Obama’s Biggest Mistake

As hard as it may seem to believe, we will eventually have ourselves a new president. One way or another, we’ll have a new Democratic nominee, and that nominee will face the Republican nominee, and there will be voting, there may be some suing, but come Hell or high water, January 20th will see George W. Bush ousted from office.

All things considered, I give Obama about a 60% chance of being our next president. Then again, I can never adequately determine whether I’m an optimist or not, though I will say that five and a half months ago I wouldn’t have given him 30% on a good day.

Win or lose, I think it is important to analyze the failures of a candidate in just about any given situation. Even those who have won.

George W. Bush’s gravest error was employing Rove’s 50+1 politics and then pretending as though they had won a broad sweeping mandate. Kerry’s was that he never quite figured out how to effectively play the high road, a fatal flaw against a candidate that had mastered the low road.

For those who have fallen this year, we see errors glaring and not. The end of Rudy Giuliani’s run, especially after being the prohibitive frontrunner during the preseason, was a combination of never getting beyond 9/11, and then putting all his eggs in a Florida shaped basket that rejected him handily. Romney couldn’t get the religious wing of his party to take him seriously, while that was the only wing of the party that would take Huckabee seriously.

On the other side of the aisle, Richardson was too much of a loose cannon, and Biden, for all his fire, just lacked the youth and change that were offered by the one time big three of the field. Biden did have what Dodd completely and totally lacked, though; that being fire. Dodd could put an insomniac to sleep (and nearly put this insomniac to sleep during several debate performances).

For Edwards, his loss is perhaps the trickiest to understand. For one, I think it significant that he perhaps employed a populist message too early; had he found a way to stick in until Ohio and Pennsylvania, he could have cleaned both Hillary and Obama’s clocks. He also eschewed much of the magnanimity that characterized his 2004 campaign, adopting a more fire and brimstone approach that wasn’t anywhere near Gravel-like, but still could have hurt him. Of course, it could have been simply that he had run and he had lost, and the Democratic party hasn’t been known for giving second chances to presidential contenders in a while.

By contrast, Hillary Clinton’s downfall is all too easy to understand. She wasn’t prepared. She bet too heavily on winning the whole thing on Super Tuesday, and was caught way off balance when she didn’t.

Which brings us to the final two. John McCain’s major failings are many. His policies are too similar to Bush’s, no matter what those on the right side of the chattering class may say. For someone who has shifted almost perfectly in line with Bush style Republicanism, McCain also manages to be perhaps one of the least energizing candidates possible for all portions of the Republican base with perhaps the exception of the neoconservative wing of the party.

So what’s Obama’s biggest failing? His biggest mistake?

Obama, like any candidate, has a wide array of flaws. Connections to questionable figures will continue to make the path ahead tricky to navigate, and he’s as prone to making a gaffe as anyone. On top of this, he seems unusually prone to whisper campaigns bringing into question his ethnic background to his religious beliefs, but none of these, I believe, would ultimately prove to be his biggest hindrance on his path to the White House.

That would be reserved for something that he quite possibly had little to no control of.

I speak of the fact that he didn’t completely and totally demolish Hillary in the primaries. If anything brings down Obama, that will be it. Though it is possible, in fact probable, that this would not be the direct contributor to his loss.

Instead it would be hidden as a secondary cause, or a glanced over causal factor.

The significance of allowing the nomination race to remain this close right to the end means that if and when Obama does win the nomination, the ability to reunite the Democratic party will, at best, be in question.

Much of it depends upon Super Delegates and Hillary Clinton.

The short of it is, though, that the longer this primary goes on, the more crystallized the animosity between the two camps will be, and the lack of unity within the party will most assuredly have a devastating effect.

The direct impact will translate into a loss of votes from embittered Clinton supporters, but that’s only the beginning. Where the lack of unity becomes the gift that keeps on giving is that it could greatly impede Obama’s abilities to hit back on those other factors that could hurt him.

A unified party, from bottom to top, would help the Democratic candidate chew up just about anything the GOP throws at him, and leave nothing but discredited scraps in their wake. But a party that is more than fractured weakens the defenses. In the worst case scenario, Clinton Democrats only compound the attacks by joining up with them.

I have a pretty simple philosophy when it comes to how partisans treat their elected officials. For most of the time you can be as critical as you want to be, but during the few months that comprise election season, you shore up and maintain ranks. It’s not the Democratic way, but then, I didn’t adopt this from Democrats.

This was about the one thing I think Republicans do right. It’s also the one thing that I think you can do without losing your soul.

Solidarity can go an awful long way, and even if you’re showing that solidarity for a candidate you don’t personally believe in, you can still frame it as either not backsliding towards a regressive candidate, or you are making it all about being part of a greater, longer term push towards the left.

Whatever the case, though, the fact that Obama didn’t deliver a full-on drubbing, from beginning to end, puts at great risk any hopes that he’ll have of being able to put together that kind of solidarity. By contrast, had he absolutely thrashed her — won Texas (technically he did win Texas, but I mean won it outright in the popular vote and the caucuses), won Ohio, won Pennsylvania — then there would be no question.

As it stands, there SHOULDN’T be any questions, but there are. Obama beat her, but he didn’t beat her bad enough to destroy her candidacy’s viability within the eyes of even her most ardent supporters, and thus she is allowed to continue with her campaign, continue to foment animosity between her clan and Obama’s, and thus the solidarity that just may be needed in the fall may not be there.

(edited by DrGail)

2 Responses to “Obama’s Biggest Mistake”

  1. Angellight says:

    We as a people are at a defining moment or Choice for our planet — that of right human relations with people everywhere in the world or the possible annihiliation of our planet due to men with war-mongering minds who want to try and delude us that the continuation of wars with all the nuclear bombs out there will not somehow escalate into a fullblown war of these nuclear and atomic bombs which will surely bring about the destruction of the earth! So the question is, will we and can we chose peace and diplomacy or instead choose a steady drumbeat march toward wars and an enventual nuclear proliferation. It is our choice after all!

  2. Tom R says:

    I’m not sure that I buy this argument. When history looks back on this, it will see that Obama has been extremely lucky, not just from favorable media coverage early in the season, but from the sheer magnitude of the Clinton downfall and the media’s antipathy for all things Clinton.

    Hell, Chris Matthews can’t even bear to compliment Sen Clinton unless it’s in some grudging, backhanded fashion. The amount of sexism thrown at her from the media is astounding, and Obama partisans would do well to pay attention to that; we need to learn how to decry sexism while decrying Clinton on legitimate (non-sexist) grounds.

    Even though I’ve long preferred Obama to Clinton, I think he’s been lucky because the nomination really was hers to lose. I know people say she ran on experience in a change year, and that definitely hurt her chances. But the thing is that she had such huge inbuilt advantages going into this thing — name recognition, the chance to get Bill as well, the Clinton machine, endorsements from huge machine states — that her experience message and her Iraq war vote merely made things competitive. She would still have won it if it hadn’t been for media bias against her and her own gaffes, which to be honest were more consequential than anything Obama has misspoken.

    Obama was lucky. And we’re lucky to have dodged that bullet.

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