Saying "hope" and "change" in a campaign speech isn't much like selling specific policies. Friedman blurs the difference with the notion of "explain[ing]... politics" with "a clear, simple, repeatable narrative." (By the way, I loathe that word "narrative." It's a synonym for "story" that sounds fancier and has the advantage of not also being a synonym for "lie.")
Friedman muses over the puzzle he's constructed for himself — why Obama hasn't found the right words to grease our gullets so we'll accept what he'd like to ram down:
[I]nstead of making nation-building in America...That's one of Friedman's phrases: nation-building in America. It implies that we haven't yet built a nation. Think of the depth of the disrespect to the Framers of the Constitution and all who have worked on their construction.
[I]nstead of making nation-building in America his overarching narrative and then fitting health care, energy, educational reform, infrastructure, competitiveness and deficit reduction under that rubric, the president has pursued each separately. This made each initiative appear to be just some stand-alone liberal obsession to pay off a Democratic constituency — not an essential ingredient of a nation-building strategy — and, therefore, they have proved to be easily obstructed, picked off or delegitimized by opponents and lobbyists.Now, why would we let him do that? We would be imbeciles to accept some big abstraction and not pay attention to the details. Friedman is talking about what Obama should have done to retain the support of voters like me who don't automatically vote for Democrats, but who thought Obama was more likely than McCain to deal with the various problems we faced in the next 4 years.
So “Obamism” feels at worst like a hodgepodge, at best like a to-do list... and not the least like a big, aspirational project that can bring out America’s still vast potential for greatness.
I can tell you that I am not distracted by the feeling of having "a big, aspirational project." It wouldn't lull me. It would alarm me. I don't care about the labels and generalities. I voted for Obama the Pragmatist, not Obama the Ideologue or Obama the Lefty.
You know, what Friedman calls "a hodgepodge" or "a to-do list" would be perfectly fine with me. Just make the items on the list — or in the pot — good ones.
ADDED: In the comments american girl in italy said:
You are kidding [about "he speaks so well"], aren't you? You think this was a racist slam? Everyone in the free world has proclaimed Obama to be the world's best speaker. How many times have we heard he is the master of oratory, the world's best speaker.Let me call in Chris Rock for some backup. (NSFW audio)("'He speaks so well! He's so well spoken. I mean he really speaks so well!' Like that's a compliment. 'He speaks so well' is not a compliment, okay? 'He speaks so well' is some sh*t you say about ret**ded people that can talk," etc.)