What will be U.S. 2.0?

I saw the end of the Debate last night on CNN, and fell asleep on the hotel room bed while Anderson Cooper and his coterie of opinionators blabbed about how both contestants performed. When I woke up a few minutes ago, seven hours later, it was still going on. I switched over to ESPN and saw another bunch of opinionators doing the same thing, only the subject was basketball. Only the content was different. The format was the same. So were the metaphors. Sports and war.

Yet what I saw, when Hillary said — with grace and apparent sincerity — that it was “an honor” to be running against Barack Obama, and that “Whatever happens, we’re going to be fine”, was the beginning of a concession. It was hedged, for sure. She clearly still wants to win Ohio and Texas. But the writing is on the wall, and it says Barack Obama is not only going to be the Democratic candidate, but the next President of the United States as well.

The change won’t just be symbolic. It will be substantive. One thing that’s so appealing about Obama is that his candidacy subordinates race, subordinates the differences that have divided us for so long. It doesn’t trivialize them, but it does put them in the category of Stuff We Can Move Past, because we have work to do.

I think Dave’s analysis is correct. And he’s right to call the challenge United States 2.0. Maybe we can see our way to something wonderful, instead of a continued struggle. For Dave that’s a new Democratic government. I’m looking for a government that’s energized around facing three very different but overlapping problems.

First, that the U.S. is no longer the only superpower — and that superpower itself will no longer be defined by military might of the conventional sort. War will be different. Might will be different. Ending our worst problems in Iraq will only be the start of it. We need a new relationship with the rest of the world, and better models for understanding the problems there. (I suggest that Barack consult Thomas. P.M. Barnett for help with that.)

Second, that the U.S. must restore both its moral and technical stature, both of which have slipped badly in the last few years.

Third, that seas will rise as ice continues to melt in the Earth’s polar regions, and that this requires far more than “fighting global warming”. If we wish to avoid famine, war over shrinking lands and a global ecological breakdown, we need to think decades and even centuries ahead. Our species has never done that. Instead it has eaten the planet’s resources like a plague of locusts. That will have to change, or nature’s human experiment will fail.

All three require leadership of a sort we have not seen since Reagan. I hope Barack Obama is up for it. Because it’s going to be a very hard job.

21 comments

  1. Technical Writing Geek’s avatar

    How is humanity going to stop eating the earth like a plague of locusts if humans don’t stop having children?

  2. Crosbie Fitch’s avatar

    We’ll be forced to migrate to Mars – like a plague of locusts in flight…

  3. James Robertson’s avatar

    Hmm. There are deeply disturbing authoritarian instincts in Obama’s speeches – and even more so in his wife’s. His calls to unity echo Mussolini, for anyone with historical sense. Take this, from his wife:

    Barack Obama will require you to work. He is going to demand that you shed your cynicism. That you put down your divisions. That you come out of your isolation, that you move out of your comfort zones. That you push yourselves to be better. And that you engage. Barack will never allow you to go back to your lives as usual, uninvolved, uninformed.

    That’s ugly, terrifying, “everyone on board, or else” stuff. It amazes me that so many people think Bush is some kind of crazed dictator, while they revel in this stuff. I guess authoritarianism is fine so long as it comes packaged with soaring rhetoric and liberal policies.

    I dislike McCain intensely, due to his utter lack of comprehension on the first amendment (campaign finance “reform”). However, Obama is over in that camp as well, and his current unity calls are vastly more terrifying than anything McCain has dreamed up. I’ll be unhappily voting for McCain, because the alternative looks a lot like the end of the republic to me.

  4. SEO Crimson’s avatar

    I think the first moment I realized how imminent Barack’s success is occured when I watched his viral video, “Yes We Can.” You can see it on youtube as “Yes we can.” Someone who has people like that coming out on his side will have a tough time losing– the video literally gives chills.

  5. Chip’s avatar

    Doc
    My comments/reply long enough that I posted both to my blog
    Good work my friend

    Ciao
    Chip
    http://looneydunes.blogspot.com/2008/02/reply-to-doc.html

  6. Keith Dick’s avatar

    It makes very little difference who wins the elections — the big corporations will still be in control. Until we find a way to break their control, not much is going to change.

  7. John Quimby’s avatar

    Interesting comments everyone.
    James Robertson I’ve wondered the same thing about Obama.

    But I think what you’re seeing is his rhetorical answer to Hilary Clinton. He’s not running against her ideologically (he can’t – they’re too similar) he’s actually saying that he’s a better person – with a higher purpose.

    I’ve written more on the messaging and rhetoric of this campaign.
    Please visit: http://prodroom.blogspot.com/
    check out “Clinton and the Media Outclassed”

  8. Ed Theobald’s avatar

    Doc,
    When you write “The change won’t just be symbolic. It will be substantive.”, I can’t help but wonder just HOW glazed over your eyes are. Your contributions to the ‘Cluetrain’ were truely visionary – you could see clearly past the status quo. Yet in this case you endorse ‘THE’ status quo. No one can nail down any major policy differences between Clinton and Obama – yet somehow he’s our savior?

    I’ll repeat what needs to be repeated (at least in my humble opinion) – all of the top tier candidates are imperialists. Some tend toward direct military action, others tend toward ‘aggressive diplomacy’ (aka military threats). All of the ‘viable’ candidates are pawns of the military industrial complex.

    Let’s talks substance – not ‘feel good’ claptrap. How’s this – when Obama significantly reduces our military presence around the globe, then and only then will I believe he is not an imperialist. We have over 700 military bases in over 130 countries around the globe. When this changes significantly – then and only then will I consider it to be ‘substantive’ change.

    BTW – I loved the comments by James Roberson. He really nails the ‘freaky’ aspect of Obama – ‘feel good’ authoritarianism downright makes one shiver. This is the glazed eye aspect of so many Obama followers that flummoxes me.

    I agree that Obama will likely be our next president. Perhaps the more interesting question is “who will be the puppeteers?”. Like Cheney is for Bush, or like Colonel House was for Wilson – who will be the primary string pullers in the Obama camp? For sure they will be a troupe of CFRites – they always are. Status quo, status quo. Say it enough times over and over – it has a certain beat to it.

  9. John Quimby’s avatar

    Ed Theobald,

    Think of how we got here. Ronald Reagan captured the American public, drove to the right and an entire generation of Democrats folded.

    Clinton calculated that the margin of victory must be just to the left of the far right.

    That’s American Politics since 1980.

    Obama knows how Reagan did what he did and the changes Reagan inspired. He also knows that the right is completely spent. (Too bad they used our money.)

    He’s saying it’s time to move back to liberal principles.
    That’s way BIGGER than papering things over with policy. And that’s why I think he represents greater change.

    Obama studied foreign relations and taught Constitutional law.
    The style versus substance argument is specious.

    But hey, don’t drink the Kool Aid if you don’t want to. Somebody has to drive me home.

  10. Ed Theobald’s avatar

    John Quimby,

    I fully agree that Obama is calculating correctly. His glazed eye followers are a testament to that.

    Obama studied foreign relations – but within the framework of 50-100 years of imperialism. Not quite the objective viewpoint I’m looking for.

    Obama taught constitutional law – but teaching the bill of rights and understanding it’s importance are apparently 2 different things. Obama voted to extend the current Patriot Act. He did try to ‘soften’ it, but that was largely unsuccessful – and vote to extent it he did. Obviously the Patriot Act is unneeded. We had all the needed intelligence to foreshadow 9/11 prior to the attack – so we fix the bumblings of big government ‘intelligence’ by adding a layer of bureaucracy and shaving down individual rights. Sorry – I can’t endorse that.

    I also agree that Obama represents the greater change – amongst the other ‘viable’ candidates. But the change is just shades of gray – and subtle shades at that. We’re talking about the change from overt military imperialism to diplomatic/military-threat/sanction imperialism.

    I’ve probably read more speeches by Obama than by any other candidate – I’ve tasted the Grape Kool Aid and it’s sour. BTW – reading his speeches to industry groups and his essay to his masters at the CFR are far more illuminating about who Obama really is than the political claptrap we typically get as ‘just’ voters.

    Style vs. substance IS key – saying the words ‘hope’ and ‘change’ over and over again doesn’t represent substance.

  11. carterfsmith’s avatar

    My comment will not be worthy of a blog post, as it has been a long day, I don’t feel capable of rationalizing the choosing of the lesser of two evils, and I am on my ppc-phone (an ATT HTC 8525 that I love dearly but thumb typing is tiring on a Friday after 5PM.

    For a comparison of the debates to The Relationship Economy, check out Jay & Scott’s joint masterpiece at http://www.jayderagon.com/blog.

    My concern with Obama is that he will not be able to rally the majority of African-American voters (or citizens). He looks ‘good’ for it, but he’s no more able to relate to what it’s like to be black in America than the man (or woman) in the moon. I don’t think it will be long before folks realize that the ideology of folks with similar alliances is, in fact, a lot more than what is conveyed by just their external appearance.

    It is sad, but I think the choices in this election season started out in the crapper, and they just keep swirling around and around.

  12. John Quimby’s avatar

    Ed Theobold,

    You truly are of the revolutionary stripe and I appreciate your critical eyes and ears

    Arguing against a return to America’s Constitutional foundation would be foolish and I suspect that Ron Paul is near and dear to your heart. By all means let’s surrender the empire and be the Republic we were meant to be. In my biased frame of reference the absolutist policy of one party has already resulted in a near collapse of Constitutional law at home and the demise of rational foreign policy away.

    I am also not interested in trading the Neo-Con right for the “Hard War” policy of some on the left. That is why Obama’s call for Union is so galvanizing to me. It seems to be the only real, if imperfect, way forward.

    carterfsmith –

    I would respectfully ask you to consider that Obama is erasing our traditional race based assumptions about American politics. The Clintons are finding that a lot of the African American support they thought they owned has deserted a plantation they cultivated for years. Many will now find that their assumptions about what it means to be black in America has changed.

    I don’t wish to offend anyone. You have my loyalty and respect.
    But I know for sure that the sands of time are running.

    Change is coming.

  13. Jay Deragon’s avatar

    The first question in last night’s debate between Clinton and Obama was whether they, as President, would meet with the new Cuban leadership now that Castro has stepped down.

    Clinton said that Cuba would have to first indicate that they were on a path to “real change”, and said how the Cuban people are “entitled” to democracy. She wouldn’t meet with them until they made certain policy changes. Obama, on the other hand, said that the idea that meeting with the President is some kind of privilege reinforces the idea that the U.S. is somehow above the rest of the world. He said that he absolutely would meet with them. Yes, human rights and democratization would be on the agenda, and that there would have to be preparation for the meeting, but that he wouldn’t put any preconditions on it.

    Now, regardless of what your politics are – and this isn’t an endorsement of Obama over Clinton, but on this particular point, one might be completely horrified at Clinton’s response and applauded Obama’s. Obama is saying that we have to have a relationship in order to effect change. Clinton is saying that “they” have to change in order for us to have a relationship.

    Is The Difference an Attitude?

    Whether the President of the USA or the CEO of a large corporation, building relationships requires a conversation rather than a policy. Too many policies get in the way of having open and honest conversations from which both parties can learn the perspectives of the other and hopefully find common ground from which to establish a relationship.

    Whomever we individually or collectively think we are none of us could possibly know everything needed to understand everyone. Arrogance is the fallacy of fools who believe they have learned and experienced everything life has to teach us. Sometimes, actually a lot of times, our own attitudes are our own worst enemy and until we can learn to have conversations with open minds nothing can be learned or gained.

    How many times have employees and customers run into corporate policies that simply don’t make any sense or logic? Refer to yesterdays post about Jake McKee experience with American Airlines. Doc Searls talks often about how relationships create transactions and markets. How can we expand our world and solve problems of scarcity unless we’re willing to converse. Conversations start with a willingness to begin a relationships. That is the entire premise of The Relationship Economy.

    What say you?

  14. Carter F Smith’s avatar

    OK, So I did do a blog after sleeping on it . . .
    and I screwed up the link to Jay and Scott’s work above — here it is without the period (and a direct link, not one from memory):

    http://jayderagon.com/blog/?p=726

    The bottom line is that all these politicians need is a crash course on relationships. In the marketplace, the reaction to someone who completely and totally offends your offering of a relationship is the removal of that offering, the commitment to take your business elsewhere, and (if they were really offensive) the commitment to report this offense to everyone you know, everyone they know, and as many people as you can by a variety of broadcast mediums. In government and politics, we have to wait a bit longer — usually around four years. Nonetheless, we all remember the ways to get involved in politics from our American Government class, right? If you don’t like the way you are represented, either jump on the bandwagon of someone you agree (more) with, or build your own bandwagon.

    http://carterfsmith.blogspot.com/2008/02/arrrgghhh-all-those-years-studying.html

    John Quimby,

    No offense taken, I assure you.

    I agree, Obama is erasing our traditional race based assumptions about American politics (but for white Americans only). I think he’s convincing many people that he crosses a variety of boundaries. I also think Doc should dig up his piece about the Matrix and make it a metaphor for politics so he can say I told you so when America ends up ultra-polarized after this all shakes out.

    http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/9161

  15. Alan Kellogg’s avatar

    Obama? McCain? That’s not important. What matters in the long run is what we’re now doing to prepare for the death of Russia. That is the one event that will shape the world in the 21st century, and for centuries to come.

  16. Doc Searls’s avatar

    I’ll cop to having glazed eyes on this one.

    Again, I listed three items I believe require attention and fresh treatment from the next president. None of it is anywhere near any candidate’s policies or histories. Still, I see a better chance of getting what I’m looking for Obama than from Hillary or McCain.

    As for all of your concerns, hell, maybe you’re right.

    But for now I just can’t muster the cynicism. Much as every politician deserves it.

  17. Ed Theobald’s avatar

    Doc -

    I genuinely covet your inability to muster cynicism. Personally, I try to only view things critically – but often fall down the rabbit hole of cynicism :) . Cynicism has it’s place of course – as in the analysis of Cheneys motives. Obama is obviously smart, and is very probably well intentioned – but he is a product of our military-industrial-educational-state complex – and sees the world through the distorted lenses of a US superpower. (As do all of us to varying degrees). I do actually hold out hope with him – but I consider the probability of any significant change minimal. I refuse to vote for any candidate that appears to be chosen by our highly concentrated media powers. At one point 70% of American wanted the war over as soon as possible – yet all the candidates that *genuinely* support this are ignored and driven to the fringe.

    John Quimby -

    You refer to me as being ‘of the revolutionary stripe’. I can’t help but chuckle. It’s a wonderful point you make – though probably unintentional. To wit: I am simply suggesting that we apply the ‘Golden Rule’ to our foreign policy – the good old ‘Ethic of Reciprocity’ that many of us learned in Sunday school – and for this I’m labeled ‘revolutionary’! How far we are indeed from a sensible foreign policy when simply exposing a noncompliance with a moral truism is considered revolutionary!

    Thanks for all the good banter folks.

  18. Escapable Logic » Blog Archive » “We need guns. Lots of guns.”’s avatar

    [...] Destruction built into the system. But he might inspire US to build US 2.0 as Dave Winer and Doc Searls have been urging, an upgrade to USOS, the United States Operating [...]

  19. Rakog Var’s avatar

    US 2.0 – what happens after we decide they’re not writing the checks for Citibank, AIG, and GM/Ford/Chrysler any longer.

  20. Doc Searls’s avatar

    Guess so Rakog. Let it crash, see what happens, and then deal with that.

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