A Quick Education on Rahm Emanuel

rahmIn the rank of days of my life, it goes like this 1) and 2) the births of my two exceptionally amazing children, 3) marrying my sweet, totally awesome husband and 4) drum roll please….

November 4, 2008.

My children will now spend at least 4 years living in a country led by, without a doubt, the most exceptional individual to be elected to political office in recent, or even distant, memory. And perhaps to banish the inexperience and memories of chaos of the Clinton years, he has already chosen, as his Chief of Staff, Rahm Emanuel.

So who is this guy? First, let’s chat about what the chief of staff does. Generally, this person corrals the Cabinet secretaries and keeps them in line with regard to the over-all agenda of the president. He or she (actually, unfortunately, this person has never been a “she”) also frequently is a key leader of the team that represents the executive branch to the Congress, pursuing votes and admonishing malcontents in the party. Think Leo in the West Wing. Essentially, the administrative version of the president.

Rahm Emanuel is the two term congressman from Illinois and is a tightly wound ball of hyper-kinetic energy. Since 2007, Emanuel has been the chair of the Democratic Caucus (kind of a big deal). He was head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, an instrumental force in taking the House of Representatives back from the Republicans in 2006. He worked for Paul Simon and was a chief advisor of Bill Clinton.

He is a young guy – 48 – and the father of three children. He has a 100% voting record on choice, supported the initial war resolution on Iraq but has since become a strong and vocal opponent of the war, has been great on the environment and is very well known for being a huge personality to that advocates tenaciously for a progressive agenda.

On paper, it all looks good. Now, let’s back up for a second. One of the key reasons that Obama won Virginia and Indiana and stood a chance in states like Montana and North Dakota, was because the Chair of the Democratic Party, Howard Dean (known in our house as Saint Dean), implemented a strategy of targeting each and every state, regardless of electoral history, as a potential Democratic site of victory. Brilliant. Exceptional. Pure genius.

While Dean struggled to implement this strategy, his most vocal opponent was Rahm Emanuel, who clung to the older strategy of pouring all of the resources into the states most likely to secure victory. Because of this, Emanuel has lost favor with some aspects of the Democratic Party.

In the end, though, the Obama campaign became a combination of both strategies …  Dean’s was used to get through the early part of the campaign, and when it came down to the final days, Emanuel’s older strategy was favored to target resources in key states (that’s why Obama never made it to Oregon during the general campaign).

Given this past feud, it looks like there might be some tensions between the party machine and the White House. But you know what? Never before have I trusted a leader to manage disputes, quell unproductive discord and listen to both sides of an argument more than I trust Obama.

Bring on the constructive debate.


5 Responses

  1. I’m confident that Obama will really be in charge. At least I was until I heard about what’s happening with the 50 state strategy. Now I don’t know. That scares me. I live in Virginia and we benefited HUGELY from the 50 state strategy. We would still be red without it and I’d hate to lose all that momentum and institutional knowledge.

  2. Thank you for the well written explanation of the rift between Dean and Emanuel. I’m optimistic, as you are, about Obama’s ability to steer a rational course between the unavoidable factions in the Democratic Party.

  3. hi Kristin

    after your sweet comments about my “Babies” post on BO, i clicked your name & found myself here. i’m going to add this to my list of to-be-read-as-regularly-as-i-can-manage-it blogs. the list of local blogs on that list is depressingly small, at least for me. and as someone trying to build his own blog, i need to support others doing the same thing.

    and as this post demonstrates, you have the chops. yay you. one of the good things about the CoS job is that it has nothing to do with running the DNC — i hope. i think we can expect someone as Dean’s replacement who will continue to build the party in all 50 states. Obama will need that support not merely to win re-election but to get his programs passed. in the first 6 months of 2009, people who believe in what he is trying to do will have to step up and work for it, just like they worked for his election. and the most effective way to harness the energy is for the DNC to use its structure as the organizing platform. non-Dems will be welcomed, i believe, without having to convert, but the DNC seems like the natural starting point.

    and Rahm Emmanuel will be doing things that keep him out of that. i like his selection, too, but if he ever tried to undermine the 50-state strategy (again), he’d go right back on my personal (and fear-inspiring) List of Dems What I Don’t Care Much For.

    anyway, hope you can write frequently. i’ll keep reading.

  4. After reading this article, I just feel that I really need more information on the topic. Can you share some more resources ?

  5. […] Kristin from Poligots has a great post up about Obama’s new Chief of Staff, Rahn Emanuel, a vocal opponent to Dean’s 50 state […]

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