From an insider: the Obama campaign

“The genius of the Obama campaign was to create a blank screen onto which each of us could project ourselves. I am in a coalition with Colin Powell and I agree about almost nothing with Colin Powell.”

So said Melissa Harris-Lacewell, speaking to Princeton University students and community members at the Carl A. Fields Center on Friday, November 7, at noon. A graduate of Wake Forest with a PhD from Duke, she is the associate professor of politics and African American studies and has a blog, the Kitchen Table, ( She has published one book, is working on another, and is a student at Union Theological Seminary. She spent election week going from one broadcast appointment to another. Here are some of her comments, some in quotes, some summarized.

What should we do now? “First, everybody take a nap. Then

1. “Go to and apply to work in Obama’s administration. I want everyone to apply. I love that, two days after the election, you can sign up. (What will they do with your email addresses? Send you email!)

2. “Remember that $10 and $20 donations can change everything. In this election we learned that, as ordinary people, our money counts. Figure out where to send your money. I figured out I can afford $50 a month and I’m sending to Proposition 8.

3. “If you were part of a group, do not wait for marching orders from the top. Community based organizations have been here all along. Find a pre-existing organization and help.”

How Barack Obama began his first successful campaign: His Republican opponent was knocked out of the race by a divorce scandal and the Republicans put an easily beatable guy on their ticket. When Obama gave a great speech in 2004 at the convention, he had the time to go on tour with the DNC, raising money and helping others get elected. Without the scandal and the unelectable candidate, Obama would not be president elect.

“The reason why you don’t remember Denver is the reason why Sarah Palin was a brilliant choice for McCain. I’m I proud to say I was in Denver, way up top with the true believers. Normally when 80,000 people wave a flag they are waving it against me, against blacks, gays, and women. I was worried, because nobody was paying attention to the other speakers. Then he walked out, and 80,000 people went quiet. Until then, McCain had said “Hope” has no content. In this speech he gave the content. And McCain had to change the game immediately.

Barack got 95 percent of the black vote, which means that black Republicans came over, and so did the Wall Street guys. The Republican party should have picked Mike Huckabee, a white man from the south who is as good or better, talking about race, than Obama. You would not have had the sense that voting for Huckabee was a racist vote. He could have picked an actual VP with the capacity to govern. Obama would not have carried North Carolina.

Barack has to begin with a consensus issue – not health care and gays in the military, as Clinton started with, but with an issue like job creation, Because he is a city guy, he can assemble support for infrastructure.

Hilary will not be a Supreme Court Judge; she is about to have an incredibly distinguished career as the master of the Senate, the Teddy Kennedy of her era.

We (blacks) are not junior partners. We handed him North Carolina. We saved Pennsylvania and Ohio and more. Barack can’t treat us the way Bill Clinton did. And he won’t. He could have left us out of the 30 minute movie, but the last shot was of a 106 year old black woman who voted for him in Atlanta.

Managing expectations now? “You saw him shift from candidate to statesman. In New Hampshire he said YES we CAN. On election night he said, Yes …. we

Comment from Barbara: Watch for Melissa’s articles in the Nation, in Ebony, and other media outlets…I’m proud to have her as a neighbor.


2 thoughts on “From an insider: the Obama campaign

  1. And I reckon it’s safe to go to bed, with Pennsylvania and Ohio in hand. Safe for me, that is to say. And by the way, when did the color red change sides? Wasn’t it that the people’s flag was deepest red, making its living shrouding oft our martyred dead? Or, the British Labour party in the ‘60’s, the people’s flag is pale magenta, it waves aloft just left of centa? SL

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