Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Breathe In, Breathe Out

Via Ezra, we have this nice reality check:
I can’t understand why any Obama supporter would panic at this point. I didn’t vote for the guy because I thought he would breeze into office. I voted for him in no small part because he impressed me as by far the most competent administrator in the primaries. And this view has been vindicated, in my opinion. He’s a good candidate, with good ideas and a lot of money, but he’s also a very good executive running a very tight ship.

If Obama loses this, everyone will say the Dems should have nominated someone else. No way. The fire would have been as hot or hotter for anyone else, and they’d have fallen apart, over-responding and getting lost in the back and forth. If you have any faith at all in the American people, then relax, Obama is going to win this. If you don’t, then you should already be relaxed, because it should always have been clear that the dirtier guy would win.

In contrast, there is this bit of hyperventilating:
[N]o matter whom the Democrats had nominated for president, the GOP slime machine would have spent five months shrieking about them being traitors who want to take away your guns and replace them with bundles of condoms and arugula. Hell, if the Dems had nominated Joe Bleeping Lierberman for president this year, you can just bet that McCain would have smeared him as a self-hating anti-Israel left-winger for some reason or another (seriously, after the wingnuts freaked out about Obama’s horrifying edict that children should learn Spanish, I’ve learned that nothing is too stupid for this crowd).

My question is, where are the spiteful counterattacks? If Obama can be attacked for exercising too much, there’s gotta be something — anything — you can use against McCain. Spite the vote, people! Spite it all the way to victory!

The difference between the two perspectives amounts to more than just a question of "faith in the American people" or whether or not the Democrats are man enough to deal out the crap the way Republicans do. The difference is, quite simply, Obama is banking - and I think correctly - that most Americans just aren't paying that much attention right now. He knows McCain has certain advantages, and is allowing the elderly Senator from the Retirement State to suck a lot of the oxygen from the room. Remember this - last month Obama collected nearly twice what McCain did in donations. Obama has a huge lead in money, and I have no doubt he is husbanding his resources well, waiting until the Olympics are over, both conventions are over, and will then go full-bore.

I also think he is adopting a "rope-a-dope" strategy. I think Obama has known all along the Republicans would go ugly early. Why not accept the inevitable, and let them lash out with all sorts of dirty crap - from the racist "celebrity" ads to questioning Obama's patriotism - and rather than answer blow for blow in the mid-summer heat, just let the tired old guy exhaust himself? Obama understands, I think, a couple advantages that haven't existed in elections in the past couple decades. First and foremost is the lefty blogs. We are all paying attention, and doing everything from debunking bull to making fun of McCain and his penchant for what Huck Finn called "stretchers". Second, and far more important (in my opinion) is Obama's faith not only in the American people, but that the times have changed and the kind of campaign the Republicans have run in the past just doesn't have traction outside the brainless faithful.

That Obama's lead isn't larger, and appears to be shrinking in some states, at this point is meaningless. Remember, McCain has been a Presidential candidate before, and prominently before the American people since the Keating Five scandal of the late-1980's, then later in the late-1990's as he advocated a ground war in Kosovo against the advice of military leaders. Obama is a naif on the national scene, for all the attention he has received. I think Obama is allowing McCain to rant and rave in order for McCain to define himself as the kind of Republican we are tired of. The post-Labor Day campaign has always been far more important, and even though we have the whole 24-hour news cycle and pundits and journalists who spend years of their lives on a single campaign, Obama is trusting that the American people, both far more wise and far more balanced than the typical pundit, will only start paying attention once the summer is over.

So, I think we all should all relax, take some deep breaths, and wait and see. While it is theoretically possible McCain could win, or (a slightly different thing) Obama could lose, my own sense is that Obama will win, handily, with greater majorities for Democrats in both Houses of Congress, ushering in a whole new political and social era in America. The nuttiness on the right will continue to be loud, but it will wield no power, and will be sidelined once again.

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