Monday, March 3, 2008

How To Lose In November

You would think that after two unsuccessful Democratic Presidential bids that the members of the Party would have learned some things by now. I guess losing two elections to a Republican who will undoubtedly go down in history as one of our worst Presidents has taught them nothing. I am often surprised by the progressive critics of Senator Obama for not being specific enough in his speeches and being soft on policy. So I suppose Al Gore and John Kerry lost because they were not specific enough in their campaigns concerning policy and that George Bush won because he was more specific? I doubt anyone would accuse George Bush of being a policy wonk. No, the reason those two lost is that they were defeated not by policy, but by philosophy. Neither man had the tools to inspire the masses to overcome the political rhetoric of the Republican machine.

Does any progressive believe that Gore or Kerry would not have made a better President than Bush or that their policies would not have benefitted more Americans? The problem is this, most average Americans do not vote based on policy. I wish I could say that our voters were savvy and sophisticated and were abreast of the issues and the candidates, but this would be a lie. Unfortunately in a democracy while it functions best when the electorate is engaged and educated on the issues, it allows for the electorate to not be if they so choose. Do the majority of voters vote based on specific issues? I would submit to you that they do not. George Bush did not get elected because he represented the best policies for the majority of the voting public. So if it isn’t based on policy statements, then what is it based on?

Since the advent of television and its introduction into our political process our elections have fundamentally changed as the public has changed. We have gone from a nation of readers to a nation of watchers. Before the advent of television if someone wanted information they had to actively seek it out in books or newspapers. Today this is no longer the case, today our homes are bombarded by information on a constant basis. This would not be a bad thing if that information were honest and credible, unfortunately many times it is not. When the majority of the electorate bases it’s choice on questionable and often times false information then bad choices are going to be made. Which brings me to the criticisms of Senator Obama and their basis in a false reality.

There are many progressives who say that it is unfair to have a candidate that we know so little about. I would have to agree, if we lived in a perfect world where every candidate’s policies and records were presented in a truthful manner then this would not be too much to ask. However, we don’t live in that world. We live in a world where much of our political discourse is based on outright lies and deception. Where traits that in a normal world would be considered strengths are manipulated into weaknesses. We live in a world where a decorated war hero can be reconstructed into a lying unpatriotic coward based on innuendo and outright lies. The truth of the matter is that rightly or wrongly the majority of the American voting public is not comfortable with the truth. Many progressives believe that the candidates should be forthright and straightforward about their agendas and should be willing to tell the public some unpleasant truths. The reality is that many Americans do not want to hear these unpleasant truths, no matter how accurate they may be. And those who tell these truths are often times defeated in landslides.

The beauty about Senator Obama’s candidacy is that because he speaks to larger concepts instead of specific policies it is more difficult to craft false narratives about him. His opponents have a difficult time developing and targeting specific areas with which to attack him. While progressives see this as a weakness it is in fact under our current electoral conditions a strength, as Hillary Clinton can attest to. It is very difficult to attack hope, change, and dreams for a better America. So how do we know who Senator Obama is and what he will stand for? The answer to this question is not difficult to find. All one has to do is look at his life prior to this campaign and I would submit prior to his even taking elective office. Many times I have heard the comparisons between Bush and Obama and to me it seems ridiculous to compare the history of the two. All one has to do is to look at the history of the two men to see the foolishness of such a comparison. The Bush history has always been crafted in lies and misleading facts from his being a unifier as Governor of Texas to his belief in compassionate conservatism.

Senator Obama began his career as a community organizer in the ghettos of Chicago reaching out to the disenfranchised and the forgotten, while George Bush began his career as a trust fund baby drinking and drugging himself into oblivion. While Senator Obama spent his early adult years helping people, Bush was spending his helping himself. Bush had no understanding or empathy for those less fortunate than himself so his references to such were empty rhetoric crafted to reach an electorate that was either unwilling or too disinterested to uncover the lies.

In order for Senator Obama to win in November he will have to continue to speak to larger concepts mixing in specifics as they are warranted. Despite the progressive mantra to the contrary most Americans do not vote based on policy briefs, they vote based on a feeling. I know it is a hell of a way to elect the most powerful person in the world, but welcome to democracy. As long as Senator Obama is able to stay above the specific policy debates he will remain much more difficult to attack. While he leaves himself open to the “all sizzle and no meat” criticism which for the most part does not seem to be sticking, I think that it is a risk worth taking. Without those specifics the Republican attack dogs are left with few avenues of attack and the ones that they are left with are dangerous and subject to backfire against them. So far the best they have been able to come up with is the false Muslim story, his middle name, and he doesn’t wear a flag lapel pin attacks.

The difference between Obama and Clinton or Obama and McCain for that matter is not in policy, but in philosophy. Those two represent the past and Obama represents the future, a future we will help to craft. The thing that bothers me about the net-roots criticism of Obama is how they try to make it all about him and forget his message of change for all of us. I have read where people have written in blogs and in the MSM media of what if I don’t want to change, what if I am ok the way I am, well that’s fine no one says you have to change. Remember, the Flat Earth Society still meets annually and I am sure they are in the market for new members.

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