Saturday, March 29, 2008
(or: fakey niceness vs sincere criticism)
Well, I never thought I'd be referencing Larry Sabato (I mean, come on, he gets enough press as it is) but he got something really right, I think, as of yesterday on his "crystal ball."
Sabato points out that the calls for Hillary to step down are premature. For one thing, Pennsylvania is a huge state, with a lot of delegates, and a large blue-collar population, which has been her mainstay. For another, Obama's star was somewhat tarnished by the whole Rev. Wright thing (which was blown out of proportion, I think, as so many things are, but I was so impressed with Obama's response--see below). [Update 3/30/08: The Washington Post agrees in an editorial today.]
Also, though it has to be done carefully, the nomination process is a form of tempering for candidates--it tries and tests them, and helps us see if they're fit to win against their eventual opponent. Which is why it's good that most states' Democratic parties did not do the "winner take all" delegate apportionment that the repubs did. We haven't really see what McCain is made of (of course, the field of losers wouldn't have really tested him anyway--like Huckabee was a worthy opponent?).
In order to know if the presumptive candidate (obama, in this case) is going to have a chance in the general election, we need to see what s/he is made of. That happens through the democratic process of picking the candidate. If a candidate isn't worthy, we need to know that now--not in October.
So, while it must be done carefully so as not to undermine the eventual candidate in the general, and not burn bridges (yeah, we're still thinking of a shared ticket here!) the "negative campaigning" serves an important function. People complain about negative campaigning, but that's because, for the most part, we find it uncomfortable to talk about real things--we're happier with fakey niceness than sincere criticism.
By the way, I'm feeling at least as prescient as Sabato--here's what I wrote back in '06:
CAN Hilary win?
A lot of folks are worried about Hillary Rodham Clinton running for pres in '08, because they're afraid she can't win. James Carville says she can.
Some conservatives are afraid she will.
She's a very impressive speaker. She's very smart. She has a lot of charisma. She connects with people. But she freaks some people out. What's the problem? because she's a woman? because of the healthcare debacle? because she's moderate? because of Bill?
I'm not saying I like everything about her--her recent cozying up to big pharma seems problematic. But hey, she's paid her dues. Give her a chance! Democrats are notoriously bad at picking winning candidates. So why let the conventional wisdom be our guide?
(PS: John McCain is NOT a moderate! He may have been once, but in his strategy to gain the repub nomination, he's moving to the right. Don't be fooled!)
Hey, where's MY crystal ball?
Sunday, March 23, 2008
I was so impressed with Obama's "more perfect union" speech last week. It's what I was looking for back in January (see "Racism the Opiate of the People?" below). At last, he has really given an audacious message of hope (sorry--couldn't resist) that our country might be able to rise above the self-destructive race stasis we've been in, rather than just cycling through the same rhetoric and not getting anywhere.
There were some disappointments in the speech--he could have gone further than he did, I think (not in terms of denouncing Wright--I think he handled that just fine, unlike some other folks), and if he'd been more concise, he'd probably have reached (and touched) more people (though it seems that people are paying attention). And, some commentators have suggested he was somewhat disingenuous about Geraldine Ferraro's comment, especially the way he kept referencing it.
But, overall--inspiring and powerful. That was the Obama we saw at the last Democratic convention, and the one that has seemed (to me at least) to be MIA since the campaign started.
So, I'm starting to feel okay that he's pulling ahead of Hillary (though, this seems to be a big speed bump for him). It would really make me happy still if they were running mates. OK, so she won't be at the top of the ticket--all right, we'll have a woman president later. I can deal. But, they have to be careful not to knock each other too hard if that's going to work. We'll have to wait and see, I reckon!
Sunday, March 02, 2008
I've been ambivalent about the leading candidates since the beginning of the campaign--by which I mean, not that I didn't really like either of them, but that I liked both of them (which is why I called it agnosticism, not ambivalence). Ultimately, I came down on the side of Hillary--and for quite a while, it appeared that the electorate did as well. But, clearly the tide has turned. Obama seems poised to become the annointed one. And that's fine--as I said before, I wish he'd be her running partner, and they could win in a landslide, and end up guiding the country for the next 16 years [sigh...] But, since that's not happening, I will accept reality. Here's my problem, though, and why I am describing myself now as ambivalent, rather than agnostic: it's that rock-star thing. Many are calling it the cult of personality, which I suppose is accurate enough--except that I'm not sure that Obama's personality is clear enough for it to be that. He seems rather more like a screen upon which people project their desires and hopes. That may be enough to carry us through the general election. And I certainly believe that Obama is smart enough to surround himself with the advisors he needs (hint: former Clinton admin staffers/cabinet members) to do what he himself may not be experienced enough or tough enough to do himself.
It may well be that Obama's star power is what it will take to beat McCain in the fall. I suppose that in itself is a reason why he should be the candidate. But it's tough to see the person who *should* have been the Clinton president--yes, in 1992! --being shunted aside once again, by someone who makes women swoon. Oh well. As much as I wish that people were driven by logic, not emotion, in their political decision-making, I'm enough of a realist to know that it's the way things are. So be it (I guess!)