Sunday, September 14, 2014

Barack Obama Before the Presidency

Bobby Rush 113th Congress.jpg
Bobby Rush (D-Illinois, First District)
Barack Hussein Obama has kept tight raps on his past, but technology escapes the ready grasp of politicians keeping the past from become present (here, now, and available)

His political past had some interesting turns and twists, where early in his state legislative career, he challenged an incumbent Congressman for federal office.

Previous presidents also had their share of defeat running for Congress. George W. Bush and John Kerry both had run for Congress in the late 1970s, and lost. George Herbert Walker Bush had run for the US Senate, after holding a House seat in Texas, but lost as well.

Obama would share that unique distinction of loss before his massive rise in Illinois then national politics

In 2000, as an Illinois state senator, Barack Obama was aggressively progressive, running to replace Bobby Rush, who remains the only politician who has defeated the president in a race.

This Bobby Rush was the Congressman who protested the death of Trayvon Martin over a decade later by wearing a hoodie on the House Floor, in violation of House rules.

The 2000 primary was not about ideological differences. The two state senators challenging Rep. Rush also supported universal health care, for example. A value which Obama presented as a Presidential candidate in 2008, he pushed for the  most extensive governmental intervention since the Truman Administration, and accomplished an amalgam of corporate, labor union, and special interest fury which disappointed his progressive base while enraging conservative and Middle America.

Election Year 2000 held many small surprises, though, and Obama's first foray into federal office was one of them.

Obama distinguished himself by his stronger push for campaign finance reform and his resistance to a flat tax (as opposed to a, well, progressive one).

Aside from the interest of Chicago insiders and political junkies, Barack Obama was a blip on the radar, politically, and no one would have imagined that this constitutional law professor and community organizer would amount to anything more.

In four years, that would all change, and the skips and mistakes along the way only sharpen the irony of his middling state senator turned US Senator then President who ushered in an ideological transformation unseen since the Reagan era.

US Senate Election 2004

Barack Obama faced a easy slide into the US Senate seat, even though Republicans had a banner year with George W. Bush at the top of the ticket.

Peter Fitzgerald.jpg
US Senator Peter Fitzgerald
The incumbent US Senator from Illinois, Republican Peter Fitzgerald, declined to seek reelection because his staunch, fiscal conservatism angered state Republican Party officials, deep in graft and corruption (which later ended the Governor George Ryan's administration with a six year jail sentence).

Barack Obama ran against six other candidates for the open US Senate seat, and won significantly. His opponents praised his political skills (in spite of having less money), and supported his general election bid for the senate seat. At the time, the Republicans controlled the chamber by a slim margin, and Democrats viewed the Illinois seat as rare opportunity for taking back the chamber.

They would have to wait until the 2006 cycle to regain the majority, and then 2008 for the Presidency.

 Originally, investment banker turned teacher Jack Ryan (no relation with governor) would run against state senator Barack Obama. Already trailing in the polls, Ryan's camp hit a harder bump when news affiliates wanted access to his divorce records from his actress wife Jeri Ryan (nee Zimmerman).

Following the disturbing allegations of the sealed divorced records released to the public, Ryan officially withdrew from the races. Rumors have suggested that Obama's political machine behind the scenes instigated the forced release of Ryan's divorce records.

The Original 2004 US Senate Contest

At the last minute, state Republicans press Maryland Republican and perennial candidate Alan Keyes to replace Jack Ryan, who had already been struggling in the polls.

Keyes turned out to be a terrible candidate, whom even Jay Leno lampooned for carpetbagging into the district, despite prior claims that candidates should never run for office outside of their hometowns or states.

Keyes rhetorical flourishes and social conservatism had alienated fellow Republicans, and his lack of self-awareness then (and now) has doomed any lasting national influence.

Alan Keyes
 Barack Obama face no real challenges to his steady assent into national politics in 2004.

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