Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

April 19, 2008

Why Obama would likely lose to McCain

Filed under: Obama,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 12:46 pm

From today’s NY Times:

NY Times, April 19, 2008
Op-Ed Columnist
Road Map to Defeat

So what are the Democrats doing? The Clintons are running around with flamethrowers, gleefully trying to incinerate the prospects of the party’s leading candidate, Barack Obama. As Bill Clinton put it last month: “If a politician doesn’t want to get beat up, he shouldn’t run for office.”

Senator Obama, for his part, seems to have lost sight of the unifying message that proved so compelling early in his campaign and has stumbled into weird cultural predicaments that have caused some people to rethink his candidacy.

While some of those predicaments raise legitimate concerns (his former pastor, his comments in San Francisco) and some do not (stupid questions about wearing a flag pin), he has allowed them to fester unnecessarily. The way for a candidate to eventually change the subject is to offer policy prescriptions so creative and compelling that they generate excitement among the electorate and can’t be ignored by the press.

Voters want more from Senator Obama. He’s given a series of wonderful speeches, but he has to add more meat to those rhetorical bones. He needs to be clear about where he wants to lead this country and how he plans to do it. That’s how a candidate defines himself or herself.

Instead, Mr. Obama is allowing the Clintons and the news media to craft a damaging persona of him as some kind of weak-kneed brother from another planet, out of touch with mainstream America, and perhaps a loser.

full: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/04/19/opinion/19herbert.html

I would agree with everything that Bob Herbert is saying, but would add that he is wrong to think that Obama is somehow holding back on some kind of message that will stir working people and the poor into electoral action. Obama, like the Democrats who preceded him in recent elections (Carter, Mondale, Clinton, Gore, Kerry) are not really Democrats–at least in the way that the party is understood in the pages of the Nation Magazine or among good liberals like Bob Herbert. They are Eisenhower Republicans. The Republican Party morphed into the hard right and the Democrats filled the political vacuum left by the ditching of the Nelson Rockefeller wing. With the Democrats moving to the center, there has been no political expression at the highest level for even the sort of tepid welfare state egalitarianism found in LBJ’s “Great Society” type programs.

To run on New Deal type politics would require a confrontation with the big money that rules the DP. There is about as much interest in restructuring the American economy as there is in removing US military bases from around the world. Even when the fat cat donors, like George Soros, make New Deal type utterances in the editorial pages, they lack the spine to drive them forward which would require genuine militancy at the grass roots level.

Furthermore, one of the reasons that they make sure to not promise any ambitious New Deal type programs is that this would raise the expectations of working people who might decide to take matters into their own hands if they are frustrated at the polls.

When asked by the cretinous George Stephanopolous how he would “use” a former President, Obama answered:

Well, you know, I think that having the advice and counsel of all former presidents is important. I’m probably more likely to ask advice of the current president’s father than president himself because I think that when you look back at George H.W. Bush’s foreign policy, it was a wise foreign policy.

And how we executed the Gulf War, how we managed the transition out of the Cold War, I think, is an example of how we can get bipartisan agreement. I don’t think the Democrats have a monopoly on good ideas. I think that there are a lot of thoughtful Republicans out there.

It is exactly this kind of evenhandedness that keeps losing elections for the Democrats. With all proportions guarded, fascism became victorious in the 1930s because the Social Democrats fought with one hand tied behind their back. And, if the economy continues to weaken, there certainly will be 1930s type polarizations once again. If that is the case, the workers need a political party that will not only fight with both hands but to the finish.


  1. Any Democrat (of course that’s limited now to only Senators Obama and Clinton) will win in November because the economy is in REAL danger, not bullshit danger – food prices are soaring; gasoline is headed to $5 bucks a gallon; “Bank Owned” signs are outnumbering “For Sale” signs – and we’re stuck in Iraq. It hardly matters if you favor the war or not, nobody supports being stuck and nobody believes “we’re winning!” As they’ve been saying for decades down here where I live, a yellow dog could be elected President this year – if he runs as a Democrat.

    The only thing that can keep the Republicans in the White House is a “Homeland Security” disaster between now and the election.

    Comment by Richard Greener — April 19, 2008 @ 4:55 pm

  2. I have to agree with Richard Greener on this. While the capacity of the Democrats to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory should never be underestimated, given the state of the economy, the Democrats could run a dead dog for president and still win in November.

    Comment by Jim Farmelant — April 19, 2008 @ 10:34 pm

  3. A broomstick could beat Bush, oops I mean McCain. The Karl Rove strategy has built up a visceral hatred for anything associated with the GOP. Obama has more donors than McCain, and more voters are registering as Dems.

    It is not Obama’s intent, but he is raising expectations. The next period should be interesting.

    At my blog I reprinted a post at WSWS about Charleston Heston that was quite good. I hope you can comment.

    Comment by Renegade Eye — April 19, 2008 @ 10:47 pm

  4. I disagree. The Democrats will not win in November and the consolidation of a post-Fascist state will be further entrenched. We are so deep in a hole, the only option is to keeping digging further down and come out the other side. Nothing short of a momentous revolution will suffice. How many years have you been lamenting Democrats and stating that they’re not truly “Left” enough or really represent the “old” Democratic party? As if the old Democratic party (let’s put on our rose colored glasses) was all that much to be proud of. I suggest that monkey warfare on a grand, world-wide scale to assist with change, for direct confrontation by violence or military might is foolhardy and short-sighted. Sabotage along the lines of monkeying with the system is a far better, strategic choice. Attack them with 10,000 balloons, set up tables with coffee and donuts when the cops arrive, roll balls at their vehicles by the thousands, blow bubbles at their public relations meetings, throw pies…You get the idea – and the media attention. Cheers, Mike

    Comment by Michael Matulka — April 21, 2008 @ 12:11 am

  5. No, the present Democrats are not Eisenhower Republicans, or at least they are not Eisenhowers. Eisenhower knew his stuff, had commanded a real army in the real world, and had the chutzpah to end his career with a warning against the “military-industrial complex”. The present-day Democrats seem to be like toddlers playing with matches in a petrol depot.

    Beware of underestimating the power of Democrats to alienate their base and lose elections. Especially with a recession coming on, which (as in 2000) might lead them to throw the race.

    Yes, America needs a left-wing party. Everybody needs a left-wing party. Bring lots of balloons and corn chips.

    Comment by MFB — April 22, 2008 @ 7:04 am

  6. Obama has been so un-forthcoming with any specifics about any issue at all that I’m beginning to think HC might be a better candidate.

    However, I disagree that the weak economy automatically puts the Dems in office. People who believe that are underestimating the Republican attack mentality and the electorate’s gullibity, not to mention the electorate’s already present susceptibility to fascist solutions.

    Comment by plato's cave — April 22, 2008 @ 4:40 pm

  7. I take back any suggestion I might favor HC. Lenin has this quote from her today:

    “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran,” Clinton said. “In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”

    Comment by plato's cave — April 22, 2008 @ 4:59 pm

  8. Herbert doesn’t get what Obama’s trying to do: campaign as a non-Beltway president.

    Comment by Martin Wisse — April 24, 2008 @ 6:27 am

  9. I disagree that Obama would likely lose to McCain.

    It is exactly this kind of evenhandedness that keeps losing elections for the Democrats.

    This argument was true for the last few elections, but it doesn’t hold now. Obama is not trying to be McCain-lite, unlike his predecessors Kerry and Gore who tried their hardest to be Bush-lites. Obama is trying to say that he and McCain are night and day – Obama wants out of Iraq (not true), McCain is ready to fight for another 100 years, Obama wants to help homeowners keep their homes while McCain says let the market rip, etc.

    Polls show that between 60-80% of voters want a change candidate, and McCain is not that candidate. I think the race will be closer than it should be, but Obama will beat McCain by a hefty margin come November. The permnanet Republican majority envisioned by Rove is turning out to be a permanent minority for the time being, and besides, who would want to vote for a crazy mixed up cranky angry old white man when you could vote for a smooth seemingly straight-talking young black guy?

    Comment by Binh — April 24, 2008 @ 1:48 pm

  10. And what might Uncle Charlie (Karl M.) have to say about your prognostications? Do you not see the internal contradictions built into capitalist politicians trying to “win” a nomination by conventional political and economic standards yet holding a hidden agenda of freedom, liberty and technical proficiency? You can argue about who might win, Obama or Hilary or Mcain, yet to not see that there is no great difference between them is to be lost in esoteric train spotting (I mean no disrespect to legitimate train spotting enthusiasts). The are simply political differences in degree, not kind. Re-read Marx, it’s very helpful. Cheers, Mike

    Comment by Michael Matulka — April 25, 2008 @ 4:59 am

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