How Obama Can Still Lose The Election
– by David Matthews 2
I am often guilty of overthinking. I can have something in my head and be so fixated on how wonderful it would be to have that thing, that I would forget to DO that thing. For instance, I could put it into my head what a wonderful job I could be working, complete with the pay and the perks and everything, and then realize that I don’t HAVE it yet, and that I have to actually APPLY for it, and by that time the job is already filled.
Half of my problem with relationships is pretty much the same way. I’m often so fixated on the IDEA of the relationship that I forget to ask the girl out, and usually by then she’s wrapped herself around the arm of someone who may not be better than me… and in some instances even worse… but is still someone who was able to not overthink themselves and actually DO what needs to be done.
Likewise, politicians can get so caught up on believing that they have already WON the election that they can end up LOSING it. Vice-President Al Gore, and for that matter the whole Democratic Party, firmly believed that once the nomination was in that his ascendancy to the Oval Office would be a sure thing in 2000. He forgot that he still had to win the election, and, as we all found out the hard way with the Florida Fiasco, he didn’t really get to do that.
Ditto for John Kerry. He was so fixated on showing that he wasn’t George W. Bush that he forgot to actually WIN the 2004 Election! That should be somewhat humbling, shouldn’t it? Here he was spending all of this time telling people why he wasn’t like the current president and pretty much no time demonstrating why he would be a BETTER alternative to Bush Junior. There is a difference between the two.
So you would think that the Democrats would LEARN from these examples and not make the same mistakes again, right? Wrong.
The Democrats seem to be hell-bound on letting history repeat itself yet again, this time through the charismatic personae that is Barack Obama.
Having supposedly secured the Democratic nomination (in theory until it can be formalized at the national convention), Obama has now made the stereotypical shift from appeasing liberals to appeasing what he believes is “the center”.
Unfortunately Obama’s version of “the center” is nothing of the sort.
Obama is now courting evangelicals, promising to continue the theocratic programs that the Bush Imperium rammed down America’s throat. Conservatives and conservative sycophants like Fox News falsely claim that Obama is just appealing to the “evangelical left”, but the truth of the matter is that it was the right-wing ultra-conservative bible-thumpers that DEMANDED AND GOT a “Department of God” in the White House. THEY were the ones pushing for the “faith-based initiatives”, and it was the “evangelical left” that were OPPOSING such programs, and they still are!
The tactic is easy to see, if somewhat flawed. Obama believes that if he can steal the bible-thumpers away from John McCain, then McCain loses all of his support in the general election. Conservatives really are not happy with McCain and are still smarting from the fact that McCain managed to hoodwink the Republican voters in the primaries and caucuses. They’ll back him in the election because he promises to keep the spirit of the Bush Imperium going, but they still wish that someone better was waiving their banner.
There’s just one small problem: Barack Obama is NOT that “someone better”! In fact, Obama’s attempts at swaying the evangelicals to his side may just backfire and force them to embrace McCain even more than they already are.
That’s not all. Obama has also flip-flopped on certain legislative issues, such as supporting a bill that grants immunity to the telecommunications companies as part of the Bush Imperium’s latest wiretap power-grab. It was one thing to not be in Washington when the PATRIOT Act was passed, or when the initial Iraq War authorization was up for debate, but it is another thing entirely to have a key element of the Bush Imperium in your grasp and you actually SUPPORT it, even though your own electoral base OPPOSES it and is begging and pleading and even PRAYING that someone steps in and slams on the brakes.
Let’s get brutally honest here… if Barack Obama wants to become the next president of the United States, then he needs to avoid making the same mistakes that cost the Democrats in 2000 and 2004!
Now before I go any further, I should point out that I am NOT an Obama supporter. I am a political cynic and libertarian, and, as such, I cannot in good conscience support any of Obama’s “share the wealth” economic ideas and socialist programs. But I have seen an incredible groundswell of popularity coming from this campaign that, even if I don’t agree with, could very well change the face of politics for the better if it isn’t ruined by the same mentalities that have poisoned politics for the past few decades. It would certainly be a waste to see that talent and idealism ruined by the people who bring nothing but failure.
So here are the essential things that Obama needs to do to avoid joining Gore and Kerry in the Hall of Presidential FAILURES:
DO NOT act like the election is already a done deal! This was the mistake that Hillary Rodham Clinton made all during her primary and caucus run. She believed that the whole primary and caucus trip would be a formality and that all she would have to do is make it to the convention and she would be handed the nomination.
Likewise, Obama cannot act like the November election is a sure thing. Yes he has charisma and yes he runs on this platform of “hope”, but those things will not put him in the White House. He still needs to PROVE why he is the BETTER candidate. He needs to give the voters a reason to not only vote, but to vote FOR HIM.
STOP PANDERING! Do you know what kind of person pretends to be all things to all people? A charlatan. The kind of mealy-mouthed politician that has infested Washington DC almost since day one that people find disgusting and abhorrent and needs to be treated like the cockroaches that they are.
The typical election flip-flop works this way: you spend the first half of the election season pandering and catering to the various political extremist factions of your party. You promise the moon and you promise to deliver it personally gift-wrapped to get the support of those primary and caucus voters. Then after you secure the nomination, you spend the other half of the season pandering to “the middle”, talking about the struggles of middle-class America, trying to be a centrist, claiming to be willing to work with all groups.
Here’s the problem: if you’ve just spend all of your time appeasing the extremists, then you’re alienating them when you do the flip-flop. You essentially proved that your support wasn’t genuine, and that your promises were for naught. And the folks in “the center” haven’t exactly been living in a vacuum either! They’re watching you flip-flop as well and they’re now asking if your support to them is now genuine. So you’re pissing off one group and your support with the other is questionable at best.
Obama needs to STOP pandering to groups! John McCain has spent the better part of the past four years doing just that in order to build up his hesitant neo-conservative support, and the neo-cons still regard him as something of a fraud. If Obama wants to be better than that, then Obama needs to stop doing the same thing.
Abraham Lincoln said that “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The same holds true to political support. Work with the groups that you identify the best with and let the others decide whether or not they can work with you. Stop trying to be all things to all people because you never will be.
Neutralize your opponents, don’t try to sway them. If public opinion polls are to be believed, less than a third of Americans support George W. Bush. Those are the people that John McCain has been sucking up to. They live in a cult-induced fear and they thrive by spreading fear. If you’re running your campaign on hope, then you have no business whatsoever trying to suck up to them, because those people will suck the life right out of you and your campaign!
Senator Joe McCarthy’s reign of terror in 1950’s America thrived on these groups, and it was sustained by the very fear-mongering that the neo-cons exhibit today. His reign of terror ended only when enough people stood up to McCarthy, challenged his authority, stopped placating his whims, and questioned his power. Once McCarthy’s power-grip was broken and his movement was neutralized, so was he, and he died a miserable drunk a few years later.
You don’t fight fearmongerers by pandering to them or catering to their fears. You fight them by neutralizing them and diminishing their will. If McCain is riding on Bush Junior’s coattails, then you make sure that the people see him riding on the BAD parts of those coattails. You remind people of FEMA and Rumsfeld. You remind them of debt and hypocrisy. You remind them of corporate scandals and years of living in a bubble of ignorance. You remind them of a collapsing economy and their inability to do anything about it, just like they did with New Orleans, until the damage was even worse. You remind them of the port scandal and the outsourcing of not just American jobs, but America’s security as well.
And when the Imperium jumps up and says “BOO”, as they are known to do when they are feeling insecure, then you need to do the hardest thing in the world politically… you need to laugh at them. You need to stand up and challenge their authority and question their capability and their sanity.
“These are the people who looked out the window while New Orleans suffered! These are the people who didn’t care when homes were being foreclosed! These are the people that laughed at us when the price of gasoline started to climb higher and higher. And now they want to tell you to be afraid! They couldn’t act when it was clearly needed, and refused to see the dangers that were as clear as day, and now they tell you to be AFRAID?” THAT is what you tell the people! And with their credibility so will fall anyone and anything associated with it… including John McCain’s campaign.
Be consistent! Don’t flip-flop. Don’t waffle. Don’t change your story or change your position to suit the situation. You don’t need to re-invent or re-introduce yourself if you continue to be who you really are from day one.
One of the things that separates a true movement from prefabricated hype is the level of sincerity and honesty behind it. Look at the trend of wearing grunge in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. Grunge was a matter of necessity back then. It was an act of SURVIVAL. People didn’t dress up like thrift shop regulars because they wanted to be trendy. They dressed up that way because that was all that they could AFFORD to buy! But as soon as grunge was treated as a fashion statement for high society, and you had fashion designers hyping it, the whole movement died. The fashion was popular because it was HONEST and it wasn’t being sold as some hyped up prefabricated trend.
Likewise, the reason behind Obama’s popularity in the first months of his campaign, and the reason why he was able to outlast against the so-called “sure bet” of Hillary Clinton was that he seemed genuine. He didn’t come off as slick or prefabricated like Bill Clinton was in 1992, and that’s the real secret to him carrying on. Once he begins to act like any other kind of politician is when he will LOSE to a tried-and-true career politician like John McCain.
The ironic part is that John McCain, the so-called “political maverick”, has done so much pandering and so much flip-flopping that he comes off as totally fake, and yet people would STILL vote for him! That’s because he’s BEEN in Washington for so long that he IS a fixture, so that is what people expect of him.
If Obama and his supporters want to BEAT that, then they have to make sure that he doesn’t BECOME that.