March 23, 2008


Obama's promise of a new majority, and the question it prompts (Robin Toner, March 23, 2008, NY Times)

It is a promise that convinced 67 percent of all registered voters in the last New York Times/CBS News Poll, in late February, that Obama "would be the kind of president who would be able to unify the country" - far more than those who identified his Democratic rival, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, or the presumptive Republican nominee, Senator John McCain, that way.

But this promise leads, inevitably, to a question: Can such a majority be built and led by Obama, whose voting record was, by one ranking, the most liberal in the Senate last year?

Also, and more immediately, if Obama wins the Democratic nomination, how will his promise of a new and less polarized type of politics fare against the Republican attacks that since the 1980s have portrayed Democrats as far out of step with the country's values? [...]

Obama's rise has been built in part on the idea that he represents a break with the established identities that have defined many of the nation's divisions. To many, he embodies a promise to bridge black and white, old and young, rich and poor - and Democrats, Republicans and independents.

Even so, Obama does not come to the campaign with a reputation as one of the accommodating bridge-builders in the Senate. His voting record, albeit short, is to the left; the National Journal declared it the most liberal of 2007. Congressional Quarterly said he voted with his party 97 percent of the time on party-line votes that year.

Obama has been endorsed by advocacy groups like that are anathema to Republicans on Capitol Hill. And some of his strongest supporters are activists at the "net-roots" who have clamored for less accommodation across party lines. [...]

"Nobody's yet taken him on as a liberal," said Andrew Kohut, who leads the Pew Research Center. "But McCain will."

So far, Republicans give every indication of planning to portray Obama as a big-government liberal out of touch with American values and unprepared to be commander in chief.

"When you're rated by National Journal as to the left of Ted Kennedy and Bernie Sanders, that's going to be difficult to explain," said Danny Diaz , a spokesman for the Republican National Committee.

He's in the middle of the most divisive Democratic primary since his pal Ted Kennedy kamikazied Jimmy Carter and having to try and deny that he belongs to a crackpot church. But he's going to unify the country? Pull the other one.

Democrats' bickering boosts McCain (Donald Lambro, March 23, 2008, Washington Times)

The increasingly nasty campaign between Democratic Sens. Barack Obama and Hillary Rodham Clinton is hurting them among independent and swing voters in key battleground states, and in the process is making Sen. John McCain the more appealing candidate, according to election pollsters. [...]

"It's been a bad couple of weeks for the Democrats, with Obama and Hillary continuing to snipe at each other, beginning the process of a thousand cuts," said independent election pollster John Zogby.

"For Obama, it's his problems with the white vote, which we saw in Ohio, and problems with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright story, and that's reflected in the national polls, when a month ago, Obama was leading McCain by 6 or 7 points and this month is down by six. That's a big swing," Mr. Zogby told The Washington Times on Friday.

"At the same time, Clinton was down by five or six points last month, and by my polls, she's still down about the same," he said.

"Both Democrats are experiencing a problem, at least for the moment, among independents, moderates and swing voters. It's pretty safe to say they can't win in November unless they get those groups back," the pollster said.

Wright's Gift to the Right (Clarence Page, 3/23/08, Real Clear Politics)
[W]ill the address reach beyond Obama's base? Considering how few people were likely to take the time to hear or read Obama's speech, I was reminded of the famous story about another Illinoisian, two-time Democratic presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson. When a woman exclaimed to the former Illinois governor that "Every thinking American is voting for you," he responded, "That's not enough, madam, I need a majority."

So does Obama. That majority became harder for him to achieve after Wright's roar hit the airwaves and the web.

A Fox News poll released two days after Obama's Big Speech indicated that most Americans do not believe Obama shares the controversial views of his spiritual mentor, but 35 percent said their relationship raised doubts about the senator.

Among Democrats surveyed, 26 percent said the relationship raised doubts about Obama, while 66 percent said it did not.

And when polls ask whether Obama should leave the church even now, the answers come back with a racial divide that eerily resembles reactions to the "not guilty" verdict O. J. Simpson's murder trial. Most whites think Obama should leave, while most blacks think he should stay loyal to the minister who Obama says led him to Jesus and presided at his wedding.

It will take more than one great speech for Obama to reassure some Democrats (Albert R. Hunt, 3/23/08, Bloomberg News)
That will depend on the reaction of white America, especially so-called Reagan Democrats. These are the white, largely ethnic, middle-class families, once reliable Democrats, who on cultural and values grounds switched to the Republican candidate Ronald Reagan in 1980 and have been swing voters ever since.

When these folks hear that a candidate's own minister has spewed anti-American, racial diatribes, it deeply disturbs them. Even before the Wright story broke, Governor Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania, a Hillary Clinton supporter, suggested that race would cost Obama about 5 percentage points in that state's primary next month.

For Obama to reassure these people that his values and his experiences aren't different from theirs will take more than one great speech.

The irony here is that whatever Wright's failings, there is nothing - nothing - in Obama's adult life to even remotely link him to racially divisive sentiments.

Then who's the Reverend Wright? The notion that the choice of his cult isn't a racially divisive act by the Senator is bizarre.

Posted by Orrin Judd at March 23, 2008 6:29 PM

Remember that George W Bush took office claiming to be a "uniter, not a divider", and we wound up as divided as ever, and it is entirely the fault of President Bush and his policies.

And when President Obama takes office, and we wind up as culturally divided as ever, it will be entirely the fault of Obama's rightist oppostion, mean, nasty, and relentless as they are (will be).

Just as long as we all got that straight.

Posted by: Andrew X at March 23, 2008 7:49 PM

Its impossible to unite this nation at this point. We are a hopelessly divided people ethnically, socially, and culturally. Cowboys and punks, black radicals, hip-hopers, skateboarders, mormons, traditionalists, atheists, believers, muslims, catholics and various and sundry all other types of people and little niches like artsy folks and rebels an jocks and hipsters and pseudo-intellectuals and posers and pretenders and nerds and technogeeks and feminists and gays and sexobsessed and plain weirdos..........and the aged.............all of them black, white, hispanic, asian, arabian, hispanic, legal and illegal............corporate, small business, self-employed, contracted, welfare recipient, state worker, federal government employees, criminals and whatever others I may have left out.

It will never be a very unified people or nation again. We have moved well beyond what we were in 1950 or 1965 (the Immigration Reform Act).

No candidate, unless blessed with God-like powers and who could almost perform miracles could transcend all that and even if he could, many would resent him or her for not looking like themselves.

A really "good" president would genuinely be hated by more, and not less people anyway as one is always is excoriated for doing what is truly "right" in the authentic sense.

Posted by: bryan at March 23, 2008 11:21 PM

That's deeply inane given two prior civil wars and most of the country cheering as cops beat and guardsmen shot the Leftwing activists last time. The divide now is so trivial no one even works up a good anger over it.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2008 7:00 AM

He wasn't a uniter by the time he took office, Al Gore saw to that.

Posted by: oj at March 24, 2008 7:23 AM

That's not me, by the way.

Posted by: Bryan at March 24, 2008 7:42 AM

I'm confused. We are unified. We're all Americans no matter our color, race, gender, political or sexual persuasion, native born or naturalized. Immigrants, legal or illegal, are Americans in training.

The left's idea of unification is all of us toeing the party line like the mind-numbed robots chanting OBAMA on this very scary video [via Redstate].

Posted by: erp at March 24, 2008 8:58 AM

The local afternoon talk show here in Charlotte played a piece from Chicago TV today, a shouting screed by one James Meeks (a State Sen. in IL and another mentor of Obama's). It is as bad as anything Wright screamed, and more insulting to many in the black community. I had heard of Meeks before - but not this stuff. He must be trying to outdo the good Rev. Wright. And Meeks is a superdelegate, BTW. I wonder if anyone will ask Howard Dean about it. If the GOP had a super like this, you can bet the whole media universe would be falling on him 24/7.

Posted by: jim hamlen at March 24, 2008 4:48 PM

Just what sort of "Jesus" did Wright lead Obama to?

Posted by: Jorge Curioso at March 24, 2008 4:51 PM