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Monday, August 18, 2008

Maybe there's a conspiracy to lose this thing
Posted by Jill | 6:07 AM
Paul Krugman is concerned about the Obama campaign's lack of passion on economic issues, and its refusal to place the blame square into the lap of Republicans:

When it comes to the economy, Mr. Obama’s campaign seems oddly lethargic.

I was astonished at the flatness of the big economy speech he gave in St. Petersburg at the beginning of this month — a speech that was billed as the start of a new campaign focus on economic issues. Mr. Obama is a great orator, yet he began that speech with a litany of statistics that were probably meaningless to most listeners.

Worse yet, he seemed to go out of his way to avoid scoring political points. “Back in the 1990s,” he declared, “your incomes grew by $6,000, and over the last several years, they’ve actually fallen by nearly $1,000.” Um, not quite: real median household income didn’t rise $6,000 during “the 1990s,” it did so during the Clinton years, after falling under the first Bush administration. Income hasn’t fallen $1,000 in “recent years,” it’s fallen under George Bush, with all of the decline taking place before 2005.

Obama surrogates have shown a similar inclination to go for the capillaries rather than the jugular. A recent Wall Street Journal op-ed by two Obama advisers offered another blizzard of statistics almost burying the key point — that most Americans would pay lower taxes under the Obama tax plan than under the McCain plan.

All this makes a stark contrast with the campaign of the last Democrat to make it to the White House, who had no trouble conveying passion over matters economic.

In his speech accepting the Democratic nomination in 1992, a year in which economic conditions somewhat resembled those today, Bill Clinton denounced his opponent as someone “caught in the grip of a failed economic theory.” Where Mr. Obama spoke cryptically in St. Petersburg about a “reckless few” who “game the system, as we’ve seen in this housing crisis” — I know what he meant, I think, but how many voters got it? — Mr. Clinton declared that “those who play by the rules and keep the faith have gotten the shaft, and those who cut corners and cut deals have been rewarded.” That’s the kind of hard-hitting populism that’s been absent from the Obama campaign so far.

I share Krugman's concern, and it's the reason I didn't jump on the Obama bandwagon right out of the gate. I have always been concerned about Barack Obama's refusal to recognize what he's dealing with in Republicans; about his tendency to want to play nice with people who don't play nice. More recently, I've been concerned about his willingness to throw his base under the bus in a vain quest to pull in a few voters who are likely to vote Republican. The sucking up to the evangelicals, the refusal to slam John McCain as hard as McCain is slamming him, the even consideration of the possibility of a Republican running mate. Republicans pay for keeps, and Democrats have been playing to lose. The problem with playing to lose, though, is that often you do. And it's hard to gin up much enthusiasm for a campaign and a party that after twenty-eight years of Atwater/Rove tactics from the other side, still doesn't get it.

Thomas Frank does get it, though, and in an article in which he details the way conservatives want to crush anything in government at any level that smacks of liberalism, he writes:

Liberalism, as we know it, arose out of a compromise between left-wing social movements and business interests. It depends on the efficient functioning of certain organs of the state; it does not call for all-out war on private industry.

Conservatism, on the other hand, speaks not of compromise, but of removing its adversaries from the field altogether. While no one dreams of sawing off those branches of the state that protect conservatism's constituents -- the military, the police, legal privileges granted to corporations -- conservatives openly fantasize about doing away with the bits of "big government" that serve liberal ends. While de-funding the left is the north star of the conservative project, there is no comparable campaign to "de-fund the right"; indeed, it would be difficult to imagine one.


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Blogger Citizen Carrie said...
I fear Obama will lose a lot of votes, not because people prefer McCain, but because they are disappointed with Obama. He seems obstinately determined to not address the obvious issues that could take down the Republican Party in a heartbeat.

Blogger Steve said...
Obama, unfortunately, is resorting to what could be called, the Jackie Robinson technique, as recommended by Branch Rickie in 1945:

... Rickey, a devout Methodist who wouldn't attend ballgames on Sunday and prohibited his
players from using profanity, role-played a succession of foul-mouth bigots of the type he knew
would try to provoke Robinson, including a spectator, headwaiter, hotel manager, sportswriter,
and a succession of players who would try to spike him with their cleats or bean him with a ball or
umpires who would make biased calls. Finally, Jackie demanded, "Mr. Rickey, do you want a
ballplayer who's afraid to fight back?" Rickey shot back, "I want a ballplayer with guts enough not
to fight back. You will symbolize a crucial cause. One incident, just one incident, can set it back
20 years."

Now, Jackie Robinson was a great ballplayer who knew he could play ball, but that's how it was in 1945.
Obama, as a freshman Senator, has, so far, not demonstrated that he has the creds to play political hardball. He's no Jackie Robinson.

This may be the crux of his, and his campaign's, dilemma.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
The soft touch is not going to win this thing. Dems operate under the false assumption that the high road is best, that the voters will be somehow magically impressed by their ability to rise above it.

What the Dems fail to miss is that there is an enormous and well-funded message machine out there telling anyone who will listen that the high road is the loser, it's weak and girly.

They need to forget the rules of the game and start fight hard.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Taking Citizen Carrie and dcup a bit further. There's that idea of "post-partisanship" and looking for a center of good feelings, yada, yada, yada. Ain't gonna work because the republicans don't want to do it.