September 2, 2008


How Obama lost the election (Spengler, 9/02/08, Asia Times)

The speech itself dragged on for three-quarters of an hour. As David S Broder wrote in the Washington Post: "[Obama's] recital of a long list of domestic promises could have been delivered by any Democratic nominee from Walter Mondale to John Kerry. There was no theme music to the speech and really no phrase or sentence that is likely to linger in the memory of any listener. The thing I never expected did in fact occur: Al Gore, the famously wooden former vice president, gave a more lively and convincing speech than Obama did."

On television, Obama's spectacle might have looked like The Ten Commandments, but inside the stadium it felt like Night of the Living Dead. [...]

Obama will spend the rest of his life wondering why he rejected the obvious road to victory, that is, choosing Hillary Clinton as his vice presidential nominee. However reluctantly, Clinton would have had to accept. McCain's choice of vice presidential candidate made obvious after the fact what the party professionals felt in their fingertips at the stadium extravaganza yesterday: rejecting Clinton in favor of the colorless, unpopular, tangle-tongued Washington perennial Joe Biden was a statement of weakness. McCain's selection was a statement of strength. America's voters will forgive many things in a politician, including sexual misconduct, but they will not forgive weakness.

That is why McCain will win in November, and by a landslide, barring some unforeseen event. Obama is the most talented and persuasive politician of his generation, the intellectual superior of all his competitors, but a fatally insecure personality. American voters are not intellectual, but they are shrewd, like animals. They can smell insecurity, and the convention stank of it. Obama's prospective defeat is entirely of its own making. No one is more surprised than Republican strategists, who were convinced just weeks ago that a weakening economy ensured a Democratic victory.

...he didn't nominate himself, that was the doing of the best and the brightest of the Democratic Party, their activist caucus goers. It is the insiders who have completely rejected the Third Way of Bill Clinton and opted instead to try running the last three elections as the Second Way Democratic Party of the 70's. To his credit, where Al Gore who had been a genuine Clintonite and Third Way Southerner chose to run to the Left of the Northern liberal Bill Bradley, Mr. Obama at least tried running as nothing, before Hillary forced him to embrace the whole dog's breakfast of liberalism to hold her off once she finally presented herself as Bill's heir.

For this much he can be forgiven--after all, he had to secure his Party's nomination in order for subsequent decisions to matter. But it was in choosing Joe Biden and giving such an awful, recycled speech that he made blunders that he must be held to account for. And his continuing refusal to match up his rhetoric of change with the sorts of proposals for Thatcherite reforms that have won the last four elections in America and the last half dozen elsewhere in the Anglosphere is inexcusable as a political or a policy matter.

Consider how much differently even the Right would look upon Mr. Obama if he were running a series of discrete reforms in the tradition of Augusto Pinochet, Margaret Thatcher, Bill Clinton, Tony Blair, and W:

(1) He could play off concerns about American consumption, savings rates and energy dependence and propose to make the tax code more Pigovian.

(2) He could propose to deal with both poverty and retirement shortfalls with O'Neill accounts

(3) He could follow the Chilean lead and propose individual unemployment insurance accounts.

(4) He could propose that we fully fund HSAs for especially children who qualify for Medicaid, but it could be more expansive than that. Like the O'Neill accounts, this would allow the poor to accumulate wealth and independence.

(5) And he could propose completely voucherizing public housing.

These are all proposals that apply market principles and mechanisms to tax and social welfare programs. They use the Right's means to achieve ends that the Left says it desires. This is the politics that keeps winning elections in the English-speaking world and it seems deranged that the Democrats --and now Gordon Brown's Labour Party--have repudiated it so fiercely. Mr. Obama can still pretend that he'd be nothing like Margaret Thatcher & W but why doesn't he pretend to be Bill Clinton & Tony Blair?

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 2, 2008 7:59 AM
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