Of course, the first elephant, often found grazing freely throughout the corridors of Democratic power, is the close cousin of the second known as The Absence of Principle.
In failing to acknowledge said elephants, the Senator went a long way towards discrediting his otherwise excellent points.
But what the Senator fails to acknowledge is that the "storyline that drives many advocacy groups and Democratic activists" is not about one vote; it is about a pattern. It is about a history of votes that betray any sense of party identity or principles. It is not just about Democratic support for Bush's tax cuts, the bankruptcy bill, the energy bill or the confirmation of Roberts; it is about all of those votes combined.
It is precisely this emerging pattern that leaves so many to ask, "What does the Democratic party stand for?" Answering this simple question is perhaps the greatest challenge our party faces and, by failing to even acknowledge it, Senator Obama seeds little confidence in his ability to lead us forward.
His politically adept, and necessary strategy of setting a constructive "tone" is hollow in the absence of a defining, identifying principle.
We may not all agree on what that principle is. I have advocated that it is the historical purpose of the Democratic party to represent and protect the commonwealth. To give voice to the principle that we are all our brother's keepers and that social responsibility is as important as individual responsibility. Others may disagree.
But I think almost all here would acknowledge that, to some extent, we are lacking a unifying vision. And it is just not credible to attempt a dialog on inter-party tolerance and loyalty while ignoring this fact.
Senator Obama also correctly points out that the majority of Americans don't share the degree of hostility so many here hold for the president and his policies. While I would argue that working Americans aren't as corporate friendly as he seems to suggest, it is probably true that most don't find them "inherently evil."
And I would take the "imperialist brute" observation a step further: most probably do not know what imperialism even means in this context.
But Senator Obama completely fails to recognize that it is our job to change those perceptions.
Must I point out that a perplexingly large percentage of the American public also believes that WMD were found in Iraq. And that Saddam Hussein was involved in the September 11 attacks.
On the other side, I would argue that a vast majority of Americans did not believe that "government is the problem" thirty years ago. Or that private corporations were more efficient and effective at providing government services then the government itself.
There can be no argument that the voting public has been dissatisfied with the performance of government over the years. And for this the Democrats must bear much of the responsibility. But the shift in public perception against government was not just the result of cumbersome bureaucracies, inept management and too high taxes; it was the result of a massive, precisely orchestrated campaign to create that perception.
And this is what I mean about failed leadership. It is not enough to take a poll and decide what can be done. We must change perceptions so that we may do what must be done. We must educate. We must persuade. We must lead.
Frankly, it usually takes well meaning politicians a bit longer in the Beltway grinder to lose sight of this fact.
The mark of a great leader is the ability to know what the public wants even before the public does. People know something is missing. They sense a great emptiness. The job of the Democratic leadership is to fill that emptiness with vision. And that vision will never come from a poll. It will only come from heart and principle.
I believe, in part, that emptiness is derived from the loss of our shared commitment to one another. To our neighbors, to our communities, to all Americans. A commitment that was embodied in the New Deal, the Great Society and even the Apollo missions to the Moon. A commitment that has been replaced by the social Darwinism of the radical right. That has been sacrificed on the alter of the free market.
To restore that commitment, we must foster the understanding that we are all in this thing called America together. That we are interdependent. That we are only as well-off as the least well-off among us.
Recent historical events, from 911 to Katrina, have provided us with ample proof of this interdependence. Not just that we are obligated to each other, but that the government has a profound role in meeting that obligation.
Where are the Democrats? Waiting for the poll returns to tell them how to play it?
The gap between the party and its leadership has never been wider. A gap exemplified by the statement that the Republicans "may have made things worse." What we are witnessing here and in backyards and living rooms across the country, are people filling the void of leadership with their own, homegrown vision. And, judging by the exponential growth of this site, it appears to be a vision the public is ready for.
While I completely agree that the tone we use can make or break the effectiveness of the message, it is our job to make people understand that George Bush is not the guy they think he is. That corporations are far too destructive and powerful for the public good. That our imperial adventures are ethically wrong and a threat to our security. That the Republicans have definately made things worse.
Senator Obama says our perspective "misreads the American people." I say we need a lot less reading and a lot more leading.