Why Obama Won’t Win

You may have noticed that though I am a Democrat, I tend to cover the Republican presidential contest quite a bit more than I cover my own party’s race.  This is, of course, because I have a horse in the Democratic race, and therefore, it is difficult for me to report on that race with anything approaching objectivity.

Especially when I know my horse is very likely going to lose.

You can’t escape it; the Hillary Clinton machine is raging on, leaving her opponents choking on her rooster tails as she soars to the Democratic nomination.  In the GOP contest, things are still quite up in the air; Giuliani may be the front runner, but he also tends to lack localized organization, diminishing the significance of his lead when you look at the status of the early state primaries.  Meanwhile, Romney is slowly finding some successes in approaching some leaders of the religious right, while Huckabee is still on the rise.  Fred Thompson may be about to experience a downward turn now that people are actually meeting him, and not exactly pleased with what they see, while McCain’s struggling campaign is showing some fight in it.

The Democratic race is almost the opposite.

Kucinich, Richardson, Biden, Dodd, and Gravel all inhabit the cellar, with only Obama and Edwards within even shouting distance of the “inevitable” frontrunner Hillary Clinton.  And yet, this stands despite much of the baggage political pundits have expected to cling to Hillary from the very beginning.

That’s to say, while one would think that the primary contest, at least for Hillary, would be something of an investigation into the much talked about inelectability of the candidate.  The fact of the matter is, it’s still there, and a recent Rasmussen poll has shown that no matter who Hillary is matched up against in hypothetical general election match ups, she manages to pull in roughly the same positive and negative percentages.

The significance that Ron Paul manages to poll 38% against Hillary when the individual demographic study shows that logically he’s not even known well enough to pull that high of a favorable vote should be lost on no one; you are looking at at least a significant portion of that vote containing people who will vote against Hillary in the general election based on who she is.

Wisdom, conventional or not, would thusly dictate that even party stalwarts should be of the opinion that the nomination of Hillary Clinton would be a detriment to the party, particularly at a time when Obama seems to carry much more undecided appeal.

What I see when I look at my fellow Democrats in the race between Clinton and Obama is a reflection to one of the many facets of when Bush beat Kerry back in 2004.

It must be understood that it is emotion, not intellect, that drives voters, leading to what has come to be one of the principles that guides my understanding of the political landscape; being factually correct matters very little.  The idea is simply that you can be right on any number of things, you could be right on all things, but you have to, as a candidate, inspire the voters to feel so strongly about what you are selling that they will get off of their couch, head down to the polls and cast a vote for you.

Bumper-stickering has a role in this.

While many, particularly those on the left who have witnessed the right doing this for some time now, believe that taking issues and boiling them down into neat little slogans that can fit on a bumper sticker (for example, “fight them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here) is an act of dumbing down the issue so people don’t have to think particularly hard about it.

But there is another, slightly more subtle effect.  Words are powerful, and a single word can carry as much emotion as a hundred if masterfully used, and the effect of bumperstickering, what I think you see happening is that not only are the issues being dumbed down, but they are also being emotionally concentrated.

“Johnson Lied, People Died”

“No War For Oil”

“Fight Them Over There So We Don’t Fight Them Here”

These are the phrases people shout while carrying picket signs, and in 2004, it was a slew of statements and thoughts such as this which facilitated what was largely an emotional vote over a broad range of demographics that affected the outcome of the election.

It should be noted that now, as we turn our eyes to the Democratic primary, while the particulars are different, the fact remains, emotion still drives the vote, and so to understand, at least in part, why Hillary has become so inevitable, it is important to understand what is driving the emotion.

And in investigating the emotional factor, we have to look at what has been going on in politics lately, and the level of political animus can’t be ignored.  As the Politico reports, every issue is about us vs. them:

Democrats accused Republicans of hurting kids. Republicans howled about a heavy-handed, uncompromising Democratic majority. And another chance at bipartisan consensus slipped away.

“They spent $1.5 million through their various shill outreach groups attacking me and a handful of my colleagues,” Rep. Ric Keller (R-Fla.) said before the Hoyer meeting, “but they did not spend five minutes to approach me to ask for my vote.”

This us-against-them mentality has been an ongoing storyline of the new Democratic­-controlled Congress. On the big items — Iraq, health care and spending — party leaders have shunned compromise.

Democrats are under tremendous pressure from liberal activists to take a hard-line approach against everything Bush. Republicans face similar pressure from their own base to stick with the president and prove they are serious about curtailing spending, even if it means less cash for a popular state-run health care program for children not covered by Medicaid.

Bush has only inflamed those tensions. He has threatened to veto Democratic legislation 46 times this year, according to data compiled by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.). House Democrats have circulated a tally that puts the number at 35.

Only, what the Politico trips up on is in the implication that this is anything new to the current Democratic congress.  The only thing that has actually changed, however, is the majority, which has thusly pit congress against the President.  Prior to this, when the Republicans held control of the House and Senate, the same partisan rancor existed, but because the majority was in line with the President, there was not the added veto effect.

No, this bitterness existed long before the current guise of congress, and has, as a result, somewhat fed what is the Hillary machine today.

The fact is, the Obama philosophical approach is a winning one in the right context.  I saw it here in Virginia in 2005, exactly a year after Bush eked out a win against Kerry, then Lieutenant Governor Tim Kaine beat by a respectable margin the Republican Attorney General Jerry Kilgore by employing an almost identical campaign strategy that Obama uses today.

In fact, it should be noted that the two Democrats, Kaine and Obama, are friends, and back during the 2005 campaign, Obama came to Virginia to campaign on Kaine’s behalf, and it didn’t take long for the now Governor of Virginia to endorse Obama early this year.

Obama’s philosophy worked here for Kaine, but is failing in the Democratic primary, why?

Well, you have to consider that these are Democratic primary voters, and you have to consider the landscape as it appeals to them.  While the middle, the undecideds, the non politically affiliated do want some sort of political reconciliation between the two parties, I don’t think that is the case among the party stalwarts who will decide who will represent them in the general election.

In fact, I would wager that Democrats are pretty pissed off about getting thrown around like political ragdolls for at least the last six, almost seven years now, and are in no mood to all of a sudden ready to turn the other cheek in the name of bipartisanship.

The D.C. establishment loves to wax on about bipartisanship. But the truth is that political interests are often in open opposition to one another. Pleasing one will invariably infuriate another. Which isn’t to say there aren’t policies which are unequivocally good for the whole country — policies like putting an end to torture, or stopping the war, or insuring children. But not everyone is united behind those unequivocally-good-for-the-whole-country policies. And voters want a nominee who isn’t afraid to do or say something that’s going to piss some people off.

That’s partly what the primary process is about — Democratic voters deciding who will fight as their proxy.

(h/t: Positively Barack)

Logically, it should be known that Hillary Clinton, of the big three Democratic candidates, is the furthest to the right, is the most in line with neoconservative foreign policy views, and rather quick to abandon a progressive platform, however, emotionally, many people also know she’s a fighter, and whether on substance, or in raw mudslinging, fits the mold cast above.

To this degree, the image of Hillary Clinton works for her on two fronts.  The demonization of Clinton in the past has set the bar of expectations so low that when people actually see her in a debate, or on the stump, they are pleasantly surprised; this because it is almost impossible for someone to be, or at least appear, as openly evil as she has been made out to be.  On the other hand, those looking for a prize fighter have no qualms with the image of Hillary as a negative person.

That’s what they want in the first place.  And beside that, things are so bitter I can actually imagine there being a considerable number of people who might take some sort of satisfaction of taking this figure who is so hated by the right, by the Republicans, and shoving her straight down their collective throats.

Meanwhile, what of Obama?  There is talk that he’s taking the gloves off, that he’s ready to get tough now, and that’s all well and good.  Despite the media’s characterization of the “politics of hope,” I’ve always maintained that there was nothing outlined in Obama’s philosophy that precludes him from engaging in the, as he calls it in his book Audacity of Hope, “rough and tumble of modern politics”.  But it just isn’t enough for the Democratic party.

While Americans as a whole may be ready for an Obama presidency, the fact of the matter is, Democrats aren’t.

14 Responses to “Why Obama Won’t Win”

  1. xranger says:

    Something I latched onto a couple of weeks ago keeps cropping up in my cranium: Iraq may not be the largest item on the plate next summer/fall. Simply because the surge is working, and positive change is occuring there.

    The main issue down the road may well be the economy. If the US is in a recession or, at the very least, the populace feels we are, that could be the hot issue.

    Which leads me to the next item: Charlie Rangel’s massive tax increase proposal. Could be that the population will vote on whether or not they feel higher taxes, during a period of economic strife, is the best tonic.

    ’cause no matter what you call it – tax the rich, pay their fare share, etc – if small business owners have to pay onerous tax increases, they will not hire anyone.

    Or, they may reduce their payrolls.

    Food for thought.

  2. gravel kucinich paul nader says:

    the BIG news tonight will be right outside re: $1,000,000.00 & MORE people with gravel than IN the hall – GE NBC DNC in a panic

  3. Macswain says:

    dranger says: “the surge is working.” Are you kidding? We are engaging in a pattern of controlled withdrawal while turning over vast sections of Iraq to warlords. We could have done that years ago without the loss of thousands of US lives and hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives.

    But, hey, I know the Right is desperate to spin a “victory” and really doesn’t care about all the dead. The plan of 1,000 Saddams apparently is OK with the Right.

  4. Iraq? Taxes? How the hell?


  5. Alan says:

    I am linking to this post and commenting on it on my blog Wednesday. just fyi

  6. xranger says:

    Man, you left wing kooks are soooo wrapped up in your little looney cuccoons that you fail to look at ANY big picture.

    Sometimes, its just too easy debating you nuts.

    Call me when adults show up here.

  7. Macswain says:


    First, you post a slogan – “the surge is working” – without providing any factual support or substantive argument. Then when challenged, you resort to name calling – kooks and nuts – again without any factual support or substantive argument for your contention.

    You apparently have no response to my argument that we are turning over vast portions of Iraq to the new Saddams. The Anbar Awakening is one example where local control is being handed over to warlords and Southern Iraq is another.

    Of course, this same result could have been obtained years ago. Hell, we could reach this point without the invasion altogether.

    So please, enlighten us children as to how exactly the surge is working?

  8. X: I’ve defended you on a couple of occasions in the past, but I think we’re coming to an end to that. Your original comment here is prime example about that. Aside from the argumentative errors that Macswain points out in your assertions, there is the much more basic fact that what you put up had very little to do with the core purpose of the post in general.

    I’m tired of going off topic, I’m tired of spamming, I’m tired of arguments not being made in good faith. You want a discussion on taxes? Wait until we write up a topic about taxes, or, at least until we are talking about the economy. Iraq, wait until we get something on Iraq.

    As it stands, this is a pure horse race article, and yet somehow, I come into this thread and all I see is taxes and Iraq? What the fuck?

    And before you talk about the significance of taxes in regard to the heart of the source article, there is none. Even from an objective point of view, the primary concern for the Democratic party is foreign policy, bar none. And it is a virtual impossibility that the state of things in our current foreign policies will change significantly enough over the next nine weeks when Democratic voters go to choose a nominee that, so taxes are not in play here.

    Not at all.

  9. xranger says:

    Kyle, I don’t recall asking for your help.

    I went off-topic, to a broad discussion of the foreseeable months in the national election, because your post was typical: long and boring. In fact, it appears if I hadn’t posted, nobody would have. Pretty typical.

    Macboob, you are so predictable in your juvenile stupidity that I just ignore you. However, i will indulge you:

    I. “The Bush administration is starving for good news out of Iraq, and it may finally have some: new U.S. government statistics showing that violent attacks of all kinds are down to levels not seen since 2005.”


    II. BAGHDAD (Reuters) – Mazen Majid Abd quit the Iraqi police last year after Sunni Islamist militants overran his neighborhood in Baghdad and threatened him. But as a U.S. drive to quell violence starts to pay off, he’s joining up again.


    III. “Arab Jabour was a safe haven for al-Qaida before the 2nd BCT entered the area; no Coalition presence or Iraqi security forces had been there since the conflict began over four years ago.

    However, Adgie said the tide is turning, crediting in part the Concerned Local Citizens (CLC) program in the area, who now number 699.

    Displaced citizens are beginning to return to the area, bringing back specialists like doctors and engineers, Adgie said.”


    IV. “The decline of violence rests on a widening basis of trust. It’s cultivated in handshakes, platters heaped with rice, chicken and lamb, cup after cup of sweet tea and clouds of cigarette smoke.

    Anbar is a sprawling western province that includes Ramadi and stretches through mainly desert from near Baghdad to the borders of Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. ”


    V. “The Iraqi government and the coalition commanders have now agreed that Basra province should move to provincial Iraqi control in mid-December,” he told reporters, citing an improving security situation in Iraq and the increasing ability of Iraqi forces and government institutions to handle their own security.”


    Finally, earlier this year I posted here that once the various sheiks realized that they would lose all of their power, Sunni and Shiia alike, should the US pull out too early, in defeat, they would strike out to cut deals. In fact, I called them little Al Capones (I liked that).

    If the deals are being cut, violence down, and the populace can return to any sense of normalcy, THAT will save Iraq as a nation-state.

    My earlier post stands: the surge is working (not over yet) and positive change is occuring.

    Keep reading only far-left blogs and periodicals, it makes these debates too easy.

  10. roulette black jack craps says:

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  11. Jeff Harding says:

    I’m still waiting for one of the Democrats to explain why Obama is getting a free pass. He certainly isn’t having to stand up to the same standards of racial speak and thought that any white candidate has to pass muster on. Had any, ANY white man said the things he has about blacks that Obama has said about whites, he’d be out of the race.
    This isn’t lost on much of this country, we’ll see in November how many people remember his racist remarks. AND, the down side to this is the only other choice is McCain, another flaming liberal. Our choice is between a black racist flaming liberal and a white sellout flaming liberal.
    Come Lord Jesus, COME!!

  12. Anne says:

    Your are half right. The white won’t vote for Obama because in the end, their fingers will betray their phony political correctness. You are right about that.
    But wether black people will vote for Obama or not, does not really matter, most black people are so distrustful they won’t even go to vote and since they are a tiny minority, even if they all voted it would not alter the landslide of the prejudiced white vote and they know it because thay have experienced this everyday of their lives. Furthermore, I predict that there will be white people, asians and hispanics that have never voted before in their lives showing up to vote for the first time, galvanized by the fear to have a black person be their leader. You are all going to be shocked at how prejudiced America really is, and how prejudiced some races are. Obama will go down in history as the candidate with the least amount of votes…ever.

  13. John says:



  14. Morgan Baker says:

    going back through the recent ‘ internet archives’ It has been enjoyable reading the myriad scholarly reasons why Obam couldn’t win the election.

    Especially since he has proved everyone wrong and is now our new president elect.



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