Be not afraid. This line is from an old gospel hymn. I thought of it after talking with several conservative business friends. They have a fear of a Barack Obama election. Part is based on the politics of fear that the McCain campaign has fostered. But I suspect it is more than this, or even the discomfort of a Democrat winning the presidency.
None of these men think that Bush has operated the government well over the past eight years, and most do not believe that McCain has given them (or others) a reason to vote for him.
Besides the fact that I like these folks, I respect them for their intellect and hard work. All of them have been active in the community and are tolerant of others.
But they are genuinely afraid of an Obama future, especially one where the Senate and House will be controlled by Democrats. The do not think that Obama has executive experience. They are uncomfortable with him.
I thought about this and decided to look at Obama as if I was going to hire him.
He has operated a political campaign that is business-like, is focused and has a long-term strategy. His message is simple and consistent. He understands his weaknesses (lack of experience) and has changed the discussion to an argument on judgment. When he appeared before the American people in September during our financial meltdown, he was cool and collected in his remarks. He had Summers, Volker, Buffet, Rubin and other well-respected greybeards with him. He called McCain to offer to work with him.
He has raised massive amounts of money, mostly through small contributors. He has set up offices in red and blue states designed to register voters and get them to turn out to vote. He hired a chief financial officer to control expenses. He has used a mostly positive message, but has not flinched from aggressively fighting back when slandered.
In short, he has chosen his staff and approach with care. As businessmen, we would welcome his leadership in operating a company.
In addition, Obama’s experience as a community organizer permeates his approach to politics.
This tradition is a simple one. First, you build up a coalition of organizations, mostly religious. Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and Protestants from all parts of the spectrum join. Some are conservative; some liberal. What they share is the common ground of social justice and the belief that united they can influence government. The line from James I, 2:1 illustrates this: "Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith."
Part of Obama’s organizing efforts includes numerous listening sessions where members get to know other members. The emphasis here is on building relationships through listening and understanding. He is a trained listener.
Lastly, Obama has learned to define a problem and its causes and then to seek solutions from all quarters. This is a very practical approach to problem solving and one that businessmen use all the time.
Does Obama think government has all the answers? I do not think so. Look at Obama’s ad stressing educational reform. In the same ad, he places great importance on parent involvement and responsibility. His own experience with his mother’s emphasis on education showed him how important this is.
My guess is that he shares Bill Gates’ belief that "we need new ways to bring far more people into the system – capitalism – that has done so much good in the world." In essence, you do not have to bring people down to help people rise up.
Rosabeth Moss Kantes’ book, "Confidence: How Winning Streaks & Losing Streaks Begin & End," pointed out that "confidence is a self-fulfilling prophecy, consisting of positive expectations for favorable outcomes."
FDR and Ronald Ragan preached this, as has Obama. It is not merely the words, but the spirit of the words and the policies behind those words that work.
Bob Chernow is a Milwaukee businessman, a futurist, a former Village of River Hills trustee and a supporter of Barack Obama for president.