both, he will not only have been a great President, but will have become the greatest political leader in history. And the amazing thing about our times is that its conceivable, because of our new distributed communication tools, it's possible. Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.

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