More from Sifry on what a difference a year makes 

Personal Democracy Forum co-founder Micah Sifry spent some time Friday listening closely to President Obama's remarks in Ohio and noticed a subtle difference in the chief executive's rhetoric. It's the difference between "Yes, we can" and "Yes, I can," which Sifry explained in a post on PDF's Tech President site.

In an Ohio speech described by political observers as indicative of how Obama is recalibrating his public rhetoric with a populist twist following Republican Scott Brown's upset victory in last Tuesday's Massachusetts special election for the U.S. Senate, the president used the word "I" over and over. Sifry counted at least 14 instances, always in conjunction the word "fighting."

"I will do this for you; I will continue doing that for you. The first person singular is laced through the speech. Same with his use of the word 'we.' It's not the formulation that goes with 'we are all in this together,' another signature Obama phrase that is more inclusive of the public (and a direct ideological response to the Right's 'leave me alone' politics). Obama's use of 'we' was in the royal sense," Sifry said.

Further, Sifry said, "Obama seems to have forgotten that he was elected to do more than deliver bacon to kitchen tables, but to also change how the country works. The open, networked, participatory nature of the Internet ought to be his guide; but despite some valiant efforts inside his administration in that direction, it looks like Obama himself is stuck in a very old groove, one that has captured every one of his predecessors."

It's perhaps easy to dismiss such observations as indicative of the usual discontent that sets in a year or so into a new administration among its most ideological supporters. Something like that happened with President Reagan in 1982 as some of his most conservative backers began agitating, claiming the White House staff wasn't letting "Reagan be Reagan."

But Sifry's critique goes beyond the ideological concerns of the most left-wing elements of the Obama base. Sifry is pointing to another angle from which to view Obama's move away from the "wisdom of the crowd" kind of web-based democratic reforms he promised during the 2008 presidential campaign to the familiar obsessions of incumbency.

Sifry's latest post follows on his controversial December piece on "The Obama Disconnect: What happens when myth meets reality." That post generated intense commentary across the political spectrum, not all of it complimentary. You can read my several posts on the Disconnect that appeared on Beltway Confidential here and here.  




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