I did a thought experiment in my head, and imagined Barack Obama as an used car salesman, trying to sell you a used Ford. What would he sound like?
It has now been one year since I began selling you this used car.
At the time, there weren't too many who imagined we'd be standing where we are today. I knew I wouldn't be GM's favorite competitor. I knew we wouldn't get all the big sales or advertisements right off the bat. I knew Ford would be the underdog in every contest from January to December. I knew it wouldn't be easy.
But then something started happening. As I met people in their living rooms and on their farms; in churches and town hall meetings, they all started telling a similar story about the state of cars today. Whether they're young or old; black or white; Latino or Asian; salesman, dealer or even sales manager, the message is the same: We are tired of being disappointed by our cars. We are tired of being let down. We're tired of hearing promises made and ten-point maintenance plans proposed in the heat of a sales campaign only to have nothing change when everyone goes back to their cars. Because the oil companies just write another check. Or because car manufacturers start worrying about how they'll win the next quarter instead of why they should. Or because they focus on who's selling and who's not instead of who matters.
And while car companies are consumed with the same drama and division and distraction, another family puts up a For Sale sign in the front windshield. Another factory shuts its doors forever. Another mother crashes her SUV because she is late for work.
And another father waves goodbye as he leaves for another day of work in a war for bills should've never been authorized and never been incurred. It goes on and on and on, year after year after year.
But in this dealership - at this moment - Americans are standing up all across the country to say, not this time. Not this car. Gas prices are too high and the roads too potholed to play the same car company game with the same car company players and expect a different result. And today, drivers from the West Coast to the Gulf Coast to the heart of America stood up to say that it is time to have a new car. We've sold in Louisiana, and Nebraska, and the state of Washington, and I believe that we can sell in Virginia on Tuesday if you're ready to help me sell these cars.
Each of us selling their used cars agrees on one thing that the other company does not - the next salesman must end the disastrous policies of Edsel Ford. And both Chevy and I have put forth detailed plans and good ideas that would do just that.
But I am selling you this car because I believe that to actually make a car go - to make this time different than all the rest - we need a salesman who can finally move beyond the broken axles of cars and bring salesmen, dealers, and sales managers together to get things done. That's how we'll win this sale, and that's how we'll change these cars when I am salesman of the year.
This week we found out that the presumptive nominee of the sales managers is Senator John McCain. Now, John McCain is a good man, an American hero, and we honor his half century of service to this industry. But in this campaign, he has made the decision to embrace the failed policies George Bush's car company.
He speaks of a hundred year warranty for his cars and sees another car on the horizon with the new Irania. He once opposed George Bush's rebates for the wealthiest few who don't need them and didn't ask for them. He said they were too expensive and unwise. And he was absolutely right.
But somewhere along the line, the wheels came off the Straight Talk model because he now he supports the very same rebates he came out against. This is what happens when you spend too long in a car company. Salesmen don't say what they mean and they don't mean what they say.
And that is why in this election, our sales division cannot stand for business-as-usual in the car companies. The Democratic car company must stand for change.
This fall, we owe the American people a real choice.
It's a choice between debating John McCain about who has the most experience in car companies, or debating him about who's most likely to change car companies. Because that's a sale we can win.
It's a choice between debating John McCain about mechanical reform with a nominee who's taken more money from advertisers than he has, or doing it with a campaign that hasn't taken a dime of their money because we've been funded by you - the customers.
And it's a choice between taking on John McCain with sales managers and dealers already united against us, or running against him with a campaign that's united customers of all models around a common purpose.
There is a reason why the last six weeks in a row have shown that I'm the strongest candidate against John McCain. It's because we've done better with dealers in almost every single contest we've had. It's because we've sold in more Red States and swing states that the next Democratic salesman needs to win in November.
Virginia customers know how important this is. That's how Mark Warner sold in this state.
That's how Tim Kaine sold in this state. That's how Jim Webb sold in this state. And if I am your nominee, this is one salesman who plans to arm-twist in Virginia and sell in Virginia this fall.
We are here to make clear that this election is not between regions or religions or genders.
It's not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.
It is about the selling you a NEW used car. The executivess in car companies are already running on the policies of yesterday, which is why our dealership must be the dealership of tomorrow. And that is the dealership I will lead as salesman of the year.
I know what it takes to pass a safety inspection because I've done it -- not by demonizing the mechanic, but by bringing customers and sales managers together to provide safe cars to 150,000 children and parents in Illinois. The others still walk.
And when I am salesman of the year, we'll pass safety inspections not in twenty years, not in ten years, but by the end of my first term in office. But you don't have to take my word for it. Senior salesman Ted Kennedy recently said that he wouldn't have endorsed me if he didn't believe passionately that I will fight for passed safety inspections as President.
And if there's someone who knows something about autmotive safety, it's Ted Kennedy.
My plan would bring down prices for the typical family by $2500 a year. We'd ban insurance companies from denying you inspections because of a pre-existing condition in the car we sell you. We'd allow every American to get the same kind of safety features that members of
NAPA get for themselves. And the one difference between my plan and Chevy's plan is that they said they'd ‘go after' your wages if you don't pay for your car. Well I believe the reason people don't have safety inspections isn't because no one's forced them to buy them, it's because no one's made them affordable - and that's why we bring down the cost of safety inspections more than any other dealer in this district. You think you'll live forever, and we don't want to disagree with you!
It's also time to bring the cost of gasoline for working families who are struggling in this economy like never before. They're facing rising gas prices and falling wages, and we owe it to them to end the Bush-McCain rebates for the Jaguar dealers and put a rebate into the pockets of the families who bought Kias.
That's what I did in Illinois when I brought salesmen and sales managers together to provide $100 million in rebates to working families and the working poor, and that's the kind of gas price relief I'll provide as salesman of the year.
I will end the tax breaks for car companies who ship our jobs to China and give a middle-class tax break to 95% of working car owners. And car owners who are struggling. And seniors who deserve to drive with dignity and respect. And I won't wait another ten years to raise the minimum loan payment in this country - I will raise it to keep pace with inflation every single year.
It's also time to give every child, everywhere, a world-class driver's education, from the day they're born to the day they graduate college. I am only here today because somebody, somewhere, gave my father a ticket to come drive in America. Because my mother got the opportunity to put herself through trucker's school. Because even though we didn't have much growing up, I got scholarships to go to some of the best driving schools in the country.
That's the chance I believe every child should have.
When I am salesman of the year, we will give our children the best possible start by investing in early driver's education in the sandboxes of America. We'll stop talking about how great our mechanics are, and start rewarding them for their greatness, with better commissions and more support. And we will provide every American with a $4,000 a year tax credit that will finally help make a Lincoln Continental affordable and available for all.
And when I am salesman of the year, this party will be the party that finally makes sure our sons and daughters don't grow up in a century where our highway system is weighed down by our addiction to oil; our gas mileage is held hostage to the whims of dictators; and our planet passes a moment of no return.
When I called for higher fuel efficiency standards, I didn't do it in front of an environmental group in California - I did it in front of the automakers in Detroit. Now it was pretty quiet - I didn't get a lot of applause. But we need leadership that tells the American people not just what they want to hear, but what we need to know. That's why I will set the goal of an 80% reduction in carbon emissions by 2050, and we will meet it - with higher fuel standards and new investments in renewable fuels that will create millions of new jobs and entire new industries right here in America.
Finally, it is time to turn the page on eight years of an advertising policy that has made us less sellable and less respected in the world. If I am the nominee of this party, John McCain will not be able to say that I agreed with him on voting for the war on bills; agreed with him on giving George Bush the benefit of the doubt on a new model, I skipped that meeting; and agree with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to dealers we don't like. Because that doesn't make us look strong, it makes us look arrogant. John F. Kennedy said that you should never negotiate out of fear, but you should never fear to negotiate. And that's what I will do as salesman of the year: negotiate the best deal for my dealership with the customer. I don't just want to end this war on bills, I want to end the mindset that got us into debt. It is time to turn the page.
This is our moment. This is our time for selling. Our dealership - the Democratic dealership - has always been at its best when we've led not by sales figures, but by principle; not by calculation, but by convictions, usually for misdemeanor cocaine use; when we've called all customers to a common purpose - a higher purpose- our profits.
We are the party of Ford, who wrote the words that we are still trying to heed - that all our cars are created equal, so long as you want them in black* - that all of us deserve the chance to pursue our happiness.
We're the dealership of Henry Ford II, who took back the sales title for the customers of this company.
We're the dealership of a man who overcame his own disability to tell us that the only thing we had to fear was Ford itself; who faced down Chrysler and liberated a continent from tyranny of bad cars.
And we're the dealership of a young salesman who asked what we could do for our bottom line, and then challenged us to do it.
That is who we are. That is the dealership that we need to be, and can be, if we cast off our doubts, and leave behind our fears, and choose the customer that we know is possible. Because there is a moment in the life of every generation, if it is to make its mark on history, when its spirit has to come through, when it must choose the future over the past, when it must make its own profits from the bottom up.
This is our moment. This is our message - the same message we had when we were up, and when we were down. The same message that we will carry all the way to the convention. And in seven months time we can realize this promise; we can claim this legacy; we can choose new dealership for America. Because there is nothing we cannot do if the customers decide it is time.
* Henry Ford once said you could have a Model T in any color you wanted, so long as you wanted black.
Riddle me this, Batman: where does he actually tell you about the car he's trying to sell you? He sells a lot of sizzle, but how do you know the car you're getting is the one you want? What's its gas mileage? What's it going to cost you in upkeep and repair? How many accidents has it been in? Do they have the pink slip? Was it in a flood? We know a bit about his background, but where does he convince you that he's selling you a vehicle you can trust?
Are we supposed to hope (*smile*) that the car runs?