Monday, July 7, 2008


Sam Smith

Few candidates have fallen so fast from sainthood to run of the mill unreliable and untrustworthy political hack as Barack Obama. The decanonization has only taken a few weeks and has been almost entirely due to what the media politely calls Obama's shift to the middle. In fact, as Jim Hightower has noted, the middle of the road is filled largely with yellow stripes and dead armadillos. But that's okay, because Obama isn't really moving to the middle but to the right, like some tail-wagging puppy dog trying to crawl under the conservative fence.

The results have been awkward and even embarrassing, as when Obama had to hold a second news conference on the same day in order to renuance his Iraq position he had initially nuanced only a few hours earlier.

What we are seeing is another example of the overwhelming desire of leading Democrats to be someone else, like a tone dead dude doing an air guitar imitation of Ronald Reagan, cheered by major campaign donors and others who run the game, but leaving the voters annoyed, apathetic, uncertain or cynical.

It's not a disaster, and Obama remains far better than McCain, but neither is it anything to applaud. In the trade it's considered clever, sophisticated and practical. Occasionally it even helps a candidate win. But any clever, sophisticated and practical technique that diminishes a candidate's image as rapidly as has occurred in Obama's case at least deserves reconsideration.

A good place to start would be for candidates to be themselves, exuding what the pros call authenticity. Obama is beginning to sound like a walking Gallup poll analysis. You can imagine him walking down a crowded street changing his verbal emphasis as the hand shaking demographic alters. It wasn't exactly the image he had at the start. From the audacity of hope to the timidity of focus groups in just a few days.

Besides, it creates an odd image of an Obama presidency - lines of pregnant women at the White House gates waiting for him to determine whether their pain is sufficiently physical for a late term abortion or asking NSA to black out pornographic remarks in the results of warrantless wiretaps it submits to him.

But what about the voters who aren't black, young and wowed, or old reliable liberals? Don't you have to prove you're tough on abortions, gays and terrorists (in no particular order) in order to win back America?

Not really. For one thing, if you play that game you're admitting defeat because there's no way you're going to outdo the pathological right on such matters. For another, as Obama has discovered, trying can get you into trouble.

The best approach is to show some enthusiasm for one's own major causes - broadly missing among national Democrats, perhaps because they haven't found them - and then looking for other issues that are not even necessarily on the media list of approved ways for liberals to cave in.

There's nothing wrong with thinking about the other guy's concerns. You just do it from a progressive perspective. I call it crossover politics, those issues where there is a constituency on both sides. One can push these issues with integrity and authenticity without seeming a liberal wannaplay wimp.

But here's the secret people like Obama won't tell you. Their campaign contributors won't like them if they take such positions. Besides some of these subjects are new and those in politics and the media don't like stuff that is new because it is not supported by sufficient cliches they can repeat about it. And some ideas are just too upsetting to core fans.

Notwithstanding all that, here is one list of crossover policies a progressive candidate could support without embarrassment and with good effect:

The Second Amendment: This is at the top only because it's at the top of the news at the moment. Support of the Supreme Court decision on gun control would be an easy way for a progressive to stir the political pot. Excessive gun control, as in DC, has been broadly ineffective and has become an easy symbol of liberal puritanism, not to mention the fact that it violates the Constitution. Liberals commonly become derisive at any suggestion that widespread gun ownership might be useful in restraining a growingly dictatorial government, but that's because they haven't learned much from Vietnam or Iraq, where America's massive military might proved stunningly ineffective against personal weaponry.


At July 8, 2008 9:46 AM, Blogger Elderlady said...

It's probably my imagination, Mr. Smith. However, it seems that all this came about when the Obama campaign decided to embrace those members of the Clinton campaign - who were without a place to go, and something to do. Patty Solis, Madeline Allbright, Hillary, and others.

Now, you can't tell the difference
in the campaign Clinton ran, and the campaign Obama is running.

Like I said, probably my imagination playing tricks.

At July 10, 2008 9:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually I think it was just part of the plan. During the primaries Obama had to convince Democrats that he was to the left of Clinton in order to get votes. Now that Clinton is out of the picture, he has to convince the billionaires whose contributions determine who wins the election that he is further right than Clinton.

It's anybody's guess which Obama will actually make the decisions once he's in office.

At July 10, 2008 4:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama & McCain both have little substance in their platforms. Both just spew political rhetoric. Check your facts Dr. Ron Paul is still in the race. Compare all the candidates instead of herding the flock of sheep. The media is getting really good at electing "our President"


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