Strategy, Tactics, and Oratory
Time Kane, long-time and very thoughtful commenter on BlogD, has an excellent analysis of why Obama is doing so well despite having started so far behind Clinton:
When I was growing up I had a friend who said there were two kinds of people: Salesman and Accountant types. A salesman never let’s cost get in the way of doing something or buying something, he just figures he’ll have to go out and sell more stuff to pay for it: they tend to be optimists. Accountants, on the other hand, are belt tighteners by nature. If they see something or want to do something they either for go it, forgo something else or look around elsewhere to save costs. My friend was the former of the two, and not by a small margin. Though an electrician, He could sell ice to Eskimos.
Myself, in a similar vein, I think there are two kinds of mindsets: strategic thinkers and tacticians. Strategic thinkers take the long view, they don’t want to swim against the current, they’d rather try to figure out how to make the current work with them as opposed to against them. They are along the lines of Sun Tzu’s ‘all battles are won before they are fought’ types. Tactical thinkers are the opposite. They’ll swim against the current, they’ll fight for fighting sake, they see everything as contest, and their human relations are often dominated over who will be the dominate person in the relationship. I am definitely one of the former. Perhaps I’m merely pointing out the difference between deductive and inductive thinking.
I think what you point out here is that Hillary is a tactician. She’s a great fighter. She’s probably a hard worker and was a great lawyer. She’s also a pretty good campaigner. From what I’ve seen of her campaign, she’s lacking good strategic judgment. Everything she does is tactical.
Here’s the thing. I think Obama is a both-er: he’s got good strategic and good tactical skills – and he’s got good judgment for balancing the two off of each other – and on top of that he’s got good oratorical skills, no doubt a function of being a both-er. He’s like a guy who sees things at street level and top down like a map, simultaneously. In a dead even street fight, Hillary might be able to take Obama by simply out-working and out-hustling and out-fighting him. But she’s not in a dead even street fight. She’s in a fight that involves equal amounts of strategy and tactics and oratorical finesse. Hillary, despite having the obvious advantages going into this campaign as the virtual incumbent, constantly finds her self in a tactical struggle, swimming against the current where she is increasingly battling against greater odds. Meanwhile she keeps bumping into Obama and each time he looks as if he’s hardly broken a sweat.
As the campaign drags on, I think Hillary is becoming a better tactical fighter but she can’t overcome her strategic shortcomings, causing her to take bigger strategic risks which increasingly results in tactical set backs. Perhaps this is becoming more and more evident, at least on an intuitive level, to the electorate.
Obama isn’t perfect. But he’s a naturally gifted as a politician. First, He’s got the booming vocal chords, and he knows how to use them. He’s got both good tactical skills and good strategic skills and importantly, he seems to have good judgment in balancing the two off of each other. Obama obviously has the skills for becoming president, and the way he has run his campaign, it looks like he has the skills for being President as well. Increasingly it looks like we will find out.
Meanwhile we have to cross our fingers and hope that Hillary doesn’t go nuclear and undermine the entire Democratic party in her tactical struggle to become president.