If one were to only read the so-called "progressive blogosphere," one would guess that Barack Obama had suddenly sold out everything he stood for to become the Democratic nominee. He announced his plan to vote for the FISA bill, announced moderate support for the Supreme Court’s re-interpretation of the Second Amendment, and all in all, he’s making it obvious he’s "courting the center," a move that caused Arianna Huffington (and I normally agree with her) to opine that, "Tacking to the center is a losing strategy."
To coin a phrase, can we please cut the crap?
Let’s start with some basic Presidential Politics 101, shall we?
First, this is 2008. Any comparisons between this year and any
previous year are completely clueless. Therefore, if anyone mentions
Dukakis, Gore or Kerry, shut off all discussion, because they don’t
know what they’re talking about. This is neither 2004 or 2008, and
Barack Obama is neither Gore (2000 version) or Kerry.
is ANY comparison to be made to another presidential election year, the
appropriate one is 1932, not 2000, and we all know what happened then,
right? If you want a more recent example, try 1980, only in this case,
WE are the Republicans, and Bush is ten times worse than Jimmy Carter
could be on his worst day.
Of course, paradoxically, this
election is closer to a traditional presidential election than we’ve
seen in a long time, as well. The right wing doesn’t have the power it
once had; not even close. Anyone who thinks John McCain has even a
snowball’s chance in hell of winning in November is probably in the
media, and is hoping beyond hope for a horse race that simply isn’t in
Here are a few things to think about:
- The leader of John McCain’s party is George W. Bush, for better or worse.
base of the Republican Party is pissed off. They feel like all of their
hard work has largely been in vain. If you want to know how bad it is
for the far right, think about this; Chief Justice assigned the DC gun
case to Antonin Scalia, who wrote a love letter to the far right, in a
vain attempt to appease the right wing, to make them think their votes
are never wasted.
- The Republican Party’s coffers are largely empty, and their usual financial support is holding back.
far right "base" hates John McCain to such a degree that, four months
before the General Election, he is still playing to them.
- Independents appear ready to break for Obama by something close to a 2-to-1 margin.
above are just a few reasons why any comparison to the 2000 and 2004
elections are just plain stupid; they are nothing like that. John
McCain will not have the base to work with, that George W. Bush did in
2000 and 2004. The economy is in far worse shape, the Iraq occupation
has gone on far too long by now, and the Republican Party has largely
discredited itself with its antics, after having taken the reins of
power for eight years. Think Katrina for a clue, folks.
what you’re seeing this year is traditional politics; the kind that
used to be played before the neocons took over the Republican Party and
turned dirty politics into an art form. Perhaps you hadn’t noticed that
few elections since 1980 have featured two or more candidates, each
pushing his or her positives, with the best candidate winning. We’ve
become accustomed to one candidate throwing so much mud and dirt at a
candidate, that the mud and dirt ended up covering up any positives the
other candidate might have had. We’ve become accustomed to Republican
candidates who run on nothing other than "the Democrat will raise your
taxes and kill your children," and Democrats who stupidly become
defensive, saying they will NOT kill your children, and only the rich
will pay more taxes.
John McCain keeps trying to keep that
type of politics alive, but it won’t work this time. He’s not running
against Al Gore 2000 or John Kerry 2004, in a strong economy. People
are fed up, young people are engaged at a level I’ve never seen before,
and they’re not listening to the bullshit coming from the right side of
the political spectrum.
What Barack Obama is doing is classic
politics. If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s because you’re under the
age of 40, and you probably have never seen this before, or you’re over
40, and you’ve been so brainwashed by the right, you’ve forgotten how
politics is actually supposed to be played. I’ll be clearing things up
as we go, but let me start with the basics.
Let’s start with the
fact that Barack Obama is not a liberal, as most progressive bloggers
would define him. He’s been one of the most remarkably consistent
politicians I’ve seen in many years, on any level, and the only excuse
for that is, he actually believes what he says. I know; crazy, right?
Arianna Huffington thinks Gore and Kerry lost by "tacking to the
middle" shows a fundamental misunderstanding of why they lost. (Yes, I
know, technically they didn’t lose, but they let it be close enough to
steal, which is almost the same thing.)
You see, the far right
affirmation junkies on the right and the far left pseudo-political
junkies suffer from the same misunderstanding of how a majority of the
electorate decides who it’ll vote for. People largely do not care about
a candidate’s stands on the issues, at least the issues that news
junkies of all stripes care about. They vote for the person they
perceive as being on their side.
Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and
John Kerry lost for the same reason, and it had nothing to do with
"tacking to the center." If you were to try to define what any of those
three candidates stood for, you’d have a hell of a problem. They had no
political identity. Lacking identity was the reason the lies and smears
told about them worked so well. If John Kerry’s convention speech in
2004 had been the cornerstone of his entire campaign, he would be
running for reelection right now. If Al Gore 2008 had run in 2000, Bush
would be baseball commissioner right now, the World Trade Center would
probably still be standing, upwards of 30,000 soldiers would still be
whole right now, our national debt would be roughly half it’s current
level, the Dow would be sitting at 20,000 or higher and people would be
bitching about $2 per gallon gas, rather than $4.
One of the
things that has appealed to me about Obama since his speech at the 2004
Democratic Convention is that he’s genuine. He’s not full of shit;he
actually seems to believe what he says, and he doesn’t try to be all
things to all people. One of the most irritating aspects of the
over-reliance on polls by the "geniuses" at the DLC was the obvious
fact that polls don’t really say anything. Dukakis, Gore, Kerry and
even Clinton (albeit to a lesser extent) were so dependent on polls
that they forgot how to listen to the electorate. It’s not hard to
figure out what’s going on; just open your ears. You don’t need phone
banks of people calling total strangers to find out what people are
thinking. Check out the letters pages of newspapers; go online and read
the comments on blogs and message boards. Look around you and watch
behavioral changes. That kind of thing is far more effective than any
Obama gets this. That’s why he has gone out of his way
to stay remarkably consistent in his positions. There have been a few
minor shifts in position at times, but his consistency has actually
been quite amazing, overall, especially given the attacks leveled at
In fact, much of the disappointment some on the left are
demonstrating with Obama is a product of their imaginations. They LIKE
Barack Obama; therefore, because they like him, they figure he MUST be
for pulling out of Iraq the day after he takes office and letting the
Iraqis fend for themselves, right? Because they like him, he must think
there is no room for giving the government the power to spy on
suspected terrorist suspects and their supporters, right? If he didn’t
think that, they couldn’t possibly like him, right?
now, but many in the progressive blogosphere are engaging in the same
sort of activity that’s made the wingnuts, well, wingnuts. They are
famous for ascribing positions on issues to "liberals" based on what
liberals "must" think, because they’re liberals.
"tacking to the center" at all; he’s never been a leftist. When he
decided to forego public financing, he was called a flip-flopper by
many, including some on the left, not because he ever claimed an
affinity for public financing, but because the perception on the left
was that he "must be" in favor of public financing, because they liked
Let’s get real, folks. I know you want a revolution, and
you can have one, if you want it. (Wow, two obscure John Lennon
references in one sentence! I’m good!) But most lasting revolution
happens slowly, and with baby steps. What you see in Barack Obama is
someone who is playing the game the way it’s supposed to be played. The
primary season is for making the case for change. The general election
season is for making the case that you are capable of bringing about
the changes that are needed, but not so many drastic changes that you
scare the electorate to death. That’s the balance, folks, and that’s
what Obama is doing. He will be the candidate of change from now until
November, but he can’t be the candidate that changes everything.
He has to inoculate himself from the inevitable attacks that will come
from the right wing this fall; that’s why you see him attempting to
neutralize the Republicans’ attempts to paint him into a liberal
In the meantime, relax and rally behind this guy, and
we’ll finally have a guy president who will be far more open to
positive change than anyone in the last 30 years. Give him a
filibuster-proof majority in the Senate, and we can start reversing the
damage done to the economy over the last generation.