Yes, He Can: Martin O’Malley’s Path to the Presidency

(Five Excerpts from Issue #2 of the newsletter, Al Giordano’s América, which goes out to subscribers tonight.)

By Al Giordano 

In the coming weeks more than a dozen candidates will officially launch their campaigns for president of the United States.

And just like eight years ago, the big media purveyors of “conventional wisdom” have their heads way up where the sun don’t shine.

If you haven’t already gotten yourself a gift subscription to my newsletter that goes exclusively to supporters of The Fund for Authentic Journalism, today is a good day to do that (scroll down to the end of this post for the link), because you’ll then instantly receive all 5,700+ words of my analysis outlining what is about to come in the 2016 presidential campaign.

I share with subscribers a little bit on what is about to happen in the Republican primaries but think the bigger surprise is brewing among Democrats: that the “frontrunner” Hillary Clinton should not be considered as such, because there is a Democrat with a clear shot to surpass her in the presidential nomination caucuses and primaries. He is the former governor of Maryland, and his name is Martin O’Malley.

Here is excerpt #1 from the newsletter:

What Walker is doing to Bush – boxing him in as the establishment candidate of the past for an electorate looking to the future – O’Malley is very well positioned to do to Clinton. Of course, Martin O’Malley would be up against the formidable Clinton treasury and political machine. But it is precisely the candidates who come out of nowhere who, time and again, surprise in the American presidential nomination contests.

O’Malley’s weakness – that he is virtually unknown nationwide – is more likely to become a strength in the same way it was for Barack Obama eight years ago.

“Who the hell is Martin O’Malley and why is he in my headline?” is a question I answer by telling his story: from a young field organizer to Baltimore city councilor, to mayor, to governor, and his unique emphasis on field organization including in parts of Maryland often ignored by Democrats. It’s also revealing that O’Malley is so far the only Democrat to have extensively visited the first caucus and primary states of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Here is excerpt #2:

Last year, O’Malley quietly installed a team of his own field organizers in Iowa – where the first presidential caucuses will be held in January 2016 – to help local Democrats win their races. He’s built relationships and loyalties in the process. He has not launched his candidacy, but the Des Moines Register notes that he has already held 30 events over nine days in the Hawkeye State. By comparison, Clinton has held just five events over two days in the state, and until last year she had not returned to Iowa since the 2008 caucuses.

In the other first primary state, New Hampshire, the Manchester Union-Leader reports that O’Malley is “the only potential Democratic candidate to make what had the feel of a campaign stop so far this season, visiting Concord earlier this month.”

Just showing up is of immense importance to Iowa and New Hampshire voters, who so often have winnowed the field and established the dynamics of presidential nomination battles…

The essay looks closely at how former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has already begun the kinds of missteps that characterized her 2008 presidential campaign.

A big part of the gap that divides new generation Democrats from their elders is that they are data-driven. We’re more likely to read Nate Silver’s projections than to take the cable TV and newspaper columnist pundits seriously. That generation gap is reflected in how O’Malley and Clinton approach campaigning, too.

Here’s is excerpt #3 from the newsletter:

The 2008 Obama campaign’s precise development of demographic data on potential voters took Clinton – and later John McCain – by storm. They did not know what was happening to them or why voters they had written off were suddenly flooding the polls. Still, data without people power is nothing: a successful campaign needs an army of volunteers trained to deploy that data – and the tailored pitches to the diverse demographic groups that the data reveals, known as micro-targeting – to be able to benefit from it. There have been a lot of signals sent from the Clinton organization that people should think they learned their lesson from the 2008 defeat, and Clinton has hired any former Obama operative willing to bite (obviously not those who signed an open letter to Elizabeth Warren urging her to challenge Clinton last November). But Clinton’s volunteer base remains largely over 50 years old, with most of them over 60, and while its not impossible for old folks to learn new tricks, we’ve yet to see any investment at all in training volunteers in the new campaign methods the way that Camp Obama was already starting to do at this time eight years ago.

The big game-changer - here, in the fourth excerpt - that has already happened to the 2016 presidential campaign has come from someone who insists she won’t be a candidate:

Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren – who so many hope to draft into the presidential campaign – has already won, in a big way, without becoming a candidate. Her anti-corporate populism both rides and drives the emerging political zeitgeist in America, where everyday people see the stock market doubling in value over the past six years but, still struggling, haven’t shared in its success…

Warren has been exemplary in giving voice to a populism that rejects dividing white against black against Latino and so on. In that sense she embodies new generation Democrats more so than Webb or Sanders. Clinton, to her credit, supported Kennedy’s immigration reform bill and enjoys strong support among Latino voters in particular. But Clinton will continue to stumble badly on anti-corporate power, where her own record is woefully out of step.

Enter Martin O’Malley: Like Clinton and Warren, he’s a mainstream Democrat and liberal when it comes to social issues from abortion rights to same-sex marriage. Like Warren, Sanders and Webb, he plants his flag on the economic platform that all Americans should share in the largesse bestowed upon Wall Street: Increase the minimum wage and target income inequality, break up the “too big to fail” banks, and restore real competition to financial institutions. As Warren and other progressive populists like Robert Reich have argued, bringing back the 1933 Glass-Steagall Act could accomplish much of this in one fell swoop.

The enthusiasm of an organized “Draft Warren” movement has moved the earth under the 2016 campaign seismically, to the point that progressive economist Robert Reich, who 22 months ago voiced his support for Clinton saying “we need her” has recently stated publicly that if no one else challenges her candidacy with a populist economic platform, he just might.

Here is the fifth and final excerpt for non-subscribers:

O’Malley’s call to restore Glass-Steagall and define the 2016 campaign along such populist economic concerns places Secretary Clinton on the sharpest possible horns of a dilemma. After all, it was President Bill Clinton who repealed Franklin Roosevelt’s Glass-Steagall Act in 1995, opening the door to what became the 2007 financial crisis. For Clinton to say “me too” to Warren, Reich, Sanders, Webb, and O’Malley on that point, she’d have to do something she didn’t in 2008: put considerable distance between her and the first Clinton administration on that and on other defining economic issues.

O’Malley has deployed what we community organizers call a “Dilemma Action.” He has placed his major rival in a position in which she has no good options. If Secretary Clinton fails to break with Bill Clinton’s economic policies of the 1990s, she loses. If she does attempt to position herself as apart from that legacy, she also loses, in large part because her own entire political career has been as a corporate Democrat. Politicians can certainly evolve, but for people to believe it there has to be a compelling narrative – a personal story – that makes the shift credible.

The clock is ticking on Clinton’s ability to find that needle in the haystack, that “sweet spot” that would allow her emerge from the baggage of the last century into the zeitgeist of 2016…

Of course, I’ve saved the best parts for our supporters: You who generously support The Fund for Authentic Journalism, who keep the journalists at Narco News reporting, and who have so far made it possible for us to train more than 500 up-and-coming independent journalists, video makers and communicators so far at the School of Authentic Journalism. (Stay tuned very soon for news about the 2015 school.)

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It’s going to be fun election to cover, more fun than we’ve been told yet by the mass media, which too often acts as if the story is already decided. And that’s a big part of the fun: proving them wrong again and again. 

Unlike them, we don’t sell ads to the same companies on the stock exchange that want to decide elections for us. That’s why we need your support. And that’s what makes us always free and independent from what they want us to say. This kind of journalism is only possible because you decide it to be so. A free press is the most essential building block of any society that wants to govern itself as a democracy. Vote with your wallet today: It will cost you a lot more money later on if you leave journalism in the hands of the advertisers. That’s their plan, after all. But we’ve wrecked their plans before. Ready, dear friends, to do it again?

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Al Giordano is a veteran political reporter who only covers politics when he sees an opportunity to make it count. In 2008, Vanity Fair called him “the prophet of the Obama paradigm shift.” He is the founder of Narco News, which turns 15 next month, and of the School of Authentic Journalism.

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Publisher, Narco News.

Reporting on the United States at The Field.

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