Friday, April 18, 2008

Obama's Rise and Fall

Two months ago, Barack Obama looked invincible. Republicans and Hillary Clinton partisans searched desperately for some chink in his armor—and the best attack they could find was his middle name. Obama represented hope, change, and an end to Washington’s bitter, divisive politics. He was a blend of Ronald Reagan and John F. Kennedy; criticism couldn’t touch him, and he represented a youthful, independent, unifying style of politics.

It was inevitable that that image couldn’t last—no one is that perfect. What is astonishing is the speed and completeness with which Obama’s mystique was destroyed. Obama went from being the next Kennedy to being the next McGovern in less than two months.

The first sign that perhaps Obama wasn’t as adept a politician as many believed occurred when he was asked about drivers licenses for illegal immigrants during the Democrats’ November 16 debate. His response was so confusing and contradictory that the audience started laughing. That wouldn’t be particularly remarkable—except that Hillary Clinton had infamously flubbed the very same question in a debate that took place two weeks earlier. Were Obama really a smooth, ready-for-prime-time politician, one would expect him to have a ready answer to a question that had stumped his chief opponent.

Fortunately for Obama, no one really noticed that mistake. Then the Wright controversy broke. Pastor Jeremiah Wright’s insane rants hurt Obama in two ways—they undercut his image as the post-racial candidate, and they called into question his love of country. It makes you wonder how someone who presumably claims to love America could support (and Obama did some serious supporting—he has given over twenty thousand dollars to Trinity United Baptist) a church where Wright accused the U.S. government of creating the AIDS virus and screamed “God Damn America”. It is usually unfair to question a candidate’s patriotism, but in this case, either Obama a Machiavellian schemer who is willing to exploit religion in order to fool some of the people some of the time, or does not possess the love of country necessary to contest such statements.

Furthermore, the Wright permanently tarnished Obama’s status as the post-racial candidate. Obama’s response to the controversy revealed two things—a) that he believes that America is divided into separate white and black communities (which is the antithesis of the conservative position, which holds that America is one united community that takes the best of its composite cultures), and that b) he considers himself part of the black community. There isn’t anything wrong with being part of the black community (although many conservatives would prefer that he identify with the American community), but it certainly undermines the sentiment that “there is not a Black America and a White America—there’s the United States of America.” That sentiment, of course, was voiced by Barack Obama at the 2004 Democrat National Convention. It appears that Obama no longer believes in that, and perhaps never did.

Obama handled the Wright scandal fairly well, and minimized the damage, which was significant. But then “Bittergate” happened. Barack Obama told an audience of San Francisco billionaires that “bitter” Pennsylvanians “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.". This comment was both stupid and elitist. It is never wise to imply that people of faith cling to their beliefs the same way that racists cling to theirs, or that religion is caused by “bitterness”.

It is also incredibly elitist and condescending. Obama’s long-range evaluation of Pennsylvanians’ minds is more than elitist—it is incredibly arrogant. Obama’s haughty assertion that Pennsylvanians are racist because they are “bitter” shows his condescension and contempt for the people in flyover country.

And finally, is it really wise to suggest that anti-trade sentiment is a result of “bitterness”? I mean, it’s Barack Obama who wants to unilaterally dissolve NAFTA.

Obama didn’t do well in the last debate. He was defensive and ill-prepared. But that has been the condition of his campaign recently—out of touch, poorly prepared, and ineffective. Obama may recover and get his campaign back on the right track. But right now, he is reeling heading into the fall, where he will face the Democratic nominating convention and then the formidable John McCain.


At April 19, 2008 at 4:57 AM , Blogger Beth said...

The polls still show Obama leading Clinton, and Obama with a slight edge over McCain in the general election. He's a teflon guy, these things are not sticking.

At April 19, 2008 at 12:28 PM , Blogger DD2 aka Debonair Dude said...

Rasmussen Tracking 4/15 - 04/18 Mccain 48 Obama 41
McCain +7.0

At April 19, 2008 at 4:22 PM , Blogger S. Weasel said...

I don't put a lot of faith in polls, but I sure wouldn't count Obama out. The ordinary rules don't seem to apply to Señor Hope-o Change-o.

At April 21, 2008 at 5:52 AM , Blogger Name: Soapboxgod said...

I don't put much faith in polls either. Whatever they're saying with respect to McCain leading Obama; what needs to be remembered is that during the primaries and the caucuses, Democratic turnout was trouncing Republican turnout.

At April 21, 2008 at 10:41 AM , Blogger Marie's Two Cents said...

Not to meion Hamas endorsed Obama.


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