Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Yes Obama Wants to Win
It's downright strange that at a time when the field of Republican candidates has narrowed down to a few bad choices and the left has finally fielded its own answer to the Tea Party movement, that some pundits on the right are still cheerfully pushing the meme that Obama is all but done.
Sure it would be great if Obama were lying on the floor in a pool of spilled beer while humming songs from Sesame Street, but that is not what's going on. And adding false self-confidence to the mix is about the worst possible thing to do. Yes Obama wants to win and worse still he's on track to win. It doesn't matter how low his ratings are, so long as his opponent's ratings are even worse. This is not a campaign that he has to win by being the better man, he just has to sit there and let the press destroy his opponent.
Obama does have one thing in common with some of the pundits predicting his imminent demise, they're both sure that they can't lose. But Obama has grounds for thinking that. Far better grounds than the cheerleaders who insist that anyone the Republicans run will win in a landslide in every state.
The lack of a traditional campaign on the D side of the line means nothing. 2008 wasn't a traditional campaign either. Is Obama tossing away the white working class vote? He won without them in 2008. The unions have no choice and the rest can go to hell. Obama is saying mean things about Americans? He did that in 2008 too and it didn't slow him down.
All that arrogance can easily lead to a fall, but so can the arrogance on our side. No one should believe that this will be an easy or simple election. It will be long, hard, ugly and at times seem unwinnable. There will be fraud, personal attacks that we have yet to even imagine and press involvement that will dwarf anything in 2008. And most of all it will be unexpected.
Using leftist occupations of public spaces in major cities as the kickoff to a campaign. How many people saw that coming and how many expected it to work? But it worked well enough to engage the younger voters who helped boost him last time around. And it's not the end of the show.
It's tempting to see Obama as another Carter or Dukakis, a malaise ridden liberal, but while he has a good deal in common philosophically with them, his image and his campaign have little in common with theirs. And it's also worth remembering that Reagan's defeat of Carter was not nearly as easy as some would make it out to be.
Reagan's victory might not have been nearly so decisive without the involvement of an independent candidate who drew votes from Carter. And even that victory was not always inevitable. Before the debate, Reagan was polling behind Carter. Had Carter avoided debating Reagan and avoided challenges from the left, it's not inconceivable that he might have pulled off a second term.
No we aren't doomed to a second term of O. But as always the election is ours to lose. And the best way to lose a game is to assume that you're going to win before you even play. It's possible that we might win this on an "Anyone But Obama" vote by independents, but it's more likely that we will have to work hard for it.
Out of the starting gate that means we are likely to be saddled with a candidate that much of the party isn't happy with. Our challenge will be to revive a grass roots campaign even while the grass roots may not be particularly enthusiastic about the ABO candidate. It will be to cope with daily media attacks without getting beaten down or losing our spirit. And the best way to begin is to understand that this will be a tough fight.
So I'll say it again, yes he wants to win. It may not look like he's working for it, but that is because he doesn't have to work for it.
Obama does not have to work hard to win this election. He just has to make his campaign stops, read his speeches off the teleprompter and bask in the glow of the media's praise. We are the ones who have to work hard because we are the insurgents. No matter how dissatisfied the public is with this term, and no matter how willing they seem to be to vote for a generic Republican, they are not going to be nearly as eager to do so after a month of media attacks.
The media is going to make this a campaign of personalities, contrasting the personalities of their guy and our guy. We are going to have to fight to bring the issues to the forefront and that means renewed activism, not just for the big chair, but for the smaller chairs in the House and the Senate. We are going to have to pick a core economic issue and hammer it home over and over again until it can no longer be ignored.
Whoever the Republican nominee will be is not likely to be another Reagan, and he will likely not be reliable on many core issues, and it will fall to us to take up the fight on those issues. And that will not be an easy fight. The campaign won't want anyone disrupting the likability of their candidate by touching of any divisive issues, a plan that will work as well as the shiny and likable McCain did.
Most of all though this election will not be fair. Politics is already civil war by other means, but it will get much worse. Expectations don't matter. Looking to see how badly Obama is doing is a waste of time.
Obama has lost the insurgent's advantage, but he has gained the incumbent's advantage. If his team manages to make his opponent seem unpalatable enough, then he becomes the default choice. If he's at 35 percent, then his team's goal is to push Romney, Gingrich or Perry down to 34 percent. And after what we've seen so far, do you think that will be impossibly hard to do?
The goal here is to make voters uncomfortable with voting Republican by portraying him as personally reckless and politically extreme. And it's a little too easy to see how that will play out. The template for this was already written in election after election and there will be new wrinkles here, unexpected surprises and unprecedented attacks.
The idea that Obama doesn't want to win ignores the simple fact that this is all he is. What he wants most is attention and being where he is puts him at the center of it. Not only that it's financially lucrative and gives him powers well beyond those he ever expected to have. And it's doubtful that he has gotten tired of wielding them.
At times he may appear sullen, not because he doesn't want to be where he is, but because like a petulant child he doesn't want to do the work that will take him there. Obama has always gotten by on the externals with other people to do the hard work for him. We can't count on having anyone to do the hard work for us. Not our candidate, not the party and certainly not public dissatisfaction.
The people around Obama know that the public mood can be turned around in an instant, and that no likes to look foolish. If they can introduce wedges then they can split their opposition and collect the winnings. They also know that overconfidence can quickly lead to despondency and despair. The best way to prepare yourself for a tough job is to know the size of the task you mean to tackle and expect strong opposition and difficult obstacles along the way.
And no amount of irresponsibility, petulance and obnoxious behavior should give us the impression that our opponent doesn't want to win. His contempt for us is a weakness, but it's also a sign of how fortified his position is. We are the ones with the uphill battle and we cannot afford to rest at the bottom of the hill before we have taken the high ground.